A Spanish-Moroccan War in 2002
The brief Spanish-Moroccan war in the summer of 2002 was the culminating point in decades of frictions between both countries. What started as a stupid border incident escalated into a short but bloody war that changed forever the politics of Northern Africa and Spain. Morocco’s need for a patriotic rallying to distract people from everyday problems, Spain’s secular fear of the ancestral enemies –the Moors- and other underlying causes, such as illegal immigration, disputes on fishing rights, and the scars of the Sahara conflict, combined into an explosive mix that a single spark could have ignited. Morocco’s occupation of Isla Perejil was that spark. The crisis started as a tiny incident, that escalated until no one was able to stop the war machinery… or perhaps no one wanted it to stop.
July 11th 2002 : at 7.00 AM Moroccan gendarmes land in Perejil Island and raise a moroccan flag above it. This operative was approved the day before and it is intended as a show of strength against the Spanish the same week that young king Mohammed is getting married. The Moroccans doubt Spain attempts to evict them from the worthless island, but routine military emergency plans are activated, just in case.
11 AM: a Spanish Guardia Civil patrol boat approaches the island. When the Guardia Civil agents try to land, the Moroccan gendarmes force them back at gunpoint.
14 PM: Most Spanish news broadcasters mention the incident but don’t give it a great importance.
17 PM: First contacts between Spanish and Moroccan diplomats.
20 PM: The Rabat government announces that Moroccan forces in Perejil are there to stay since it belongs to Morocco. All over the country people celebrates the liberation of Perejil, alongside with the King’s wedding.
July 12th 2002: Spanish forces in North Africa are put in alert, while several warships are dispatched to Ceuta.
12PM: Spanish foreign affairs minister Ana Palacio speaks to her Moroccan counterpart Benaissa. Benaissa states that Perejil is Moroccan territory and that the Moroccan gendarmerie has only set up a watching outpost to monitor illegal immigration and drug smuggling.
3PM (POINT OF DIVERGENCE): A Spanish patrol boat enters the channel between Perejil and the Moroccan coast and exchanges shots with 3 moroccan patrol boats. Apparently, the Moroccan boats fire on the Spanish one after its crew tries to land on the island. [In OTL both patrol boats faced off but no gunshots were fired]
5PM: Spanish PM Aznar is informed of the patrol boats incident. Since last fall, diplomatic relationships between both countries have been freezed due to disputes over fishing rights on the Moroccan coast and the alleged Moroccan non cooperation on the illegal immigration issue. Aznar knows that this is a provocation, occupying an island of 0 economical or strategical value, but this time he is decided to answer- with force, if necessary.
7PM: Since it is unclear who fired first, Moroccan officers are afraid that Spain would try to take the island back by force. It is decided that Moroccan forces facing Ceuta and Melilla will be reinforced.
In the middle of an unusually hot summer, the Perejil Incident has become the conversation theme. While the average Spaniard thinks this is a really lame incident, and that things will be sorted out peacefully. The overall insignificancy of the island only makes things more ridiculous. In the rest of Europe and North America commentators mock this “Goat War”, after the goats that are the only inhabitants of the island.
July 13th 2002
9AM: Spanish frigates Numancia and Navarra arrive to the port of Ceuta, being greeted by the population. Unlike the jesting attitude in mainland Spain, morale in Ceuta and Melilla is very different: all kinds of crazy rumours about Moroccan artillery pointing directly to the city center and suspicious troop movements in the other side of the border spread. [In OTL these rumours were widespread in Ceuta and Melilla but turned out to be false or greatly exaggerated. In TTL, due to the greater tension since the first days and the Moroccan redeployment, they’ll turn out to be true]
12PM: Danish presidency of the European Union condemns the incident and expresses support for the Spanish. Only France and Portugal will not openly condemn the Moroccan takeover.
17PM: Tension keeps building up in North Africa when a Spanish frigate approaches the Island.
20PM: In Washington, the US government promises support to Spain, but warns that any premature force demonstration will be frowned upon.
July 14th 2002:
Spanish and Moroccan diplomats reunite to agree to a diplomatic solution to the incident. In fact, this meeting is more of a smoke curtain, since the Moroccan army is preparing a military force to substitute the gendarmes. Meanwhile, several infantry and artillery units are being moved towards Ceuta and Melilla.
14PM: Another armed incident happens between Spanish and Moroccan patrol boats. Spanish TV broadcasts images of bullet holes in the hull of a Spanish patrol boat.
15PM: The Moroccan command is now worried. Looks like the Spaniards are decided to take the island back and are moving forces into North Africa. It is decided that more troops will be deployed around Ceuta and Melilla to show them that the Moroccan position is strong.
19PM: Spanish intelligence learns from the Moroccan troop movements.
20PM: PM Aznar is informed about the Moroccan deployment. After consulting with his Chief of Staff and informing King Juan Carlos, he decides to deploy more forces in Ceuta and Melilla.
11PM: The Tercio Juan de Austria of the Legion based off Almeria is mobilized.
In the last two days, the attitude in Spain has slowly changed to a more worried climate. Military recruiters have detected an unusual rise on the recruitment petitions [this happened in OTL], and the calls to radio stations asking for a military expulsion of Moroccan occupiers of Perejil now come not only from right-wing wackjobs, but from more moderate people.
A secret CIA report informs that the odds of a war over the Straits of Gibraltar are very unlikely.
July 15th 2002:
9AM: To mark the ending of the Congressional year, the traditional Debate on the State of the Nation is held at Madrid. The crisis with Morocco holds an important place on the debate.
11AM: the newest ship in the Spanish arsenal, the AEGIS frigate Álvaro de Bazán is mobilized to the conflict zone.
12AM: the Spanish carrier Príncipe de Asturias and her battlegroup are mobilized at her Rota Naval Base near Cadiz. [In OTL only the frigate was mobilized. The addition of the Carrier to the task fleet shows how the tension is bigger than in OTL]
15PM: NATO condemns the Moroccan action and urge for a diplomatic solution, but remind Spain that Spanish north African holdings are not under the NATO umbrella and that Spain will have to go on her own if she attacks first.
17PM: Spanish soldiers arrive to the Spanish outposts in Alhucemas and the Chafarinas islands to reinforce the garrisons.
21PM: 30 Moroccan royal marines arrive to Perejil Island and relief the gendarmes. They proceed to build defensive positions [In OTL they arrived one day later, were only 12 and didn’t take any defensive precaution. Actually, they were all sleeping when the Spanish commandos assaulted the island]
July 16th 2002:
11AM: Spain withdraws its ambassador at Rabat. Morocco will do the same shortly after.
12PM: More Legion troops arrive to Ceuta and Melilla.
13 PM: the Principe de Asturias battlegroup take positions in international waters at the Gulf of Cadiz.
15PM: The Debate on the Nation State ends with the tacit support of every political group, except Catalonian radical nationalists, to the governments’ stance on the Moroccan crisis.
16 PM: The Moroccan fleet based at Tangiers, Al-Hoceima and Casablanca is mobilized.
During the entire day, the Spanish PM and the Staff chiefs have been debating about how to end the crisis. When news of the Moroccan deployment arrive, it becomes clear that only a military solution is feasible.
20PM: Spanish submarines leave the Cartagena naval base towards the conflict zone.
21PM: PM Aznar talks to US president Bush about the possibility of a Spanish assault on Perejil Island. Bush declares the US’ neutrality in the conflict [Yep, this happened in OTL]
2130 PM: Frigates Numancia and Navarra take positions in the Strait, along with a small support fleet
22PM: preparations start for the assault on Perejil Island. Despite the Moroccan defensive setup, the operation is expected to be bloodless. PM Aznar reports to the king, and promises that he takes all responsibility: he will resign from his charge if something goes wrond.
