In an exclusive in-depth interview, Morocco’s head of intelligence confirms to i24NEWS that the Polisario Front has deep ties to Iran and Hezbollah
The Abraham Accords significantly strengthened the coalition of states fighting against Iran-backed terrorist disruption in the Middle East, Morocco intel chief Cherkaoui Habboub told i24NEWS.
Habboub, the Director of Morocco’s Central Bureau of Justice Investigations—sometimes known as the Moroccan FBI—spoke with i24NEWS‘ French channel at his office in Rabat.
Matthias Inbar: Thank you Sir for this exclusive interview, the first time ever you are giving an interview to a television channel based in Israel. I would like to start with the diplomatic crisis led by Algeria against Morocco. Algeria supports the Polisario Front separatist group which is also backed by Iran and Hezbollah. Is there a threat from Iran and Hezbollah against Morocco?
Cherkaoui Habboub: Certainly, there is a real threat against Morocco by Iran. Since 2017, Iran has supported the separatist front through Hezbollah and with the help of Algeria. This Iranian support is a source of destabilization for the Kingdom of Morocco. Reports and information clearly demonstrate that Iran is supplying the Polisario militia with anti-aircraft missiles and drones, through Hezbollah and with the help of Algeria. Iran is seeking to establish itself in North Africa and the Sahel. An important rapprochement has taken place between Iran and Hezbollah on the one hand, and the [Polisario] Front and Algeria on the other. This rapprochement represents a threat to the security and stability of Morocco.
Q: Can you speak specifically about your actions to counter these threats ?
A: The most important thing to fight against these threats is to form agreements such as the Abraham Accords, signed with Israel and the United States, that are capable of deterring Iran and confronting all the security challenges related to Iranian interference in the country’s internal affairs.
I must stress the importance of coordination and the exchange of information and expertise with the entire world to deal with this great danger. Because Iran, the Separatist Front (Polisario) and Hezbollah represent a double threat. It is about the arming of the Polisario and the training of its members by Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, and all of that is done with the assistance of Algeria. For example, during his visit to Nouakchott in October 2022, the so-called Polisario Interior Minister Omar Mansour said that the [Polisario] Front now had Iranian drones and that the military equation with Morocco was on the verge of being reversed, because from now on, according to him, the Polisario is able to face the Moroccan air force. Therefore, there is a clear threat to the territorial integrity of the kingdom of Morocco. The Abraham Accords, as well as our cooperation with the international community, will undoubtedly help us to stem the expansion of Iranian hegemony in the region.
Q: Sir, you have been serving as the Director of the Central Bureau of Justice Investigations since 2020. Can we say that the Abraham Accords helped all the countries in the region to strengthen security cooperation.
A: Yes, you are correct. At the moment, my answer is that Morocco’s support for the Abraham Accords and the strengthening of its strategic relations with the other signatory states have made it possible to strengthen common security cooperation through the exchange of intelligence and expertise. This is, of course, in the interest of all parties, that is to say the United States, Morocco and Israel. This cooperation is crucial in the current context of the fight against terrorism and violent extremism; but also in dealing with the security challenges relating to the interference of Iran and its “proxies”, in particular Hezbollah, in our internal affairs.
Let me tell you that this approach has recently been supported by the United States of America through a bill debated in the Senate called the Defense Act, the purpose of which is to strengthen the air defense capabilities of many of its allies, not just Morocco, but all the signatory nations of the Abraham Accords, in order to deal with the threat posed by Iran and its “proxies”, led by Hezbollah, in the Arab world.
This is a good thing. The Abraham Accords have helped and will help stem the scourge of terrorism, violent extremism and organized crime. Coordination must be on a global-scale, because Morocco occupies a particular geographical and geostrategic position; especially since it is very close to the Sahel region which is home to the Tindouf camps. As you know, the Polisario Front embodies the connection [that exists] between separatism and terrorism. One complements the other. Former Polisario elements joined the Sahel zone, either AQIM or Daesh. As you already know, Adnane Abou Walid al-Sahraoui who was shot dead in 2018 by French military forces was a member of the Polisario Front and then of Daesh in the Sahara.
Q: I’d like to hear your thoughts about a story we recently published about hawala, a system of money laundering by a man close to Polisario and Qard el Hassan, the terrorist money laundering system of Hezbollah. What can you add to this story?
A: My comment on this scoop which was featured on I24NEWS as part of your program “Defense,” an exclusive scoop, is that it confirms what we have been repeating for a long time: There is a secret network for financing the crimes of the Polisario Front, and that the latter lives on a clandestine and illegal system of fund transfers, via secret intermediaries and acting under false identities. This scoop also demonstrates the level of familiarity that exists between the Polisario Front, Hezbollah, Iran and Algeria. This implies that Hezbollah takes advantage of the situation, of this fraudulent strategy to which the Polisario resorts to, to get out of its financial crisis; and we know the situation in which Lebanon finds itself today.
Q: So is there a real interest in having security cooperation between the United States, Israel and Morocco?
A: The Abraham Accords are of a very high importance. They consecrate a very strong rapprochement between Morocco and Israel. It is perhaps appropriate here to recall the historic relations known to all which link our two countries, the Moroccans of Israel constituting the largest Jewish community from an Arab country. These agreements have allowed the development of relations between Morocco and Israel in many areas, at the same time, on the security, economic and political levels. But above all, they contribute to the search for security, peace and coexistence. They also help to put an end to the destabilizing activities of Iran, the Polisario Front and Hezbollah. These agreements made by Morocco, whether the Abraham Accords signed with Israel and [the United States] or others, make it possible to counter the expansionism of Iran and Hezbollah, which is only its vassal. We are also watching, and it is very clear in your scoop, how Iran is arming the Polisario Front through the Lebanese Hezbollah. Moreover, one of the photos that you have at your disposal shows the representative of the supposed leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, in the company of a Hezbollah parliamentarian, Ali Fayyad. This says a lot about the proximity and the level of coordination that exists between these different actors who plot against peace and against the security of the world. All of this should make us aware of the urgency of the matter and the importance of working seriously against these maneuvers.
Inbar: Sir, I will interview you next time in Israel, Inshallah.