The Spanish-Moroccan War
By Jose Santos
Rabat, command bunker under the Ministry of Defense, Midnight, July 23rd.
Besides the King, the men inside the room haven’t slept for six days except for brief and unquiet naps in a sofa or a chair. They are tired, emaciated, unshaved and confused. Everything started OK. The Spaniards answered to their provocation with a full attack and the war started. For the first two days everything went fine. Most of them never fully believed that Spain could be defeated in a war for the plazas, but when Melilla surrendered, even they had hope. Just a last little push on Ceuta and the war is over and we have won… Actually the deeper they pushed on Ceuta, the deeper they were heading into a trap. And then the Polisario decided to ignore ceasefire agreements and UN resolutions and backstabbed them. And when the Polisario were again being driven out of the Sahara and at least it seemed that a total defeat would be prevented, the Spaniards came and somehow managed to land half their army one thousand kilometres south of their bases. General Idrissi thinks about this and concludes that, simply, sometimes life decides to bitch you more than what would be strictly necessary. If this is Allah’s will, then His sense of humour is slightly more skewed than what the Quran suggests.
-So, gentlemen, are you sure the situation is so bad? – General Idrissi’ s mind goes back to the room, where the King has just made a simple but difficult to answer question.
The War Cabinet, some ministers and a bunch of generals, stares at him for a moment while they hesitate to answer. General Idrissi decides to talk:
-Sire, the situation is…dire. Otherwise, I doubt the enemy had dared to make such a proposal.
-Such an unacceptable proposal. Such in insulting proposal, I’d even say. I do not think that our military situation is so bad for the Spanish to send us this offer.
-I would even say, sire- Security Minister Sahel intervenes.- that they’re bluffing us. They’re running out of soldiers and supplies and they want a quick peace while we think they’re much stronger than what they actually are- In the past 6 days the generals from the War Cabinet have learned to hate the Security Minister.
-It wouldn’t surprise me, Minister. They’re losing their will to fight- continues the king,- A couple of days more and they will be willing to a settlement which will at least give us Melilla.
General Idrissi is not sure he has heard well. He prefers to assume that what he has heard is an illusion caused by lack of sleep and stress. C’mon, the King is a young, talented guy. He’s not supposed to be spouting such bullshit.
-I dare say, sire- The defense minister intervenes- that the situation is not as bright as it seems. We have, for example, the debacle at Ceuta.
-That is a shame, minister, but we still have some bullets in our gun.
-Sire, in Ceuta we lost most of our tanks and our best soldiers. At this moment, there are no significant military forces between the Spanish front south of Tetouan and this very city of Rabat. If the enemy wants to make another armoured thrust south like the one they made against Tangiers, they’ll find little resistance.
-We still can stop them at Tetouan, force them into a house-to-house fighting that they’re not willing to fight.
Everybody is now staring, like afraid to tell what he has to tell. General Idrissi decides to speak:
-Sire, Tetouan is not a valuable target now. The defenders are entrenched at the Medina, where the Spaniards have no intention to enter. They have occupied the Dowtown and accepted the surrender of many units there. For all purposes…well… for all purposes Tetouan is in Spanish hands.
The king now looks very tired. He didn’t expect such bleak news.
-But we still control Melilla. And their situation in the Western Sahara is far from brilliant. I mean, we still outnumber them.
Another uncomfortable silence.
-Sire, about the Western Sahara… well…not everything is about numbers. Our army there is still big, but… well, I do not think we can drive them out of El Aaiun. They are sending supply convoys by sea. They are sending transport planes loaded with fuel and ammunition. And we can’t stop them. We have no navy, no airforce. With their damn supertanks having unlimited ammunition and supplying, they can stop whatever attack we can stage on them. Heck, even having no ammunition: this afternoon they had to withdraw more than half of their armoured forces after destroying our last T-72 because they had run out of ammo…and still managed to knock our counterarrack with the remaining ones! They fucking raped us, sire. Just like they did yesterday when they broke through our flank and took El Fendek. We wanted to make up a defense line, and its western half was gone before we could even get started.