2330 PM: Soldiers of the MOES (Mando de Operaciones Especiales) leave their base at Rabassa, near Alicante. Their mission is to assault and retake Perejil Island with as little violence as possible. They will be supported by F-18 and Mirage F-1 planes, several Sikorsky helicopters, frigates and submarines.
The next day, July 17th 2002, a full scale war will erupt in the Straits of Gibraltar.
Spanish North Africa before July 2002:
Day 1: July 17th 2002
In an ironical twist of fate, this war will start in exactly the same place and date than the last war Spain suffered 66 years before.
2AM: the Spanish airspace is closed; every plane on it asked to land as soon as possible. The civilian airports of Cádiz, Málaga , Almería, Ceuta and Melilla are closed too. [This happened in OTL, although the closure would only last a few hours]
3-5 AM: Spanish submarines and warships take positions near Perejil . The straits of Gibraltar are closed to civilian traffic; ships crossing it are ordered to move to the nearest available port.
5.30 AM: 5 transport helicopters escorted by attack helicopters and warplanes, with the the assault team on board, take off from Ceuta and head for Perejil while the sun rises.
6AM: the helicopters reach Perejil Island and hover above it.
6.05 AM: It is unclear who shot first. The Moroccans say that a Spanish helicopter shot first upon seeing the Moroccan positions. The Spaniards say that the Moroccan defenders shot first to prevent a landing. Anyway, a few minutes after the arrival of the commandos, what was supposed to be a bloodless operation has become a firefight, with Spanish helicopters firing to the Moroccan positions while they try to find a good spot to land.
6.15AM: after some minutes of chaos and with both sides already sustaining some casualties, the first squad of Spanish commandos is able to land in the highest point of the island while some of the Messerschmit combat helicopters escorting them open fire on the Moroccan positions.
6.25 AM: the Spaniards have won a decent foothold on the island despite having suffered heavy losses. Meanwhile, the Moroccan defenders call for support.
6-30 AM: PM Aznar is informed that things have gone horribly wrong. He still can’t suspect that they will go much, much, worse.
6.45 AM: Moroccan light artillery based off the coast opens on the Spanish positions in Perejil. [heavy artillery would probably reduce the entire island to rubble :P]
6.50 AM: Spanish F-18 patroling the zone bomb the Moroccan batteries, evading before any enemy AA battery can lock on them. Unfortunately for a lot of people, the Moroccan commander is able to send a radio message informing that his position is under attack of Spanish warplanes.
7AM: The Spanish commander, Admiral Moreno Barberá, coordinating the entire operation aboard the ship Castilla in the Gulf of Cadiz receives intel reports about the magnitude of the Moroccan deployment around Ceuta. What seems to be several infantry brigades supported by helicopters and heavy artillery have been deployed around the city. Barberá is now in a difficult position. It looks like the situation in Perejil has gone out of control, with the fighting extending to the mainland. Instead of the quick, clean operation expected, the assault on the island has become a bloody mess with casualties ranging on tens. And now the Moroccan deployment seems to indicate that the Perejil operations is only a small part of their operative. Spanish doctrine in this event has always been to strike first in case preparations for a Moroccan offensive are evident to deny them any numbers and surprise advantage. With the available information, Admiral Barberá decides that only a preemptive air and naval strike on the Moroccan positions can prevent a surprise Moroccan attack in Ceuta.
7.05 AM: After a brief conversation with Admiral Barberá, PM Aznar authorizes the raid. Shortly after, he will report to the King and present his resignation as President of the Spanish government.
7.15 AM: The frigates Navarra and Numancia open fire on the Moroccan positions around Perejil and Ceuta.
7.20 AM: The Moroccan command in Rabat receives news of the Spanish raid. It seems that the Spaniards have gone nuts and started bombing Moroccan territory. Contingency plans for such an event are activated.
In Perejil, the fighting stops briefly as the soldiers see how the missiles raise from the frigates’ launchers towards the Moroccan positions. They know that now the situation has gone out of control.
In the Gulf of Cadiz, the Principe de Asturias goes into full alert. The planes aboard the carrier are readied for a combat exit.
The air bases of Alcantarilla, Morón, Los Llanos, Talavera, Armilla and San Javier, [all the airbases assigned to the Strait Air Command] receive orders to prepare for an eventual strike on Northern Morocco.
7.25 AM: A missile launched from the Numancia misses and hits the’ village of El Horra, killing several civilians.
7.30 AM: In Washington, President George Bush’ aide awakens him, reporting that what seems to be a shooting war has broken out in the Gibraltar Straits.
In Las Palmas, the Air Command of Canarias based at the Gando airbase is ordered to go into full alert.
In Ceuta and Melilla, the mayor-presidents of both cities [yes, that’s their official title] are informed by the military commanders of the plazas that, since the situation may degenerate into a full war, the cities must be placed under curfew. Military forces in the cities start to occupy defensive positions.
The Moroccan Royal Air Force is ordered to take off to engage the Spanish agressors. Moroccan airbases at Rabat, Meknes and Kenitra start preparations for the raid on the Spanish fleet.
7. 40 AM: The Ceutans are waken up by what seems to be very nearby explosions. In a few minutes, telephone lines at police, firemen and radio stations are collapsed, while people starts noticing the columns of military vehicles moving towards the city outskirts. The explosions actually come from Moroccan batteries bombed by the Spanish frigates.
In Washington, the Moroccan ambassador contacts with the US secretary of state and informs him that Spanish air and naval forces are attacking Moroccan soil.
10 miles across the Strait, the sound of the explosions is clearly heard at the city of Tarifa. In a few minutes, radio stations are flooded with calls. Less than 15 minutes later, the main media in Spain and Morocco stop their regular broadcasts to inform that Spanish and Moroccan forces are fighting above the strait and that Ceuta may be under attack. These reports are greatly exaggerated (for now, the fighting is reduced to Perejil) but will turn out accurate in a few hours.
7 45. AM: the last defenders of Perejil, outnumbered and outgunned, surrender to the Spanish special forces. In the island lay 15 moroccan marines and 9 spanish commandos, next to several wounded.
In Washington, Spanish ambassador Westendorp contacts with the US secretary of state confirming that Spanish forces have been forced to conduct a preemptive strike on Moroccan positions to prevent an attack on Ceuta. He is confident that the situation will sort out in a few hours and that no US help is needed for now.
8AM: At the military plazas of Vélez de la Gomera, Alhucemas, and the Chafarinas islands, the Spanish garrisons take defensive positions.
In the combat zone of Ceuta, Spanish planes and frigates stop their bombardment after running out of air to land missiles. They have managed to inflict a great damage into the Moroccan artillery and troop concentrations, but the strike has been too limited to destroy their offensive capability.
In the Gulf of Cadiz, the Alvaro de Bazan activates its AEGIS systems, while the first planes take off from the Principe de Asturias.
All over Europe, broadcasting media open their news services with breaking news about heavy fighting over the straits; the only images available now being blurry images of warplanes flying over Ceuta.
A first wave of Moroccan planes takes off the airbases at Rabat, Kenitra and Meknes.
In the Canary Islands, every available plane at Gando is ordered to take off and proceed to positions east of Lanzarote to prevent any Moroccan raid on the islands
In Rabat, King Mohamed, after being informed of the situation by his Chiefs of Staff, authorizes an attack on the Spanish plazas in addition to the attack on the fleet. He also contacts the Arab League and the US government insisting that Spain has started an all-out attack against mainland morocco.
In Tangiers, Casablanca and Al-Hoceima, the small Moroccan fleet is ordered to go into combat gearing. Although the Moroccan commanders know that they can’t do much against the much bigger Spanish fleet; the Mediterranean fleet based at Al-hoceima an be useful in an attack on the plazas.
In Madrid, King Juan Carlos accepts Aznar’s resignation as President and, less than 24 hours after the Congress has gone on vacation, starts the task to make up an emergency government.
