'It was the most correct and coherent decision'

20th anniversary of the final withdrawal of the troops Spanish aspects of the conflict, and the former head of the executive is one of the people who experienced this context firsthand.

'The decision to leave Iraq It was difficult, but successfulbecause the war was a horror. From there, the Islamic State was born and it is a promise we made before we came into government, even during the campaign, that we would withdraw from it,” he began.

When asked whether he would have made this decision with more political experience, Zapatero's answer was resolute: “Yes, when I was only 40 years old and one day in office, I was able to withstand Bush's pressure.the President of the Empire of the United States, twenty years older, would have endured it just as well. It would have been even more powerful“.

Why should the United States tell us what to do? Neither against us nor against anyone else,” he defended. “However, I want to be honest, objective and sincere. My fundamental concern was how the entire return operation from a conflict zone would proceed. We needed guarantees of integrity and security, and I recognize that American forces did just that “They helped ensure that exit took place in the right way.”It has been recognized.

“What are the moments like before you make that decision? Who do you consult with? What does the director of the CNI, the chief of the general staff say…?” “I must say we had it prepared. I have a note from days before where I keep the whole schedule of what we were going to do those days, written by Jose Bono. Who were we going to call, how were we going to do it… but make no mistake: in a democracy, the most important decisions correspond to the president of the government,” he emphasized, recalling the work of the then newly appointed president. Minister of Defence.

“Did anyone tell him that was crazy? That it was irresponsible?' Sistiaga wondered. “No, it is very complicated for someone to say that to a president of the government,” the former president responded. “Aznar was in any case the main opponent of that measure. There I would say there was a dialogue between equals. He already knew what he was thinking and for him it was an offense to do that,” he reasoned. Remember that Aznar was one of the main instigators of Spain's participation in the conflict, with its participation in the Azores Summit and full coordination with the United States on issues that interested its geopolitical ambitions in the Middle East.

At the same time, Sistiaga and Zapatero recalled it in the interview seven members of the CNI who were killed in the Latifiya ambush. “I think about it with enormous sadness. The job of the information services is by nature very quiet, and they are in limbo in all their missions,” he reflected. The Latifiya ambush The attack took place on November 29, 2003 by the Iraqi insurgency in the city from which the city takes its name, targeting the convoy carrying a group of National Intelligence Center (CNI) members. The passengers were ambushed en route and became victims of a firefight, in what was the deadliest attack on Spanish units during this conflict.

Twenty years since the troops' withdrawal

This Tuesday, May 21, is 20 years ago Spain completed the withdrawal of troops from Iraq with the departure of the last soldiers from the Diwaniya base. An operation announced on April 18 by the President of the Government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, which brought the newly acquired position and the March 11 attacks in Atocha very close.

The year before, in 2003, the Azores Summit took place, with the participation of the United States (George W Bush), United Kingdom (Tony Blair), Portugal (José Manuel Durao Barroso) and Spain (José Maria Aznar), agreement was reached on intervention in the Middle Eastern country. Together they decided to give Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi president, a 24-hour ultimatum to carry out the disarmament of a series of weapons of mass destruction that the coalition claimed they possessed, despite the lack of evidence to prove it. The United Nations, for its part, has decided not to intervene in this conflict.

Hussein did not accept the coalition's ultimatum and in March 2003 troops entered Iraqi territory, between 1,200 and 1,500 Spanish soldiers with BMR, M1, VEC, Vamtac, rocket launchers, mortars and other weapon series. Spain was also a key factor in the American effort because of its geographic location.

In this context, Zapatero and the PSOE had already made an electoral commitment before the 2004 elections: withdraw troops from Iraq. Already in government, the socialist decided to fulfill his electoral promise and announce the withdrawal of Spanish troops from the country. After a month of uncertainty, all Spanish units left the war zone on May 21, 2004.

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