Thursday, August 24, 2006

Spanish Troops For Lebanon?

As discussions take place on the composition of the peacekeeping force for Lebanon, it seems fairly likely that a contingent of Spanish troops will be included in this force. Should that turn out to be the case it will add another risky mission to the one which Spain already undertakes in Afghanistan

The reactions to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon have revealed further evidence of the shift that has taken place in right wing politics here in Spain. Before Jose Maria Aznar decided that he wanted to be involved in the Iraqi adventure, there was never really much interest shown by the right in foreign affairs, and in general they were fairly even handed on the question of the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since Iraq, and since losing power, all of this seems to have changed and the full neo-conservative “war on terror” agenda appears to have been adopted, at least by sections of the right here. When Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero expressed (fairly timid) doubts about the wisdom and proportion of the Israeli attack, he was accused by the Partido Popular of being an anti-semite, an accusation which I don’t think has ever formed part of the political debate here – at least not since the 15th century when the Jews were expelled from Spain.

Meanwhile, in the deepest recesses of the cave where the more resentful sections of the right have spent the last couple of years scratching the damp walls with their mammoth bones, there are even darker mutterings involving the situation in Lebanon. Far from desiring a successful mission for the Spanish troops, should they be sent at all, it seems that there are those who are hoping it all goes very badly and that Spanish soldiers return home in body bags. All this for the simple reason that it will backfire on the government, and increase the chances of the Partido Popular returning to power. Anyone who thinks I am making this up should take a look at this (in Spanish).

For the benefit of non-Spanish speakers, this is a little translated excerpt:

“There is only one reason for supporting the initiative of our smiling Prime Minister of deploying between 700 and 1300 Spanish soldiers in the south of Lebanon; that this deployment will be his tomb”. Sweet.

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