All over Spain, the country wakes up in what was supposed to be an uneventful summer morning, only to find out that Spain is at war, although not officially yet. For the entire day, people will gather around TV’s and radios.
815 AM: A Moroccan missile battery unnoticed by the Spanish reconnaissance fires on the Spanish frigates. All missiles are shot down.
The Moroccan military is fully mobilized by now. Knowing that Melilla is almost undefendable by the spaniards, most efforts are devoted to an assault on Ceuta, despite the havoc the Spanish strike has created on the existing Moroccan deployment.
First news of the combats arrive on the Sahrawi refugee camps in Southern Algeria. The Polisario government starts thinking that this may be their great opportunity.
830 AM: The Battle of the Strait starts as Moroccan Mirages fire antiship missiles on the Numancia and Navarra. Luckily for the Moroccan air force, the Spanish F-18 have withdrawn to their airbases to refuel and load antiground missiles, while the planes from the Principe de Asturias are still underway.
Spanish forces in Perejil are ordered to take defensive positions since their relief is now impossible.
8.35 AM: a Moroccan missile hits the Numancia, killing 25 crewmen and effectively leaving the frigate out of combat. The Numancia must abandon the combat zone.
8.40 AM: Spanish and Moroccan planes engage over the strait. Despite the Moroccan superiority, the 12 Spanish Harriers manage to destroy several Mirages before they are even able to lock on them. The support from the Alvaro de Bazan proves invaluable for the Harriers.
In Tarifa, the exit roads from the city are already crowded by tourists fleeing the city under fear of an attack; while a pillar of smoke coming from the Numancia is clearly visible on the horizon.
9AM: The air battle over the strait is over after the remaining Moroccan planes flee the combat zone. The Spanish Harriers do not pursue them fearing Moroccan AA batteries.
The first news of the combats arrive to the Spanish troops in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Spanish NATO soldiers deployed in Aviano (Italy) and the Indian ocean will soon also learn about the fighting.
King Juan Carlos contacts the Permanent Commission of the Congress and outlines his plan for a new emergency government, using his royal prerogative for the first time in 25 years.
In Cairo, the Arab League starts an emergency meeting.
In Brussels, NATO does the same.
In Morón, San Javier, Armilla and Alcantarilla, fighters prepare for an attack on AA defenses and radar all over Northern Morocco.
First images of the aerial combats over the straits and civilian victims of the first strike make it to the Moroccan and arab media. Immediately, outrage spreads throughout the arab world.
930 AM: A royal message to the nation is announced for broadcast at 10 AM in every spanish radio and TV. Newspapers are already busy working on special editions.
Submarines from the Mediterranean command take positions near the Al-hoceima naval base.
In the Principe de Asturias, the planes arrive safe and prepare for a 2nd raid on the Tangiers naval base. Admiral Barberá assumes that he has won the Battle of the Straits mauling a good deal of the Moroccan airforce; but at a high cost with the loss of the Numancia
The frigate, badly wounded, withdraws towards Ceuta. In a few hours, video images of the burning frigate entering the port will are being endlessly repeated by world news broadcasts.
In Ceuta, Melilla, and the rest of the plazas, the Spanish legionaires and soldiers prepare for the now expectable Moroccan strike. Ceuta is easy to defend since the city center is on an island easy to supply by sea, but Melilla is on the bottom of a valley surrounded by Moroccan territory by 3 sides. The main issue, though, is that there are around 70000 civilians in each city and now it is too late to start an evacuation, so both Spanish and Moroccan commanders must be careful or the situation will become a massacre. Panic is already widespread among the population. Anyway, plans are activated to start an evacuation of as many civilians as possible from Ceuta.
In Rabat, commanders congratulate themselves at the news of the damaging or sinking of the Numancia; but the news about the air battle are bleaker. Less than one third of the planes sent to attack the Spanish fleet has come back. The Moroccans know that what comes next is a massive Spanish attack on radar and AA positions, followed by a raid on the Moroccan airbases, hoping to destroy as much of the Force Aérienne Royale as they can. It is decided that a token force with the oldest planes will be left at the 3 bases of Kenitra, Meknes and Rabat, while the core of the airforce is withdrawn to other airbases or civilian airports far from the strait. This means giving the Spaniards air superiority over the strait, but at least the Moroccan airforce will be more or less intact to be able to conduct isolated strikes. While the Moroccans can now still reach the strait, the Spaniards, operating from bases in Spain, cannot reach the most faraway bases in central and southern morocco.
10 AM: King Juan Carlos addresses the nation. In a brief communication, he informs that Spain has been forced to attack Moroccan forces to prevent an invasion of Ceuta and Melilla, and that for all purposes a state of war exists between the kingdoms of Spain and Morocco. He also announces that the Aznar government has resigned due to the failure to take Perejil bloodlessly and that a new emergency government is being set up.
In Southern Spain, people stares at the skies as dozens of warplanes flying at low height head south…
Spanish officials have already started contacts with port authorities to start renting or confiscating civilian ships, in case an invasion becomes inevitable.
A few minutes after King Juan Carlos, King Muhammad VI addressed the Moroccans. The Spanish agressors had tried to retake Laila [Moroccan name of perejil] and attacked the Moroccan mainland when the defenders had tried to repel them.
In Washington, the US government finds itself with a serious headache. On the first hand, Spain is a valuable ally which has contributed troops to Afghanistan and ships to Enduring Freedom. On the other hand, Morocco is one of the few reasonably secular Islamic states which supports the US, and it is more or less clear that it was actually the Spaniards who attacked first, albeit they claim it was just a preemptive strike. In two hours of conversations with the ambassadors, both sides refuse any agreement to a ceasefire and the American position becomes more and more uncomfortable as hours pass.
10.30: The second wave of Spanish warplanes starts bombing Moroccan radar and AA positions all over the strait region, arriving as south as Ksar-El Kebir, at less than 100 miles from Rabat.
The first land combat engagements outside of Perejil starts as Moroccan artillery starts bombing the Spanish outposts at Velez de Gomera and Alhucemas; supported by the small Moroccan flotilla anchored at Al-hoceima.
As the morning passes in both Spain and Morocco, the streets are mostly empty and none of the usual ambient of a summer morning is to be found. Most people is either at home or at a bar staring at the TV’s while the news of the combats spread slowly. In Morocco, people cheers when the CNN and al-Yazira show the first images of the Numancia burning next to Ceuta, while Spaniards shout in anger.
11PM: Naval aviation from the Principe de Asturias bombs the naval base at Tangiers, followed minutes later by a missile salvo from the Alvaro de Bazán. This is the first attack on a Moroccan city and destroys the tiny fleet (mostly patrol boats and a corvette) the Moroccans had to control the straits.
In Madrid King Juan Carlos ends a frantical successions of phone calls to make up a new emergency government. Fortunately, most Spanish politicians are still in the city due to the latter day’s debate and the closure of airspace that night.
12PM: after heavy damaging the Moroccan installations in the north of the country, the 2nd wave of Spanish airplanes returns back to base, where frantical efforts are made for a raid on the Moroccan airbases.
the Arab League issues a declaration condemning the Spanish aggression on a member of the League and declaring that Morocco shall be provided with “moral and material support”. Minutes later, NATO issues a similar declaration on behalf of Spain, but neither side decides for a more direct military help.
Algeria, though, decides to abstain and declares a strict neutral stance in the conflict, declaring that no planes carrying supplies towards either Spain or Morocco will be allowed to cross Algerian airspace. Morocco can now only be supplied from Mauretania.
The closure of the straits to navigation is already having effect into world navigation and economy. European trade stocks have opened with significant losses. Madrid’s stock exchange session is suspended at 12.15 PM to prevent a total breakdown.
In Lavapiés, Madrid’s most Islamic district, things are even calmer than usual. The streets are empty and almost no stores are open. In the first hours of war, the growing muslim population in Spain prefers to have a low profile. Despite that, the first racist incidents are reported at 12.20 PM. Most are about people of muslim origin being insulted or beaten by an angry mob; but there are several isolated cases of muslims attacking Spaniards. In Morocco, many Spaniards and westerners take shelter at the embassy and consulates in the main cities.
