TARA MCKELVEY, senior editor, The American Prospect: What effect will the Spanish elections have on Bush?
IVO DAALDER: Bush had a very, very close relationship with Aznar—as underscored by the fact that when he made his first presidential trip to Europe, his first stop was Madrid. He used to point to Aznar as a way to justify what he was doing in terms of foreign policy. He’d say, more or less, “Here’s a man who supports me, even though 90 percent of his population is against what we’re doing in Iraq. What a strong, principled leader.” But the fact that 90 percent of the people did not support Aznar led to his downfall. So the defeat of one of the staunchest members of the “coalition of the willing” is a major defeat for George Bush. The Spanish election was a referendum not only on Aznar but on Bush as well. They both lost.
MCKELVEY: What will happen to the Bush administration’s plans for Iraq when (or if?) Spain withdraws its troops from that country?
DAALDER: First, it’s not clear whether or not Spain will withdraw its troops. It would take astute American diplomacy to internationalize the foreign presence in Iraq, but Zapatero has indicated that the Spanish government would continue its support in that scenario. Second, if Madrid does withdraw its troops, the impact will be marginal at best. The Spanish troops make up just one percent of the total troops that are there. The important issue is the political one—not the military one.