General Idrissi stops speaking and realizes that maybe he’s gone a bit over the edge. Some of his comrades look at him approvingly, but the stare of both the King and the Security Minister clearly says: "You said Unconvenient Things. And I disapprove of that".
-General Idrissi, isn’t your vision of the situation a bit…pessimistic?
Before Idrissi can answer, another General intervenes to save his ass:
-Sire, for the past day we have been receiving… interesting reports about the Algerian army.
-The Algerians are bluffing. They wouldn’t dare to directly attack a muslim brother, even though they have already betrayed us by cooperating with the Spaniards. – Noone in the room knows it, but the King is right and the Algerian moves are actually a bluff.
-Sire, it is safer to assume that they’re up to something. And I fear that if they cross the border, we have no way to stop them. Figuig would be gone within minutes. They could reach Nador within hours. With our army there trying to fight them, the Spanish can land on Melilla proper unopposed.
General Idrissi’s head is about to explode. Please, let all this finish soon, and I will be able to sleep peacefully. Well, to heck with everything:
-Sire, I will be frank. We have lost the war. –Everybody gasps, surprised to hear such bluntness- Half of our army is a Spanish prisoner. We have no airforce, no navy, no tanks, no fuel to move them anyway, since the Spanish airforce has spent the past week bombing our airports and depots unopposed. We have thousands of men trapped in the West Sahara. They may die in days, not in combat, but of thirst and hunger since the port of Dakhla is under attack and the Mauretanians cannot keep unloading supplies there. Our only victory, Melilla, is menaced by an Algerian attack or a Spanish landing that the garrison will not be able to repeal. Sire, my advice as member of Morocco’s Chief Staff is that we declare a ceasefire and show our willingness to negotiate the less unacceptable terms.
The King takes his time to answer:
-You have given us your well intentioned advice, General Idrissi. I fear that your view of the situation is not too realistic. Maybe you are viewing only the negative parts while failing to see the positive ones. It is true that our military has suffered setbacks. Well, my father proved that Morocco does not need a military to conquer what is rightfully ours (Bullshit alarms are ringing at full volume inside every generals’ heads right now). As 1975 demonstrated, the people of Morocco can arrive where its military cannot. I cannot afford to lose where my father won.
-sire,- the Chief of Staff interrupts.- Are you proposing us to start a second Green March on Ceuta?
-Do you think the Spanish army would dare shooting on harmless civilians?
General Idrissi is now feeling very tired. Perhaps he has taken too much coffe for the past week, or he just wants to tell everybody the dire truth: that the situation has gone out of control and that if they don’t negotiate now the Spaniards will annihilate them.
-Sir, with due respect…with due respect,what you intend is, well, it’s crap. It won’t work. The Moroccan people just wants to end the war. I have read security reports- no, minister, not the reports you showed us; other reports that a friend at the ministery has given me- that say that the public opinion is against the war and just wants to end it now. They won’t want to be dragged into such folly. That is, if the Americans don’t say enough is enough and fall upon us to put our asses on a plate and send it to the Spaniards as a gift.
-General Idrissi, as I said, I do not think that your assessment of the situation is accurate. You are dismissed, general. An aide will escort you to your headquarters. I hope your demission letter is brought to me before dawn.
Well, Idrissi thinks, he won’t do it the easy way. Time to start with Plan B. As he stands up and leaves the room he sees his comrades assenting. He knows he can count on them.
After leaving the Bunker, General Idrissi takes his time to breath the fresh night air. His aide and some other soldiers are escorting him, but he knows he can count on them too. He already feels better. General Idrissi arrives to his office and makes a phone call.
Meanwhile, at the bunker, the War Cabinet is making the preparations for that second Green March. Most of the generals and some ministers hope that Idrissi comes back soon.