All over southern spain and the canary islands, people tries to leave the cities in the event of an unlikely Moroccan raid. The beaches of Andalusia, usually full in these days, are empty.
In Madrid, Mariano Rajoy is sworn as 5th President of the Government since the restoration of democracy in a rushed ceremony at the Moncloa Palace still occupied by the Aznar family. José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero swears as Vice-President. The less vital offices such as Health or Culture are retained by their former titulars, while other offices are occupied by socialists such as Rafael Caldera (Public Administrations) and Catalonian and basque moderate nationalists. For the first time since 1981, a military takes the role of Defense Minister; General Sanz Roldán; also acting as Chief of Staff. [yep, I know, this event won’t mean anything to most of you, but my Spanish readers will surely be delighted to see a Spanish government in which populars, socialists and nationalists work together. Hey, I read lots of timelines about obscure American or british politicians I don’t know about :P]
1PM: In Cairo, Algiers, Damascus and other muslim cities, the first mobs concentrate in front of Spanish embassies.
In the Canary Islands hundreds of tourists try to take a plane to flee the islands, only to find out that the airspace is closed. In the following days, restrictions will be gradually lifted, although the Spanish airspace around the Straits will remain closed for the entire war. At the Gando airbase, the alert is lifted as a Moroccan attack becomes more unlikely.
1.30 PM: first news of the new government’s composition are filtered to several newspapers. The new PM will address the nation at 3 pm
At Madrid’s ministry of defense, Spanish officials offer the first war report to the international press. They confirm that Perejil has been taken, that several plazas are under attack, targets as south as Ksar el Kebir have been attacked and that the frigate Numancia was put out of combat and suffered the loss of many crewmen.
In America, the Eastern Seaboard wakes up with the most unexpected news of a war between two countries. Many people think that the War on Terror has reached a new stage until they notice the Spanish and Moroccan flags. The few images available (Spanish f-18 and Moroccan mirages dogfighting over the sea, the numancia burning, panic scenes at Tarifa, Las Palmas and Casablanca, Spanish commandos in Perejil, both Kings speaking to their nations…) are repeated again and again while analysts and commentators theorize.
At Sarajevo, the SFOR command decides to disarm and canton both the Spanish and Moroccan contingents to prevent any incident. Spanish contingents in Kosovo and Afghanistan are also closed in their bases in the event of attacks.
At the Strait Air Command Bases, planes are readied for a second attack on Moroccan airfields. Unknown to them, many Moroccan planes are already flying towards more secure locations in central and southern morocco.
At Ceuta and Melilla, civilians are being evacuated by the hundreds in ferries and military transports, but everybody is aware that the Moroccan attack will start before too long. The military has to be deployed around the evacuation points to prevent rioting. However, many people will refuse to leave their houses.
2PM: first contacts between the new foreign affairs minister and European counterparts.
In the first combat action of Spanish submarines since the civil war, 4 subs sink the Moroccan fleet at Al-Hoceima base.
2.30PM: The Moroccan assault team has managed to get a foothold on Velez despite losing an helicopter.
In Madrid, the police keeps receiving reports of isolated racist attacks. These incidents will soon spread to Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla and Granada. In Morocco many westerners unfortunate enough to not be near an embassy or consulate are harassed or beaten by angry mobs.
At San Javier, Armilla, Talavera and Morón, the third wave of Spanish airplanes takes off. At that moment more than half of the available Spanish airforce is in the air, some 70 planes including F-18, Mirage F-1 and even old F-5 fighter bombers. More planes from the airbases at Getafe, Zaragoza, Son Sant Joan, Santiago and Valladolid are on their way south for a 4th wave that will hopefully destroy the Moroccan airforce.
3pm: Visibly altered, Mariano Rajoy makes his first speech as Prime Minister surrounded by the other members of his cabinet. Spaniards are surprised to see so many antagonizing politicians put together.
The planes of the 3rd wave fly over Andalucia and the Western Mediterranean. People abandoning the shores is stunned at seeing so many warplanes flying at very low height. Footage of the planes heading south is soon being broadcasted around the world.
In northern morocco, troops are moving towards Ceuta and Melilla. The troops facing Ceuta have to deploy between the wreckage of the first Spanish strike. The Spanish commanders at the plazas are ready for the imminent attack.
In Cartagena, the rest of the Mediterranean fleet is being mobilized towards the combat zone to support the defenders of the plazas with naval fire. More ships are being readied at Rota and Ferrol.
3.45: The last defenders of Velez surrender to the Moroccan assaulters.
4.00: the Spanish planes arrive to their objectives: Air bases nr 1, 2 and 3 of the Royal Moroccan Air Force at Kenitra, Rabat and Meknes. Resistance is weak and in a few minutes the 3 airbases have suffered extensive damage.
4.30: the Spanish fighters withdraw north after what they think it is a major blow to the Moroccan airforce.
In the Gulf of Cadiz, the Principe de Asturias battlegroup is ordered to move south to cover a bigger part of Moroccan territory.
5.00: A Spanish cultural centre in Damascus is attacked by Molotov cocktails. Racist incidents (spurred by both Moroccans and whites) are already being reported by the hundreds all over Spain.
The main land clashes start when Moroccan artillery starts bombing Spanish positions at the outskirts of both Ceuta and Melilla. Few minutes later, Moroccan infantry starts to advance supported by T-72 tanks and APC.
5.15: the last wave of Spanish fighters takes off from their airbases; while at the same time the Moroccan airforce drives north to engage them in a desperate last stand.
An emergency meeting of the UN security council calls for an immediate ceasefire. No one seems to care.
6.00: In Ceuta, the Moroccan attack bogs down at the city gates due to naval support and few organization. In Melilla, though, the Moroccans are lucky and advance towards the airport and bypass some Spanish’ defensive positions.
12 hours after the first helicopters arrived to Perejil, both nations are into total war footing, fighting in land and air over the control of the Strait.
Moroccan artillery based off Al-hoceima starts shelling the Spanish outpost at alhucemas, in preparation of an airborne assault mirroring that of Perejil. Unlike the Spaniards, the Moroccans must assault the rock as soon as possible before the Spaniards can gather enough air and naval support around the lesser plazas.
6.30: Air battle over Northern morocco as the surviving Moroccan airforce attacks the last wave of Spanish planes. The move surprises the Spaniards; in the following dogfight they manage to repeal the Moroccan attack but losing several planes to both air and ground fire. This will turn out to be the war’s greatest air battle.
7.00 Moroccan marines cross the strait between the Moroccan coast and the Chafarinas islands in light boats hoping to surprise the garrison there.
The surviving Spanish planes withdraw north after damaging what is left of Moroccan airbases.
Incidents in Spanish embassies and cultural centers are widespread all over the world.
7.30: the Moroccan command lands and occupies Isabel II island and prepares for a landing at the only inhabited island in the archipel: Congress Island.
In Ceuta and Melilla Moroccan forces progress slowly despite the stubborn Legion resistance and the Spanish air and naval support.
8.00: Moroccan transport helicopters supported by attack helicopters assault Alhucemas. The garrison will surrender after a brief fight.
9.00: Moroccan marines land at Congress island only to find out that the Spanish garrison is waiting for them. It is interesting to note that most of the Chafarinas garrison was made up of Moroccan-born soldiers enlisted in the Spanish army; despite this they fight bravely. The battle of Congress Island will last the entire night.
Around 10 PM the sun is setting above the fighting area. In both Spain and Morocco, people goes to bed with a mixture of fear, anger and pride. The old saying about Spaniards constantly bickering with one another but uniting when faced a common enemy will prove to be true in the following days., when the usually marginal Spanish patriotism experiences an unprecedented rise. Many tourists trying to leave both countries, though, have a hard night sleeping in improvised mats at consulates, embassies or airports.
