Gibraltar Incident

WLD Gibraltar OnLA serious incident occurred yesterday with Spanish vessels pursuing alleged smugglers right up to the shores of Gibraltar. London and the Gibraltar Governments reacted angrily.

The response from the Spanish authorities was, “There had been no incident. Spain recognizes these waters as Spanish.”

Now, the Spanish Government probably had nothing to do with the decision to enter these disputed waters, however, it is a real gift for PM Rajoy: with the General Elections just three months away and a shaky conservative Central Government panicking that they will lose the elections.

What could be better than an international conflict to detract from domestic affairs, especially rampant corruption in the governing party and a litany of top figures appearing before judges?

Whenever the Spanish right get in, they pump up the Gibraltar bravado – my balls are bigger than yours, is the Spanish right-wing mindset.

Readers might remember that 13 years back the Moroccans occupied a rocky islet, 15 hectares in size, laying barely 250 metres off the Moroccan shore. The rock, forgotten during the 1950’s Moroccan independence from Spain because it was just so insignificant, languished in oblivion for 50 years until Morroco decided to ostentatiously occupy it with a dozen conscripts.

In Madrid at the time was Jose María Aznar – the fawning friend of President Bush – who, after complaining to the EU and initially getting indifference – decided to reoccupy the (Isleta de Perejil).

Although the incident was a mini Falklands incident, but without the bloodshed, PM Aznar strutted around as if he had been Napoleon at Austerlitz.

As in the case of the Falklands (Las Malvinas), the citizens of the metropolis had no idea where the invaded islands were – at least the British had heard of the Falklands, although they thought they were off the Scottish coast, but the overwhelming majority of Spaniards had no idea that the islet even existed, let alone knew its name or where it was.

WLD Islote de PerejilWhat the incident made clear to Madrid was that NATO was not going to get into a war with North Africa over a forgotten islet inhabited by one Moroccan woman and her small goat heard. This made Spain rethink its position over the two Spanish, North African city enclaves, Ceuta & Melilla and beef up its military assets guarding the area.

Interestingly, although NATO told Aznar to get real and the EU applied initially only lukewarm support, the US made diplomatic noises that it supported the Spanish case, although it had no intention of getting involved.

This was a allegedly the favour that was called in one year later with the invasion of Iraq.

Now, had it been a Socialist government in power in 2002, then it is more than likely that Madrid would have negotiated instead of sending in soldiers – after all, what possible use was the Islote de Perejil – it has no fresh water nor territorial water and lies just 250 metres off Morocco – the only reason that it is still officially Spanish was because some clerk forgot to add it to the list of Spanish possession being handed over to independent Morocco. There was no strategic or economic value to retaining the islet.

But we had a conservative PM in power who wanted a symbolic gesture of ‘getting back’ a Spanish possession – think Gibraltar.

Now do you see why I have explained all this?

Gibraltar for the Spanish right-wing is a matter of honour; a stain on their pride, so what better way to claw back votes from disenchanted right-wing voters than a showdown with the British over Gibraltar?

(News/Opinion: Gibraltar)

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