Shortly after, a squad of armed soldiers enters the War Cabinet Room. General Idrissi leads them.
The king stares at them for a moment as if he didn’t believe what he is seeing he then says, just to be sure:
-What..what is this? What are you doing?
-This, sire,-Idrissi answers- is what historians call a coup.
-A coup? Are you crazy? You had an allegiance, general! You swore to protect the King!
Idrissi approves of the king’s resolution - it must be difficult to speak that way when a squad of soldiers is pointing at you- but knows that there is no way back:
-Sire, I also swore allegiance to protect the Moroccan nation, and that is what I am doing. Honestly, sire, your assessment of the situation is just making matters worse.
The King now notices that most of the generals seem to approve of Idrissi’s words. He then understands.
After the king and his loyal ministers are brought under arrest, the new government meets at the bunker:
- Well, gentlemen- General Idrissi sees that his headache is fading- the most difficult part is over. We are now in command. And we know what we have to do. It will be painful, yet necessary. Aide, give me a phone. We’re declaring a ceasefire.
Day 7: July 23rd 2002
1AM: The Moroccan generals had been preparing the coup for the last two days as a last resort option when they saw that the Spaniards couldn’t be thrown back to sea but the government kept thinking that the war could be won. The unexpected invasion of the Sahara gave them a last little hope of a Moroccan victory, but when the Moroccan counterattack on El Aaiun was defeated, they knew that they had to ask for peace. The Moroccan army still outnumbers the Spanish, but without airforce, tanks or weapons, little it can do. Seeing that the king and the civilian government refused to acknowledge the situation, the generals had to act.
King Muhammad VI of Morocco is put under house arrest at the Royal Palace. Besides his political role as king of morocco, he also has a spiritual role as Caliph, so killing him would be a Bad Idea.
Between 1AM and 2AM, army units take control of Rabat’s main points, including the Royal Palace, the Parliament and radio and TV stations. Being in a war situation, few people sees this as a coup.
At 1.30 AM, a new military government is constituted, with General Idrissi as his president.
In Western Sahara, Spanish units have been advancing east all night and meet the Polisario at Bou Craa. This is the first Moroccan city liberated by the Polisario. Moroccan units fighting south are now cut off the rest of Morocco.
During the rest of the night, the new government is trying to make contact with field commanders and embassies
2.30AM: Spanish intelligence starts suspecting that something has happened at Rabat after intercepting strange radio transmissions.
After three days of combat, the polisario finally enter Smara
In Washington, the US government is offended because the Spanish peace offer didn’t go through them. Actually, the Spaniards chose another neutral mediator to prevent any Great Power to meddle with the terms of the ceasefire agreement, and Switzerland was a natural option.
The remaining Moroccan civilian government has already been put under house arrest.
The US embassy at Rabat reports about strange troop movements in the city.
4AM: After some hours retrieving communications, the Moroccan ambassador in Switzerland reports to his counterpart that the Moroccan army is declaring a ceasefire at 5AM, as ordered by the new provisional government.
4.15AM: the Spanish government, surprised at what seems to have been a coup, agrees to a ceasefire at 5AM. Moroccan and Spanish diplomats will meet in Bern to discuss the Spanish armistice proposal.
Both sides contact with their field commanders to warn them to cease the fighting.
At 5AM, fighting ends in the northern front and around El Aaiun. Fighting between Moroccans and polisario in other parts of Western Sahara will still keep on for some hours.
5.30AM: King Juan Carlos phones sahrawi president Abdelaziz to inform him about the ceasefire talks. He assures him that one of the unnegotiable terms is the immediate withdrawal of Moroccan troops from the Western Sahara.
Shortly after, while news of the ceasefire and rumours of a coup in Rabat start spreading through international media, both governments inform the US and NATO of their talks. The US government insists to be a mediator between both countries, but Spain vetoes it, insisting in that Switzerland is already a good mediator.
In Bern, diplomats are already discussing the terms of ceasefire. The Spanish delegation initially wanted to dictate them without further negotiation, but they finally agree to discuss some minor terms.