Night brings a small interruption to combat operations, except in Melilla and the Chafarinas.
A Morocco-Spain war in 2002 -2008 Turtledove Award
No Spanish Civil War 2009, 2010 Turtledove Award
Madrid, at the presidential bunker under the Moncloa Palace; 22.30 PM
-It was built in the 1980’s just in case the Soviets went bonkers – Mariano Rajoy says while he leads the other members of the emergency government through the dark corridors to the War Room- It is supposed to be able to resist a direct nuclear hit, although we have never tested that properly.
Nobody laughs at the joke attempt. One by one, the members of the government, alongside with several generals and King Juan Carlos enter the War Room in the deepest level of the bunker.
Once everybody is seated, General Sanz is the first to speak:
-Well, ladies and gentlemen, you already know Plan Blue, since we have already been discussing it for the entire afternoon. Plan Blue is the standard contingency plan to repel a Moroccan aggression on the plazas. We have been working on it, refining and adapting it to every changing circumstance ever since we gave the Protectorate back to the moors in ’56. Since this was the most obvious scenario for any foreign aggression to Spanish soil, me and my predecessors have been testing and refining this plan in an almost obsessive way. You can believe me when I tell you almost every possible circumstances are covered by it. After these first confuse hours, from now on the war will be more or less going on autopilot. The Moroccans can still have some little surprise for us, just like that smart gamble withdrawing their most modern planes to improvised airbases out of our reach, but now that we have air superiority over the straits, things will go smoother.
-Which leaves out the question of Melilla –Rodriguez Zapatero still feels a little bit uncomfortable as Vicepresident, and much more uncomfortable in this dark, crowded room.
-The situation in Melilla is stable at the moment. The first strike has been repealed, albeit many more Moroccan troops are on their way. So far, there have been no issues with the civilian population; besides the fact that there is a civilian population.
Everybody grins, thinking for a moment at the political and international implications of the Battle of Melilla becoming a massacre.
-But we can talk about that later- King Juan Carlos’s voice sounds even more nervous than has been in the last hours- As you may have guessed, we are not meeting in this room 40 meters under the street level to speak about matters we have already been arguing in another, more comfortable room up there in the Palace. What we are to discuss here is another, more serious, more secret matter.
-¿And that is…? – President Rajoy inquires after a few seconds of intrigued silence.
-The matter is, Mariano, that Spain is screwed –Everybody stares for a moment surprised to see the King cursing and giving such a blunt statement-. Not in the military terrain, where we have managed to get a big advantage, but in what’s going to happen later. No matter that we win or lose, we’re going to have a big, angry, unstable neighbour right under us, with a good deal of our population having been born in that big, angry neighbour. When the guns stop, our troubles will have only begun. See how since past September the world seems to have gone crazy. It will go crazier, whether we want it or not. When Admiral Moreno (and God knows he was just executing the best available option) ordered the attack on the Moroccan artillery, he also opened a big can of worms. And now we will have to deal with it for years, maybe decades. Think about terror attacks, our special relationship with the arab world screwed up forever, military occupation of parts of Morocco… whatever.
After a brief silence, General Sanz speaks.
-Which is why Plan Indigo was outlined.
-Plan Indigo, my fellow ministers, is based on this very scenario. We have won the war, but in such a way that the arab world and our southern enemies fucking hate us. Plan Indigo outlines a war strategy to achieve this aim: “Hey, we’re screwed anyway. Why at least not getting some profit? And I mean political and economical profit.” We started working on it last year, after the World Trade Center Attacks, when it became clear that any conflict against Morocco would have much wider repercussions.
Everybody, especially the socialist members, look at him, horrified and intrigued at the same time.
-It sounds easier than it seems. Sergeant, if you want…
The general’s aide appears, carrying a box full of folders and papers. He gives one to each member of the meeting.
-This- explains General Sanz- is the last, updated version of Plan Indigo. It involves three subplans in chronological order: Blue, Pink and Black. You can skip the Blue part if you wish, since it is more or less the same Plan Blue you already know. Yes, we use colour codes for both plans and operations. Now, about the other parts…
Everybody starts reading. When they finish, a few minutes later, Vicepresident Zapatero is the first to talk.
-It is a very….risky gamble, to say the least. Although the gains, if these reports are accurate, could be immense.
-Enough to have paid for the war in 4-5 years, according to the most optimistic calculations.
-However, it relies on a very risky operation that will severely strain our transport and logistics capabilities. This looks like the Perejil operation but 100 times bigger. If something goes wrong, it could be a big disaster. It would be like losing the war on purpose after almost winning it.
-Your analysis is accurate, Vicepresident.
-So what are we doing here, ladies and gentlemen- King Juan Carlos interrupts- is to decide whether we implement Plan Indigo or not. The decision must be made as soon as possible, since several preliminary preparations must be started right now. If you have read everything carefully, the rest of the world must think that we were forced by circumstance to adopt this strategy, not that this was something we were aiming at. That means that every preparations must be carefully timed and that foreign involvement, besides the one outlined in the Pink and Black sections, must be kept to the minimum. Which is why we are reunited in this bunker, where we can be sure that no microphones, not even American ones, are hearing us.
-Which directs us to another issue. Minister Durán?
The new Foreign Affairs minister , Josep Duran I Lleida, speaks:
-yours, Josep, is the most difficult role in this little charade. As someone said, “the last thing we need now is some idiot proposing a mediation plan”- Only a few of the government members get the reference and chukle-. You have managed to get EU support about weapon supplying and satellite vigilance. In some moment, someone will come up with a mediation plan or, god forbid, military help. Your task if Indigo is adopted, Josep, is to abort those movements while at the same time not revealing our true intentions. Will you be able to do so?
-It will be difficult, General Sanz, but, if it is necessary, I will do it.
-Excellent. So now, members of the cabinet, after reading the plan and discussing it, do we, as the government of Spain, approve adopting Indigo or should we stick to Blue?
At 1130 PM, the aide of General Sanz sends an encrypted message from the Bunker to the Ministry of Defense. The code means that all operational and strategic plans must be switched to Indigo condition.
HM Juan Carlos I, King of Spain
Mariano Rajoy, in OTL leader of the Popular Party, in TTL PM of Spain after July 2002:
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, in OTL PM of Spain since March 2004, in TTL Vicepresident of the Spanish government since July 2002
General Felix Sanz Roldán, in TTL Chief of Staff of the Spanish Army and Minister of Defense:
DAY 2: JULY 18TH 2002
July 18th has been a significant date in Spanish life since 1936. That day started the civil war, whose shadow still keeps haunting Spanish society and politics. For almost 40 years, it was a day for the Spaniards to celebrate the tyrant and the beginning of the civil war; for the past 25 it has ben a normal summer day for most Spaniards, except the most left and right wing ones. In this day, the war that started 20 hours before will reach new peaks of violence, while the great powers are unable to stop it.
Casualties in both sides have already reached the hundreds, both dead and wounded. The Moroccans have lost many men, artillery, a good deal of their most modern aircraft and their entire fleet at the Mediterranean sea. The Spaniards have also lost several planes, a frigate, and several dozens of soldiers, along with 2 of the 5 plazas. Only time will tell if the Spanish public is able to sustain these casualty rates without asking for a ceasefire.
0.00AM: in the Ministry of Defense, activity becomes frenetic as the first steps are being taken to adopt battle plans to Indigo. For the first hours or days, the military effects of this will be negligible: some units receiving slightly different orders, some others not being deployed, some others receiving different supply priorities.
The fighting in Congress Island rages on as both sides are unable to advance. The Moroccan marines are bogged down in the beach while the small garrison is unable to repeal them.
