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April 19, 2004
Al-Sadr: Muchas Gracias, Amigos

As promised, Spain's new Prime Minister Jose Zapatero has pulled out the Spanish contingent of soldiers from Iraq, resulting in high praise from a likely source:

Radical Islamic cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has welcomed Spain's decision to withdraw its troops from Iraq "in the shortest time possible," as U.S. officials braced for more possible pullouts. According to a spokesman in the Iraqi city of Najaf, the Shiite cleric praised Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's decision Sunday to pull Spain's 1,400-plus troops from Iraq.

Al-Sadr also is asking that people from all coalition countries put pressure on their governments to follow Spain and recall their forces, spokesman Fuad al-Turfi said.

Why is Moqtada smiling? Because the Spanish troops belong to a Polish-led multinational force based in the Najaf area -- coincidentally, just where al-Sadr has been hiding out from Coalition forces looking to capture him and stamp out his insurgency. Spain's retreat represents the closest thing al-Sadr, and al-Qaeda, have had since the war on terror began.

Meanwhile, the new Spanish government insists it is not "washing its hands" of the situation in Iraq, even though they are leaving as fast as they possibly can, and despite an initial promise by Zapatero to allow the US and Britain to put together a UN resolution that might satisfy the concerns of the Spanish Socialists. However, Zapatero's rival in the last election has a much clearer picture of the message that Zapatero's retreat sends the world:

Mariano Rajoy, Aznar's hand-picked candidate who lost to Zapatero in the election, said the decision made Spain "much more vulnerable and weak in the face of terrorism in the face of terrorism." Zapatero has "thrown in the towel" rather than try to exhaust all possibilities of getting a new U.N. resolution to meet his demands, AP quoted Rajoy as saying.

Thrown in the towel, one supposes, after Zapatero used it to wash his hands. Hope the Spanish are happy with their new attitude towards terrorists and gangsters. I know Moqtada al-Sadr is.

Addendum: The Guardian (UK) weighs in with an opinion piece that has to be read to be believed. David Mathieson writes:

Before the slurs began to take root, Zapatero needed to show not only that he is tranquilo but also that he has cojones. ... With opinion polls consistently registering around 80% opposition to Spain's involvement in Iraq, there is no doubt that many of those who voted for the Socialist party a month ago will be delighted with the decision.

What massive cojones it takes to cut and run even prior to the date one promised ahead of time, and to stand up to the 20% of your electorate that disagrees with you! Yes, Zapatero is certainly a man of political courage!

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 19, 2004 7:45 AM

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