The same way they woke up at war 6 days before, both countries are now waking up, if not in peace, at least in a ceasefire.
Now unneeded, the supply convoy arrives to Layoune-Plage.
In Spain, a Royal Message is scheduled to 9AM to report about the ceasefire and the upcoming armistice.
In Morocco, though, people is surprised to not see King Mohammed at TV, but a young General saying that he is the new president of a provisional military government that will try to achieve a honourable peace with the Spanish. He also insists that His Majesty is fine and that he will also address the nation shortly after.
During the morning, diplomats argue in Bern until an agreement is reached. At 9.30AM, the armistice is signed to be enforced at 11.30AM.
The most important terms of the armistice agreement are:
-Moroccan troops will withdraw from Melilla and a security zone around the city 10 miles wide in 24 hours. Both the city and the security zone will be occupied by Spanish troops. Same with Velez and Alhucemas.
-Moroccan troops in Tetouan will surrender and abandon the city. Any remaining Moroccan troops in occupied northern morocco will withdraw south.
-The Tangiers-Tetouan-Ceuta zone, occupied by Spanish troops will stay under Spanish occupation. The final fate of this zone will be decided in a definitive peace treaty.
- Moroccan troops have 72 hours to withdraw from Western Sahara. Western Sahara will remain under joint Spanish and polisario occupation until the Spanish and sahrawi governments agree to the final fate of the territory. Spain will ask the UN security council to withdraw the MINURSO mission [yes, Spain is here giving the finger to the UN and trying to give "independence" to western sahara without waiting for any resolution or the long-awaited referendum. More on this later]. The Spanish army is compromised to protect the security of thousands of Moroccan civilians that have settled in the zone for the past years.
- Prisoners from both sides will be exchanged in less than 72 hours.
-Finally, talks for a definitive peace treaty will start in a neutral country. The Spanish diplomats suggest that, as the armistice talks took part in a Christian country, morocco chooses a muslim country to hold the peace talks. After some hours of telephone meetings, the Turkish government will agree to hold a peace conference in September.
The Moroccan diplomats managed to void Spain’s harshest claims such as renouncing a naval presence on the Mediterranean, scrapping the remaining Moroccan airforce or evacuating a 10-mile wide zone south of Tetouan.
9AM: King Juan Carlos addresses the nation. In his message, he states that the Moroccan government has agreed to a ceasefire and that for all purposes the war is over. He then keeps on praising the sacrifice of the men and women of the Spanish army, navy and airforce and ends asking the Spaniards to mourn all the fallen, both military, civilian, Spanish or Moroccan.
9.15AM: King Mohammed addresses Morocco, stating that, despite the heroic efforts of the Moroccan army, the Spanish forces have prevailed and that he has been forced to accept a humiliating armistice. He also says that a new military provisional government is substituting the old government.
In Morocco, there is little celebration as the country has been humiliated by the northern neighbours, but in Spain, people cheers in the streets for hours. These are the largest shows of patriotic pride in Spain since perhaps the first Morocco war in 1859. Despite the large security measures, though, there are many incidents between Spaniards and Moroccan immigrants.
The UN and the US government, though, are pissed off. Spain has reached a separate agreement with Morocco without resorting to UN machinery, and such agreement directly hurts US interests in Western Sahara.
The War of the Straits, the 3rd Morocco War, or the Perejil War, as it will be known, is over.
The War of the Straits has lasted for 6 days. Official casualties are 786 dead and 1873 wounded in the Spanish side and 6358 dead and more than 15000 wounded in the Moroccan side. The polisario refused to give official numbers.
Civilian casualties were 220 spanish civilians, mostly people who refused to abandon Ceuta, and 1758 moroccan civilians. The rioting in Western Sahara also caused several dozens dead.