In Ceuta and Melilla, fighting has slowed down due to darkness, allowing a faster evacuation of civilians. Approximately ¼ of both cities’ population is already safe in mainland Spain, where a serious problem with refugees will arise in the following days. However, both commanders know that the new day will bring new, fresh Moroccan troops to attack, while they cannot expect many reinforcements. The commandant at Melilla receives authorization to surrender if the situation becomes unsustainable for both his troops and the remaining civilian population.
In most major Spanish cities, policemen are busy repressing racist incidents and rioting.
3AM: After hours of conversations, the Spanish diplomats have managed to ensure almost unlimited oil, ammo and weapons supplies from their EU counterparts. Even the initially reluctant French agree to this.
The Spanish consulate at Karachi is burned by demonstrators
Pacifist groups start a demonstration at the Spanish embassy in Canberra to protest for what they see as an imperialist aggression at a helpless 3rd world country. This is the first of many similar demonstrations that will be held across the world in the following days. In many cases, they end up in chaotic 3-sided riots when the protestors meet rightwingers and neonazis who support the Spaniards, and arab immigrants protesting against them.
Taking advantage of the night, the remaining Moroccan airforce launches a raid on Melilla. The short raid doesn’t cause much material damage on the city defenses, but is effective on demoralizing the defenders. A similar raid supporting the advance on Ceuta fails when Spanish planes destroy the small Moroccan force.
The defenders of Congress Island are finally relieved when the frigate Reina Sofía, en route from Cartagena to the strait, opens fire on the Moroccan forces at the Chafarinas.
Spanish prisoners from Velez and Alhucemas arrive to improvised camps on Northern Morocco.
In Washington, the US government has finally decided for a neutral policy. Neither side seems to be willing to negotiate, and while Morocco seems to have been the attacked country, Spain is a valuable NATO ally. Surprisingly, the Spanish diplomats do not seem to insist too much on getting US support. President Bush “indecisiveness” will be very attacked in the following days.
4AM: Commandos from the Rabassa base arrive to Alboran Island in several helicopters, en route to Congress Island, to help repeal the Moroccan landing.
6AM: Radio anchorman and right-wing pundit Federico Jimenez Losantos [note to non-spaniards: FJL is like having Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’reilly and Lord Haw-Haw all in the same person] starts his popular morning program. In an enraged speech, he praises ex-president Aznar for inflicting a decisive blow to islamofascists and reminds the audience that “the greatest democracy ever, the US of A, interned in camps all the Japanese population during WWII. I can’t see why we can’t do the same with the shitmoors [literal translation of the Spanish insult moromierda]. Even if the coward leftists and Catalonians whine about it, that will only make them look like bigger pansies than they are”. This inflamed speech will contribute to worsen the security situation in most big cities.
In Ceuta and Melilla combats resume as day breaks out.
In Melilla, the defenders of the city are beginning to be overwhelmed by the Moroccan pressure despite the air and naval support. Moroccan tanks manage to break out and occupy the airport landing strips, while a Legion regiment tries to hold onto the airport terminal and control tower. Several other defensive strongpoints are under very heavy Moroccan pressure. The Spanish commander knows that he can’t hold much longer.
In Ceuta, the situation, while difficult, is not as desperate as in the other city. While the mauled Numancia has withdrawn to Rota, supported by the Navarra, the Alvaro de Bazán and other two frigates are providing naval support to the city defenders. Even so, when several Moroccan fresh regiments supported by M-60, Leclerc and t-72 tanks, the Spaniards have to abandon several defensive positions at the city outskirts and withdraw towards the industrial parks that surround Ceuta.
24 hours after the battle for perejil started, and since the island has no military value, the surviving commandos, along with the Moroccan prisoners and the bodies of their fallen comrades, are evacuated from the island, leaving only a Spanish flag on top of it.
At the base of the Brunete Armoured Division near Madrid, activity is frenetic as the division [it actually is more of a reinforced brigade, but meh] prepares to move south in case a landing on northern morocco becomes unavoidable. Similar preparations are undertaken at marine division headquarters in Rota, the Light Airborne Brigade at Pontevedra, and the Guzman El Bueno Mechanized Division at Murcia.
A couple of regiments from the Brunete, btw, is being kept apart from the rest of the division. Instead of readying the tanks into the transports, they’re being moved to the division warehouses to be repainted…
7AM: Commandos supported by attack helicopters land at the northern shore of Congress Island to support the already faltering garrison.
American surveillance detects an unnatural amount of encrypted communications from the Ministry of Defense to the Spanish embassy at Algiers.
7.30 AM: The first Remember the Numancia stickers start to leave the printing presses at Valladolid and Valencia. They are an initiative of a patriotic (and opportunistic) businessman. Thousands will be sold during the war. Similar Remember El Horra, or even Remember 711 stickers will also be sold in Morocco and most arab countries.
8AM: trapped at the beach, after 10 hours of sustained combat (in some moments even hand-to-hand combat) and with their light boats sunken by the Spanish helicopters, the Moroccan marines at Congress Island surrender. Finally, the Spaniards have been able to repel a Moroccan land attack. News of this first land victory of the war will son arrive to Spain, only to be shadowed by more important developments in the following hours.
830 AM: 30 hours of airspace closure in Spain have driven air traffic patterns all over Europe into chaos. Thousands of tourists have decided to leave the country by road, leading to amazing traffic jams at the border passes with France. However, as hours pass and the feared Moroccan strike fails to materialize, many tourists decide to stay.
9AM: Polish and American SFOR soldiers take the role of their Spanish and Moroccan counterparts as peacekeeping forces around Mostar.
In Afghanistan, Italian troops will take the role of their Spanish counterparts, who will endure several attacks to their bases in the following days.
An engineer regiment from the Legion arrives to the Lanzarote airport and starts works to enlarge the landing strips so warplanes can operate from there.
930AM; The situation in Melilla is getting worse for the city defenders. Moroccan numerical superiority and the city situation are making up for the Spanish air superiority. The Spanish commander contacts with Madrid to report about the Moroccan assault and the danger of a pitched street battle.
940AM: After a brief conversation with General Sanz Roldán and President Rajoy, the Melilla commandant is authorized to start an evacuation of as many troops as possible and then surrender the city before his men are overrun.
Despite the fact that Spanish plans predicted a Moroccan land advantage in the first 48 hours of conflict, things are looking grim for the Spanish in North Africa…
10AM: After two days of conversations and international pressure, the Straits are reopened to civilian traffic. There is little point to its closing now that the Moroccan fleet and airforce cannot pose a significant threat. Spanish and American governments agree that American warships based at Rota control the civilian traffic through the Straits: Around 1000 ships are waiting at southern spain and Portugal ports. Anyway, the divisions moving south for an eventual invasion of Morocco will still need a couple of days to be ready.
In Madrid, the traditional 18th july demonstration by francoist nostalgics starts under heavy security measures.
Evacuation by sea and helicopter of Spanish soldiers at Melilla, mainly intelligence officials, Special operations soldiers and soldierwomen starts while their comrades try to hold the line at the city gates.
1030AM: Situation in downtown Madrid worsens as neofascist demonstrators celebrate July 18th by attacking arab stores at the Lavapies district. Molotov Cocktails launched against the M-30 mosque, the largest mosque in Europe. When Moroccan immigrants retaliate, a large scale riot erupts. This situation is repeated in almost all major Spanish cities, with coordinated attacks from extreme right-wingers on Islamic districts and retaliation attacks by angry immigrants.
11AM: The commander at Melilla asks for a ceasefire to his Moroccan counterpart to discuss terms for an honourable surrender without too much damage to civilians, while the evacuation of the city continues as fast as ships can leave the port.
In Madrid, planners at the Ministry of Defense realize that the Spanish airforce has only air-to-ground missiles for at most 2 or 3 days worth of combat. More missiles must be bought at once. The fleet is also starting to run out of ammo.
Rioting breaks out at banlieue districts in several major French cities.
