Monday, April 19, 2004

CNN - Al-Sadr hails quick Spain pullout - Apr 19, 2004

See? I had Spain's new leader pegged right after all. The very first thing he does on entering office is pull Spanish troops out of Iraq! So much for his "UN supervision proviso ...

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.

The cleric's supporters have been fighting coalition troops since the coalition closed their newspaper and arrested one of al-Sadr's deputies in connection with the killing of a rival cleric last year.


Spain's new Socialist prime minister announced the pullout decision -- his first since taking office Saturday from conservative U.S. ally Jose Maria Aznar -- out of fear that uncertainty would put Spanish troops at greater risk, officials said.


In Madrid, most Spanish political parties endorsed Zapatero's decision, while the now-opposition Popular Party immediately denounced it, AP reported.

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.

Those who seek to claim that Zapatero's move doesn't hand a giant propaganda victory to terrorists are going to have to explain why Muqtada al-Sadr can see clearly what they refuse to acknowledge. Mr. Rajoy has it right - this precipitate action will only serve as a green light to more anti-Spanish terrorism. Thankfully, the British Conservative Party is made of even sterner stuff than Britain's Labour, which is why I'm betting that Islamic extremists will continue to prefer France and Spain as targets.

UPDATE: Here's a very good post by Edward Hugh on the same subject.