In September, a week long peace conference is held at Ankara, with the Turkish and Swiss governments acting as mediators. The Treaty of Ankara is signed in September 23rd and its most important points are as follow:
-Morocco formally renounces any claim on Ceuta, Melilla, Velez, Alhucemas, the Chafarinas, Alboran Island, the Canary Islands and Western Sahara. Perejil is officially acknowledged as part of the City of Ceuta.
-The territory of Melilla is expanded to include the Cabo Tres Forcas area plus a security zone 3 miles wide. The Melilla territory also gets access to Nador Bay.
-The Tangiers-Tetouan region will remain under Spanish occupation for a 5 year term. When the term is over, a plebiscit using the 2002 census data will be held to decide if the area is returned back to morocco or is annexed as a Spanish Autonomous Community with the same rights and duties as any other Spanish territory, including internal autonomy and EU membership.
-To compensate Morocco for this, the Spaniards compromise to share the toll rights of the Tangiers port with Morocco, to protect the role of Islam as the zone’s most important religion, and to keep Arab and French as the zone’s official languages along with Spanish. Spain will also pay the reconstruction –and this is the most damaged zone by combats.
-Spain will also pay for rebuilding the damage in any Moroccan civilian facilities attacked. This included ports, airports and roads.
- Finally, Morocco will be allowed to freely rebuild its military, airforce and navy, but Moroccan naval presence in the Mediterranean will be limited to the Alhucemas base, with the Tangiers Naval Base being occupied by Spain –even if the city is devolved to Moroccan sovereignity- and the Nador Naval Base being dismantled.
Spain also compromises to start a legal emigration program to Spain.
Spain has emerged from the war as a country united as it hadn’t been for decades. Of course, this sentiment will slowly erode over time (we like bickering with each other too much), but there will remain a little bit of patriotic pride about the feats of the Spanish army such as the defense of Ceuta and Congress Island, or the assault on El Aaiun. Once the initial euphoria is over, though, many doubts will arise about the cost of the war and the reconstruction. Not only must most of Ceuta be rebuilt, (Melilla suffered little damage), but also the rest of the occupied zone. There are, too the costs of repairing the damaged military equipment and the costs of maintaining occupation forces in Northern Morocco and Sahara. The Spanish economy, then, will grow more slowly than in OTL.
In politics, the emergency government has worked well during the war, and the usually antagonizing Socialist and Popular parties are going towards more moderate positions. In the March 2003 election, the Popular Party wins by landslide, confirming Mariano Rajoy’s rule as PM of Spain. Zapatero’s Socialist party also wins many seats, confining the nationalist parties at the Madrid Congress to a marginal role. Spain’s politics in the first decade of the century will be far less harsh than in OTL, with ETA and Morocco as the main issues.
Aznar, having withdrawn before the Prestige accident (which is butterflied away: no oil spill on Galicia in November 2002) and the Iraq war, is widely remembered as a very good PM who improved Spain’s economy and stepped away when he couldn’t keep his promise of a peaceful ending to the crisis.
Morocco emerges from the war humiliated and with a military government. King Mohammed is in an uncomfortable position, so he is forced to abdicate in January 2003 and leaves Morocco to exile in France. His younger brother Moulay Rachid becomes Moulay I of Morocco.
The Idrissi regime has to face opposition from both islamists, democratic forces and the boycotting of the rest of the arab world due to his collaboration with Spain. His only chances of survival are, ironically, to rely on Spanish help, becoming little more than a Spanish puppet. This makes Morocco, along with Algeria, the Sahrawi republic and Tunis, to drift on the EU orbit, while separating from the rest of the Arab World.
Under Spanish pressure, Idrissi cracks hard on islamists and anything that remotely resembles an Al Qaeda cell. Finally, in June 2004 he calls for democratic elections for a Constitutional Assembly that will draft a new Constitution. The 2005 constitution makes Morocco a true constitutional monarchy with the King retaining only his role as Caliph and a ceremonial role as Head of State. After the democratic elections, in which
Islamic parties couldn’t take place except the most moderate ones, General Idrissi steps out and a civilian democratic government takes over.