12PM: After several failed tries to contact and a short but tense conversation, both the Spanish and Moroccan commanders at the Melilla theatre of operations agree to a Spanish surrender of the city to prevent a great loss of civilian lives.
In Ceuta, the situation is stable; with the Spaniards holding off the Moroccans but unable to break the siege due to numerical inferiority. The Moroccans have been able to capture some slums and an industrial park in the southern edge of the city, but cannot advance further due to the strong defensive position the Spaniards have [look Ceuta up at google maps and see how that city’s geography is a nightmare for any attacker; it’s like Gibraltar on steroids]
12.30PM: Rioting in Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia, Murcia and Barcelona going on with full intensity. The mayor of Madrid is seriously considering to ask for military help and put the city under martial law.
To complicate things further, ETA decides to join the party by murdering a Guardia Civil agent at a roadblock near San Sebastián.
After 36 hours of closure, the Spanish airspace is reopened, except for an exclusion zone 100 miles around the straits. Thousands of tourists make long queues waiting for the next plane in crowded airports patrolled by soldiers and guarded by tanks and APC’s.
1PM: the last ship leaves Melilla port; minutes later the Spanish defenders surrender to the Moroccan army.
In Algiers, Spanish diplomats (some of them actually being intelligence agents) reach an agreement with Algerian counterparts.
Some other diplomats and secret agents are travelling towards Tindouf, in Southern Algeria…
1.15PM: News of the fall of Melilla make it to international media. All over Morocco, crowds gather in the streets to celebrate the Liberation of Melilla, hoping that Ceuta follows soon and the war is over.
In Spain, whatever little opposition to the war remained, most of it disappears when the first images of Legion soldiers surrendering to Moroccan forces and the Moroccan flag waving above Melilla’s town hall are broadcasted.
1.30PM: King Juan Carlos makes his 2nd speech in two days pointing out that Melilla was surrendered to prevent a great loss of civilian lives and that the war effort will continue until Melilla is liberated and the Spanish possessions in North Africa are acknowledged by Morocco.
Celebrations continue at Morocco and other Islamic countries.
Around 40000 civilians from Ceuta and Melilla have been evacuated to mainland Spain. Many have managed to find a place at family or friends’ houses, while the rest are giving a serious headache to the Spanish government. Finally, after hours of calls and negotiations, the refugees are installed at the same hotels all over Andalusia that thousands of tourists abandoned the day before, with the Spanish government paying the bill.
2PM: Moroccan units complete their occupation of Melilla while the last ships carrying Spanish troops head to the mainland. Melilla will be put under curfew and martial law until a definitive ceasefire is reached.
As if to counter the Moroccan euphoria, the Spanish airforce launches the first major strike of the day, and the biggest one in the entire war, when 93 planes operating from the bases in southern spain we already know and the Canary Islands bomb the civilian airports of Rabat, Casablanca, Tangiers, Nador, and Fez to prevent the landing of supplies sent by the Arab League.
In the northern tip of Morocco, the triangle formed by Ceuta, Tangiers and Tetouan has become a nightmarish landscape of bombed roads filled by refugees and soldiers, wrecked equipment and craters created by the constant air, naval and artillery bombardments.
After the fall of Melilla and the Moroccan failure to take the Chafarinas, military activity for the next 36 hours will be reduced to the heavy fighting around Ceuta and occasional air raids. Most of the action will now happen in the diplomatic, public security and covert action fronts.
2.30PM: What seems to be a normal freighter leaves the port of Alicante with destination Algiers. It just seems to be a normal freighter since a) the ship is manned by Spanish navy men, B) she is escorted by a submerged submarine and c) her load is *not* furniture and cars.
3PM: The Spanish delegation in the UN states that no mediation proposal will be accepted until Spanish troops have again entered Melilla and the Moroccan army agrees to a withdrawal south of the Larache-Ksar el Kbir line. Negotiations for a ceasefire are indefinitely stalled.
In the Western Sahara, large columns of Moroccan soldiers, tanks, artillery and helicopters, move north towards the combat zones, halving Moroccan military presence in the Western Sahara.
At his humble official residence in Tindouf, Sahrawi president-in-exile Mohammed Abdelaziz receives some unexpected visitors.
4PM: In their first active action in the entire war, Spanish planes based off Gran Canaria bomb the Moroccan air base at El Aaiun, capital of the western Sahara.
In Ceuta, the defenders are starting to run out of ammo, although the Spanish navy is making desperate efforts to supply the city with ammunition and fresh troops while evacuating as many civilians as possible. The reopening of the straits to navigation only makes matters worse, as the danger of ships colliding is very high.
4.30PM: more Spanish cultural centers, consulates and embassies attacked all over the muslim world.
In America, the news on the War of the Straits have displaced Afghanistan and the WorldCom scandal from the front pages. At both sides of the political spectrum, analists and pundits argue on whether supporting Spain or not. Radicals urge for bombing of Morocco while moderates note that this war has nothing to do with the Great War on Terror, and that Spain attacked first. Similar heated debates are held also in Europe and the rest of the Western World.
5PM: The sahrawi government meets after President Abdelaziz’s visitors have left.
In Ceuta, the remaining civilians are ordered to leave the outer city districts and take shelter at downtown, behind the two bridges that link the city center island with the mainland. All of them notice the engineer units at both bridges, ready to blow them up if necessary.
After swift negotiations, planes loaded with missiles, high explosive ammunition and so on land in Madrid and Sevilla as part of the promised EU support. The Spanish army won’t have to worry about ammunition for another week.
5.30PM: the Moroccan army has managed to get a foothold at the two dams that supply water to Ceuta, getting an advantage position on the hills that surround the city and menacing the center of the Spanish line.
Engineers arrive to the Fuerteventura airport to enlarge the landing strips. Airports at Lanzarote and Fuerteventura are militarized and closed to civilian traffic and visitors: those wishing to leave the islands will have to board a ferry and take a plane at either Las Palmas or Tenerife.
Tourists and travellers driving by the A-4 highway between Madrid and Sevilla witness a large column of Leopard tanks and military trucks heading south. In a few hours grainy video footage from this are being broadcast all over the world: the Spanish army may be readying for a full-fledged invasion.
In the Ministry of Defense at Madrid, official spokesmen report about the last advancements in the war. Ceuta is holding out despite the increasing pressure of the attackers, the airforce has attacked targets at El Aaiun, Tangiers and what starts being known as the Death Road of Morocco: the N-13 road linking Tetouan and Ceuta.
In a bunker some meters below that, intelligence analysts have finally discovered the remaining Moroccan airfields near the Algerian border…
6PM: Madrid Police, supported by the Guardia Civil and even GEO [Spanish SWAT] have finished to repress what will be known as the July 18th Riot. There are 10 dead, hundreds of hurt and detained. Property damage is counted on millions.
7PM: Pope John Paul II asks for a ceasefire between both nations. His petition has the same success than the UN one.
At the Cartagena and Rota naval bases, the 4 Galicia and Pizarro class amphibious ships are being prepared for an invasion.
Red Cross members arrive to the improvised prisoner camps in Northern Morocco. They report that the prisoners are being well treated despite the rudimentary nature of the camps.
In Occupied Melilla, the city mayor meets the Moroccan commander, who assures him that the situation will be normalized in a few days. For now, the city streets are empty, except for Moroccan checkpoints and patrols.
