On 13 November 2020, the Moroccan military launched an operation near the village of Guerguerat, which is located in the far south of Western Sahara near the Mauritanian border. An official at the Moroccan Foreign Ministry stated that the operation’s aim was to end a blockade by supporters of Western Sahara’s Polisario Front, which has been restricting travel between Moroccan-controlled areas of Western Sahara and Mauritania since 21 October. Shortly after the military operation, Polisario Front leaders promised to respond with force, stating that Morocco’s actions canceled a previously existing ceasefire.
Analyst Comment: Western Sahara is a disputed region to the southwest of Morocco along the Atlantic coast and bordering Mauritania. The Moroccan government claims the area and occupies approximately 80% of it. The remaining 20% of Western Sahara is controlled by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic — which claims the rights to all of Western Sahara — and whose governing structures are deeply entangled with the Polisario Front. The Polisario Front engaged in an armed conflict with Morocco in the 1980s and signed a ceasefire with Morocco in 1989, and has stated that any movement of Moroccan troops into the buffer zone, such as the current operation, would constitute an end to that ceasefire. The most recent development threatens to begin conflict between the Polisario Front and Morocco anew. Those with interests in Morocco should monitor the situation closely.