The greatest winner of the war, though, are the Sahrawis. Already on July 25th, President Abdelaziz travels to Santiago, where the King is about to celebrate Santiago Day with the traditional Offer to the Apostle. The Santiago Declaration promises that Western Sahara will be an independent state in one year or less.
For the days after the armistice is signed, Moroccan troops withdraw from Western Sahara, being substituted by Spanish and Polisario units. Many Moroccan settlers also leave the country, but some choose to stay.
Spain will have to lessen its other foreign commitments in order to maintain its presence on Northern Africa, withdrawing from Afghanistan and reducing its presence in Bosnia and Kosovo.
On August, the UN decides to declare the MINURSO mission over, and acknowledges the Sahara as a Spanish Trust Territory for one year before independence. The US and France tried to veto the proposal, but they withdrew it since they had little to do there and world’s public opinion (save the arab one) was overtly in favour of giving independence to the sahrawis
Under Spanish pressure, the sahrawi agree to write a new constitution.
In September 2002, the first refugees start leaving Tindouf for their new homes in the Western Sahara. The refugee camps will be empty by late 2005.
On April 1st, 2003, the polisario government enters El Aaiun and, in a ceremony shared with the King of Spain, the Arab Democratic Republic of Western Sahara is proclaimed. The change to a more neutral name is due to Spanish pressure to acknowledge the rights of the Moroccan minority.
The new 2003 constitution, inspired in the Turkish one, makes the Sahara a democratic, secular, parliamentary Republic. Arab and Spanish will be the official languages, with French also having recognition but not being official. As provided in the 1999 constitution, the Polisario Front is dissolved, making the Sahrawi state an effective multiparty democracy. The Moroccan minority is granted a minimal number of seats at the Parliament and official recognition. However, there will be frictions in years to come between Moroccans and Sahrawis, sometimes evolving into important rioting in 2005 and 2009.
Except at the Arab World, where they’re seen as a pariah and where their appliance for Arab League Membership keeps being rejected, the Sahrawis are widely seen with sympathy. Even the US have to acknowledge that the Sahrawi are a fine example to show the world how brute force can democratize muslim countries…although they fail to see the differences between Western Sahara and Irak. Western Sahara joins FIFA in January 2003, ICO in July 2003 – too late for the Athens Olympics, but some Sahrawi athletes will go to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and finally the UN in March 2003.
Upon declaration of Independence, most Spanish troops leave the Western Sahara, but the Treaty of Seville, signed in September 2002 between the Spanish and sahrawi governments, allows Spain to maintain a small force in El Aaiun, along with naval and air bases, assigned to the new Air and Naval commands of Canarias-Sahara.
Right after the declaration of independence, the polisario government also signs a treaty giving Spanish enterprises rights for oil prospections in Sahara territory and waters. Between 2003 and 2005, the Spanish oil company Repsol-YPF makes prospections all around the Sahara and the surrounding waters confirming the predictions: there are large oil fields under the Sahara and its waters, even reaching until the Canary Islands. General Sanz’s prediction that this would "pay for the war in 4 to 5 years" was obviously too optimistic, but the new HISAR (Hidrocarburos del Sahara) company (a joint venture between Spanish and polisario government) will reap great benefits for both countries in years to come. Oil, along with phosphates, Spanish help and a modest tourism industry (mostly based on surfers and adventure tourists) will help the Sahrawi economy to thrive.
During the rest of the first decade of the 21st century, Morocco, Algeria and West Sahara will continue drifting away their arab neighbours and towards the Spain-EU orbit. Tunis will also join them.
In the occupied zone of Tangiers and Tetouan, the Spanish army will have to face armed resistance and terrorist incidents for the first months. The worst incident happens in November 2002 when 17 soldiers die in a suicide attack by an Al Qaeda terrorist in Tangiers. This leads to a harsh antiterrorist campaign by the Moroccan government with US and Spanish assistance when Spain menaces with cutting off the migration program and reconstruction help.
