The unexpected victory of the Spanish socialists in the general elections last March, just a few days after the bombing attack in Madrid, has changed the face and direction of Spanish politics. Its most obvious and immediate impact has been on the U.S.-led War on Terror, and in particular on Spain's participation in the coalition of the willing. Rodriguez Zapatero, Spain's new prime minister, had diametrically opposed the U.S. intervention against Saddam Hussein, and since the election he has fulfilled his electoral promise to withdraw the 1,300 Spanish troops from Iraq. By doing so, however, he will almost certainly make it impossible for Spain to form prudential alliances for global security and so be compelled to take refuge in dreams of a "moralpolitik."
Yet as subsequent events have proved, it would be a catastrophic error to think that Al-Qaeda will switch its attention from Spain merely because a general election has changed the government. Osama bin Laden had proposed the "reconquest" of Spain long before the Iraq War. Indeed his express purpose is to revive the Caliphate, the golden dream of Islam, and to restore the Moorish rule of Al-Andalus that ended with the fall of Granada. His terrorist ideology stems from an extreme pathology of anti-Westernism coupled with the desire for revenge against a world that, in Bin Laden's eyes, has been corrupted by freedom and hedonism. In the end, this reality of a terrorism that cannot be appeased by gestures of nonbelligerence will inevitably shape Spain's foreign policy--as it had done under the government of conservative prime minister, JosÃ© MarÃa Aznar.