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Viewing cable 04MADRID1187, ZAPATERO AND SPANISH TROOPS IN IRAQ: POLITICAL

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
04MADRID1187 2004-04-07 18:06 2010-12-06 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Madrid
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MADRID 001187 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/07/2014 
TAGS: PTER PREL PGOV SP
SUBJECT: ZAPATERO AND SPANISH TROOPS IN IRAQ: POLITICAL 
PRESSURES FOR WITHDRAWAL 

Classified By: Charge J. Robert Manzanares per 1.5 (b) and (d). 

Summary 

1. (C) Political pressure is high on incoming Socialist 
President Rodriguez Zapatero to fulfill his campaign promise 
to pull the 1300 Spanish troops out of Iraq absent a new UN 
mandate giving the UN the lead role. Zapatero is on the hook 
to demonstrate to his supporters that his surprise election 
March 14 ushered in a significant change from the Aznar 
years. Zapatero, who vehemently opposed the Iraq war, has 
repeatedly emphasized, publicly and privately, that he will 
comply with his campaign promises. The clearest way to 
manifest this would be to pull the troops out. Nonetheless, 
the Socialists are sensitive to charges a Spanish withdrawal 
following the March 11 Madrid terror attacks would appear to 
be cutting and running in the face of terror. A new UNSCR 
giving the UN a lead role might provide Zapatero with cover 
to keep the troops in, but what exactly Zapatero can accept 
remains vague since he has not defined it. We expect him to 
take his cues from France and Germany. Public opinion in 
the wake of March 11 regards Spain as being in the line of 
Jihadist fire because of the Aznar government's Iraq policy 
and favors withdrawal. Recent fighting in Najaf between 
Spanish forces and Shiite extremists has heightened concerns 
about the Iraq deployment. Significant Spanish losses there 
could clinch the decision to pull out. End Summary. 

The Case for Withdrawal 

2. (C) Zapatero has been vehemently against the Iraq war 
from the beginning. He has consistently maintained that the 
war was founded on lies, and is immoral and illegal. Many 
of the 11 million Spaniards who voted for the Socialists on 
March 14 share his view. Many Socialists, especially those 
on the left, want the troops out now regardless of a UN 
resolution. As far as Spanish opinion as a whole, according 
to a radio (Cadena Ser) poll last week, 38% of respondents 
favored Spanish troops staying in Iraq if there were a new UN 
mandate while 42% favor pulling the troops out even if the UN 
takes control of Iraq. Only a small percentage favor the 
troops staying under the current mandate. Many Socialists 
are uncomfortable with the assertive international role for 
Spain that Aznar espoused and, since the March 11 attacks, 
believe Aznar's alliance with the US put Spain in the direct 
line of fire for Islamist terrorists. 

Caving in to Terrorists? 

3. (C) The Socialists are, however, sensitive to the charge 
that withdrawal from Iraq means caving in to terrorist 
blackmail following March 11. They note that Zapatero's 
pledge to withdraw long predated March 11 (though the 
Socialists would not have been elected had the March 11 
attacks not taken place). Jose Blanco, Socialist Party 
National Coordinator, noted on April 6: "Let's not mix apples 
and oranges. One thing is terrorism which has to be fought 
on all fronts. Another thing is our politics concerning the 
war in Iraq. Politically we shouldn't link one thing with 
the other." Popular sentiment, however, does link them. 
Many believe Spain is now exposed to jihadist terrorism as a 
result of a military deployment in Iraq that most Spaniards 
oppose. 

4. (C) Antiterrorism marchers numbering 25,000 turned out 
April 5 in Leganes, the site of the April 3 shootout and 
suicide of the suspected leaders of the March 11 Madrid 
terror attacks. The march underlined that many Spaniards do 
link the March 11 terror attacks to Spain's presence in Iraq. 
The communique for the march, at the urging of the Socialist 
mayor of Leganes, included an explicit call for Spain to 
withdraw its troops from Iraq. (This prompted Aznar's 
Popular Party to boycott the march and organize its own on 
April 6). The message that came out of the April 5 rally 
was that since Spaniards never wanted to be in Iraq in the 
first place, Spain should withdraw, lower its profile, and 
thereby remove itself as a target. Images of the Shiite 
riots in Najaf and elsewhere further agitated Spanish opinion 
against Spain's presence in Iraq, as did reports that Spanish 
troops returned fire on rioters in Najaf April 4, killing 
about 20. 

UN Resolution Giving UN a Lead Role 

5. (C) FM designate Moratinos has been in the lead in 
holding up the possibility that a new UNSCR giving the UN the 
leading role in the Iraq could satisfy Zapatero's electoral 
pledge. However, Zapatero and his key political advisors 
such as Jose Blanco and Jesus Caldera, have been less forward 
leaning than Moratinos. The posture of France and Germany 
on a new resolution should be important, since Zapatero has 
made it clear that he wants to follow their lead. If France 
and Germany are on board, Zapatero will feel pressure to 
follow suit. One prominent commentator, well connected in 
the PSOE, noted to us that if, for example, France were 
willing to commit troops to Iraq under a new UNSCR, Zapatero 
would be able to show that the situation had fundamentally 
changed and keep Spanish troops there. 

Comment 

6. (C) Indications are that Zapatero has not made a final 
decision on what to do about the troops. The "pull the 
troops out" sentiment from his base, and which his key 
political advisors share, will be a critical factor weighing 
on him. For Zapatero, the easiest scenario would be no new 
UN resolution, which would mean he would have no choice but 
to pull the troops out. A UN resolution expanding the UN 
role will force him to make a choice. In this case, 
Zapatero's allies in the all important Prisa media group 
might be able to help him sell the line that he had won by 
successfully pushing for an increased UN role and give him 
cover to keep the troops in. Zapatero may also be 
susceptible to the argument that, whatever the rationale or 
lack thereof for the war, undercutting the coalition now 
could prove disastrous. Nonetheless, escalation of fighting 
in Southern Iraq, particularly if Spanish forces suffer 
significant losses, may clinch the decision in favor of 
withdrawal. 
MANZANARES