However, and despite the numerous incidents and attacks that will kill 122 spanish soldiers between August 2002 and March 2005, the situation will calm down after early 2003. This is due to several factors such as:
-Gradual liftings of restrictions. Curfew is lifted in August 2002, and in January 2003 voters in the zone are allowed to elect a civilian council that will share government with the Spanish military. For the following years, the military administration will gradually step down, until the Spanish military role is reduced to patrolling the border and cities. In may 2003, press censorship is abolished, ironically making the Zone into Morocco’s most free region.
-Since many soldiers in the Spanish army are of Moroccan origin, as many Moroccan soldiers as possible are deployed as occupation troops to lessen the cultural shock for the civilians.
- After long talks and some bribery, the Spaniards are able to get support from moderate imams, local politicians and tribal chiefs.
The terrorists also alienate themselves when they decide to target local population for collaborating with the occupiers. Despite the Spanish public asking for harsher measures against terrorist attacks, though, the government decides to adopt a stance of moderation and gaining the civilian population.
The carrot of becoming part of the EU also plays a great part on this. However, this will attract great criticism from Spain’s EU partners, who point at the dangerous precedent of integrating a non-european territory with great muslim population- in regards to the Turkish question- and the great development gap between the Zone and the rest of the EU. Right wing radicals, who until then had praised Spain for cracking hard on the moors are now scared that Spain is introducing a muslim territory on the EU. The UK is also opposed, since Spain would be now controlling both sides of the Straits. Limits to territorial waters will have to be renegotiated, since now the straits have become Spanish waters in their entirety.
All in all, the civilians’ attitude towards Spain slowly goes towards a better mood. The occupation authorities have a harder time in rural zones such as El Horra where there were the tougher combats and bombardments, since most civilian victims were concentrated there. However, in the cities; where old men still remember the times of the Protectorate, the general attitude changes slowly to favouring integration in Spain.
In September 2007, and by a narrow margin, voters of the Zone approve being incorporated into Spain as an autonomous community. There is a great outcry in Morocco and the rest of the arab world, but little can be done since it was a provision at the peace treaty. Rioting, though, reaches levels only seen during the war. Due to European pressure, the Zone is not immediately incorporated into EU territory. Instead, a 10-year transition term will pass during which the Zone’s economy will have to be developed to at least approach EU’s minimals. Autonomy will also be delayed. Spain also compromises with Morocco to keep indefinitely the economical agreements of the Treaty of Ankara.
Another plebiscite in May 2010 approves an Autonomy Statute for the Zone. Voters also approve the name change to Autonomous Community of Tingitania –as suggested by a local school teacher- and a flag inspired in the former flag of Spanish Morocco. Tangiers becomes the capital.
Tingitania will prove to be a burden to Spanish taxpayers for the first years, not becoming a profitable place with a development level akin to that of at least Eastern Europe until well into the 2020’s. Rajoy fails to be reelected in the 2007 election due to Zapatero’s "it’s the economy, stupid" campaign, but the socialists don’t get enough majority. Since politics in TTL are less radicalized than in OTL, a "great coalition" between populars and socialists emerges, with Zapatero as president and former Madrid mayor Ruiz Gallardón as vicepresident.
Illegal immigration will also be a problem. In 2006 the military already starts building a fence like the one already around Ceuta and Melilla, becoming the world’s largest anti-immigration fence behind the US-Mexico one. This will of course attract international criticism.
In France, the 2005 riots are butterflied away, but low-intensity rioting will be more widespread, especially between Moroccan and Algerian origin immigrants. Sarkozy wins in 2007 by a great margin.
In the US, President Bush is widely critiziced for his neutral stance in the conflict. Even his more rightist staunch supporters bash him for not helping Spain in the conflict and for letting Spain do its will after the war. The democrats profit this with an aggressive campaign against the president’s "indecisiveness". The Republicans lose seats in the 2002 midterm election, although they keep control of both chambers.
