As elec­tions near, scarred Spain wa­vers on France mil­i­tary sup­port

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MADRID: Spain’s gov­ern­ment is stuck be­tween a rock and a hard place. Keen to show France sup­port in its bat­tle against ex­trem­ism, Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy is also acutely aware that any con­crete en­gage­ment will awaken the ghosts of Spain’s dev­as­tat­ing 2004 at­tacks just weeks ahead of gen­eral elec­tions, ex­perts say. The at­tacks saw Al-Qaeda-in­spired bombers blow up four packed com­muter trains and kill 191 peo­ple in re­tal­i­a­tion for then prime min­is­ter Jose Maria Az­nar’s de­ci­sion to join the US-led Iraq in­va­sion, pre­cip­i­tat­ing his party’s de­feat at en­su­ing elec­tions. “The Span­ish ex­pe­ri­ence of the war in Iraq was dis­as­trous and pub­lic opin­ion is very care­ful and sen­si­tive to this type of in­ter­ven­tion,” said Ni­co­las Sartorius, vice-pres­i­dent of the Al­ter­na­tives Foun­da­tion think tank.

“It’s log­i­cal that when you have an ex­pe­ri­ence like that of 2004 and elec­tions within weeks you re­act with some pru­dence, and Ra­joy is try­ing not to re­peat Az­nar’s hugely se­ri­ous mis­takes.” France said Wed­nes­day that all 27 of its EU part­ners had pledged to help in some way to strike at the Is­lamic State group that claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Paris at­tacks, but Ra­joy has so far re­mained eva­sive on the is­sue. The Span­ish leader, who hails from the same Pop­u­lar Party as Az­nar and was elected in 2011, said Thurs­day he had not re­ceived any of­fi­cial de­mand for help from Paris.

But he pointed out that Spain was al­ready sup­port­ing France in its fight against ex­trem­ism, par­tic­u­larly with 117 of its troops sta­tioned in Mali and 57 in Sene­gal.

‘We have to be with France’

The hot-but­ton is­sue has been at the fore­front of de­bate ahead of De­cem­ber 20 elec­tions, as spec­u­la­tion mounts that Spain is con­sid­er­ing get­ting in­volved in the US-led coali­tion bat­tling IS, as does crit­i­cism of Ra­joy’s si­lence on the is­sue. “The prime min­is­ter should seek the con­sen­sus of the ma­jor­ity of po­lit­i­cal forces on po­ten­tial sup­port for mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion in Syria, not to dodge his obli­ga­tions but to con­front them,” read a com­ment piece in the cen­treright El Mundo daily.

“If this is a war, we have to be with France, with­out a doubt.” Ra­joy brought to­gether nine smaller po­lit­i­cal par­ties on Thurs­day to agree to an “anti-ter­ror­ist pact” that he had al­ready signed in Fe­bru­ary with the main op­po­si­tion So­cial­ists. The pact es­sen­tially re­in­forces po­lice and le­gal pow­ers to fight ji­hadists and those who re­cruit them. — AFP

MADRID: Peo­ple hold­ing ban­ners that read in Span­ish: “Peace” shout slogans dur­ing a protest against the bomb­ing in Syria and Iraq, in Madrid, yes­ter­day. Dur­ing the rally pro­test­ers also ob­served a minute of si­lence in honor of peo­ple killed in coun­tries in­clud­ing France, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Le­banon and Tu­nisia. — AP

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