The images of the Spanish army entering El Aaiun between a joyous crowd have impressed the president and his asessors. They want to repeat those images at Baghdad. The propaganda movement to start a war against Iraq and topple Saddam by early 2003 is already in full throttle, but the unexpected Straits War will have unpleasant side effects for the US preparations. For once, the US’ arab allies are uncomfortable with a second war against a muslim country in less than 10 months. British PM Tony Blair, also uncomfortable with the general US attitude of "We are supposed to be the country of freedom, we must do better than the Spaniards as soon as possible", is not very fond of invading Iraq in early 2003 either.
Finally, the US decide to postpone the invasion until September, but this is not enough for Blair, who would have preferred a 2004 or 2005 date. Finally, Britain and Spain will refuse direct support the Iraq War, although their stance will be more moderate than the French one. Spain will refuse to send troops although provides logistic support, and Britain will only contribute with naval and air support. In Europe, only Italy and Poland will openly support the US. Instead of the anti-french slur of OTL, there is a more general anti-european feeling all over the US.
In September 2003, the Cheju Island meeting with the presidents of the US, Australia, Poland and the Republic of Korea ends with an ultimatum to Saddam.
Three days later, Coalition forces invade Irak. The war goes pretty much as in OTL, although there is a bloody two day battle for Baghdad instead of the quick operation in OTL. In November the 1st, President Bush declares the end of the war, and the real war starts. US authorities have prepared better the postwar- after all, they’ve seen the incidents in the Zone under Spanish occupation- but soon the situation caused by the dismantlement of the Iraqi state overcomes them and Iraq becomes the same fucked up place it is in OTL.
With the Iraq war going later than in OTL, Syria does not mess with Lebanese politicians and there is no Cedar Revolution in 2005. This butterflies away the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbollah. In Iran, Ahmadinejad is elected in 2005, and Iran’s nuclear program follows on.
Al Qaeda terrorism tries to target Europe even harder than in OTL. As soon as September 2002, Osama Bin Laden makes a call to expel the "crusaders" from northern Africa. For the following years, European polices foil dozens of terrorist plots, although they can’t prevent succesfull attacks in Berlin in 2004, London in 2005 and Lyon in 2009. Al Qaeda, though, fails to
During the first two decades of the century, the EU, especially Spain and France, will develop a greater interest in North Africa. With Morocco and Sahara becoming de facto Spanish satellites, and Algeria developing stronger ties with the EU, Europe has a greater interest in a more stable continent. In 2003 the Principe de Asturias is deployed to Liberia to support the US peacekeeping force. Shortly after, Legion troops will be deployed in Ivory Coast along with French soldiers to enforce the ceasefire. EU Military and diplomatic pressure will force an uneasy peace in Ivory Coast by 2004 .In 2008 HISAR also signs a deal with the Mauritanian government to start oil prospections in the Mauritanian desert.
The PoD is too nearby to us to make technology significantly different, but the brief straits war will cause some changes on Internet culture. The Keyhole Earth Viewer enjoys a great success during the war as people wants to see the combat zones. This leads to the enterprise being bought by Google in early 2003 and Google releasing Google World 1.0 in December 2003- TTL’s equivalent of Google Earth.
The demand of live video footage of combats during the war also will start the revolution of flash-based streaming video earlier than OTL. In TTL Youtube never arises to prominence, having been overcome by other streaming video sites already successful by late 2004.
The war will also have its little impact in popular culture: the first film about the war is an arab production in 2004 about the Battle of Melilla. The first western production will be a Spanish film in 2010 about the assault on El Aaiun. As of early 2003, there already are popular fan-made mods about the Straits war for popular videogames like Battlefield 1942 and Operation Flashpoint.
In general, the world of 2010 in TTL is slightly different from ours, with a greater transatlantic divide between the US and Europe, and a greater divide in the muslim world between pro and anti western states.