10 PM: the sahrawi government finishes a long, disputed meeting. They finally have a decision…
1030 PM: The load of the Spanish freighter is finally unloaded at Algiers port. It will head south.
After the frenetical pace of events since the dawn of July 17th, the situation has gone calmer during most of the 18th. This calm will still last for a couple of days until Operations Blue and Pink break out…
Plan of Melilla:
A Morocco-Spain war in 2002 -2008 Turtledove Award
No Spanish Civil War 2009, 2010 Turtledove Award
DAY 3: JULY 19TH 2002
Combat keeps raging on around Ceuta. The numerical superiority of the attackers has pushed the Spanish into the city, forcing them to abandon their defensive positions at the outskirts. Fresh and experienced Moroccan units formerly deployed at the Western Sahara are starting to arrive, despite the mayhem the continued Spanish naval bombardment is inflicting upon the road and communications systems in Northern Morocco. However, the Spanish have received ammunition supplies from their European friends, while preparations for a full invasion of Northern Morocco are on their way. While every diplomatic attempt to stop the war seems to have failed miserably, certain events in Southern Algeria and the Western Sahara are about to open a new front ….
3AM: Tanks and equipment start to be loaded into the Galicia assault ship at Rota.
All over ports in the Cadiz province and around the Gibraltar Strait, civilian freighters confiscated or rented by the Spanish military are also being loaded with supplies and men.
4AM: At the Berm, the defensive wall that separates the Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara from the Polisario-controlled Free Sahara, most of the elite units have been redeployed in the North. The remaining units fail to see unusual movements in the polisario side of the Berm.
4.30AM: In Ceuta, despite the stubborn Spanish resistance, the Moroccans have held onto the dams. Heaviest fighting is now around the Oil refinery in the north edge of the city. The port is now under range of the Moroccan artillery.
6AM: In Madrid, the Military Staff decides to lessen naval and air support for Ceuta, since as many missiles as possible must be saved for the massive bombardment that will precede a landing. The Ceuta commander is informed that he and his men will have to resist for at least more 24 hours before they can be relieved. Supplies, especially of AT weapons, and more Legion soldiers, many of them evacuated from Melilla are on their way.
7AM: A 2nd attack renders the airbase at El Aaiun useless. Meanwhile, plans are laid out for a final attack that wipes out the remaining Moroccan airforce.
8AM: Sahrawi students and activists start demonstrating at El Aaiun. The demonstration soon escalates into riot.
8.30AM: Spanish Officials warn the US Navy command escorting civilian ships through the straits that the Straits will be closed again at midnight. This is soon filtered to international media: everybody knows what is coming next.
9AM: after resupplying, the Principe de Asturias leaves Rota heading south.
In Madrid, first opinion polls reveal a massive support for the war, although the first critical voices appear, and not only from pacifist or radical leftist groups.
In London, The Guardian publishes a very critical article on the Spanish position, noting the Spanish hypocrisy regarding Ceuta and Gibraltar, and the fact Spain attacked its neighbour out of a stupid border incident.
10AM: The last Spanish ship to enter the port of besieged Ceuta delivers ammunition stocks, much needed Anti Tank weapons and fresh, experienced Legion troops. The Spanish start a steady withdrawal towards the city center.
4 homemade bombs explode in Madrid buses, killing 45 people and injuring 143. This is the worst terrorist attack ever in Spanish soil.
11AM: the enormous maritime traffic jam in the Straits starts to clear. Convoys protected by US Navy ships cross the Straits at a good pace, while their crewmen are able to witness the heavy fighting over the Moroccan coast.
In Tindouf and all over the Free Sahara, the Polisario forces, in an uneasy ceasefire since 1991, are mobilizing while they try to hide their preparations from both Moroccan forces still standing in the Berm and the MINURSO soldiers [MINURSO is a peacekeeping UN force formed by around 200 russian, ghanese, Malaysian and Uruguayan blue helmets deployed around the Berm in 1991 to guarantee the ceasefire]
In the Western Sahara rioting is now extended to the cities of Smara, Boukhdour and Dakhla. The police seems unable to stop them.
12PM: demonstrations held at most Spanish cities to mourn the victims of the terrorist attack. Many immigrants assist too to show their repulse to the attack. There are several incidents, but they don’t degenerate into serious rioting.
1PM: In Rota, preparations are well on their way for an invasion.
In America, right wing media such as Fox News, Free Republic and others critizice President Bush for his “indecisiveness” while praising the “Conquistadores of the 21st century”. The Democrat Party will also profit to this.
2PM: In Ceuta, the Moroccans have finally managed to take the refinery and are entering the city. The defenders, though, are making them pay dearly in vicious street fighting. Unfortunately for the defenders, the navy and the airforce can give them little support now.
3PM: Many units are transferred from Melilla to the Ceuta front. The Moroccans know they need a last desperate push to win the war.
4PM: In Madrid, Operations Blue and Black are given green light.
5PM: soldiers and equipment start boarding the landing ships.
In Madrid, the national police is already at the tracks of the terrorist commando.
In the Western Sahara, crates loaded with rifles, ammunition, AT missiles and even Stinger missiles are being opened and its content distributed to polisario members…
In Ceuta, the Moroccans have arrived to the city stadium, while the Spaniards continue their withdrawal.
6PM: In the largest air attack that far south to the moment, all 12 Harriers embarked at the Principe de Asturias attack the main Moroccan naval base in Casablanca. This is the first time this city is attacked. The Moroccan fleet has been anchored here since the beginning of the war since it was clear that any naval effort would be worthless against the much bigger and powerful Spanish fleet.
6.30PM: Taken by surprise and with little AA support, the Moroccan fleet was a sitting duck. Most ships are sunken or badly damaged.
7PM: The Moroccan airforce makes a last effort for supporting the onslaught on Ceuta, but the attackers have to withdraw after losing several planes to naval fire and Spanish F-18.
7.30PM: the situation in Western Sahara cities has become worse. Moroccan officials start to realize that this is not just usual rioting, but that the insurgents are well coordinated and organized.
8PM: the invasion fleet leaves Rota.
8.30PM: The Moroccan attack resumes with new, fresh units being thrown into Ceuta. However, what the Moroccans expected to be a swift attack towards the city centre is becoming an incredibly bloody mess. Anyway, with the most experienced and best armed units leading the assault, the Moroccans are able to make gains and penetrate deeper into the city.
They are heading to a trap that the Spanish command has been carefully setting up for the last two days.
10PM: The Spanish naval command annonces that the straits will be closed to navigation at Midnight and that every civilian ship intending to cross it must head to the nearest available port.
At midnight, the invasion fleet, escorted by the most powerful available ships in the Spanish arsenal is arriving to their positions carefully laid out in Plan Blue.
Several hundreds of miles south, the polisario soldiers are deploying near the Berm, ready to open a new front in the war…
Map of Western Sahara as of July 19th
Morón de la Frontera airforce Base, July 19th 8.30PM
Byron Cepeda hadn’t signed up for this. When he saw the announcements in Ecuador the last year, he thought it would be an easy way to escape his life in Guayaquil and emigrate legally to Spain, where his brother and two cousins already were. Serving La Madre Patria would be way cooler than harvesting tomatoes at the large plantations in Andalusia and Murcia like his brother. After all, what could go wrong now? The most dangerous destination that he could be sent was as a peacekeeper in Kosovo. That was when he signed up, in May 2001. He managed to get past the tough training as paratrooper in the Almogavares Airborne division. He lived at the brigade headquarters. He got himself a Spanish girlfriend. He went to Kosovo, got himself wounded in a showdown with Albanian militiamen, and came back taking his job more seriously and with a nice Sergeant sleeve.
And now the moors have started a war. Right at Spain’s backdoor. And Byron Cepeda finds himself going to a real war. Great. Looks like at the end, escorting kosovar children to school was not the most dangerous thing that could happen to a Spanish soldier.
Sergeant Cepeda enters the meeting room, where the Brigade commander, General Sierra,is about to brief him and his counterparts on the Brigade’s duties.
Byron and his comrades for sure know one thing: being dropped onto Northern Morocco is not one of those duties. Half of the Brigade is already loading onto the planes, ready to be dropped right before the main landings happen. For some reason, the other half has been kept apart. All kinds of crazy rumours have already spread, but now, at least, they will have some official word.
General Sierra speaks:
-You may be wondering why on earth you are not being readied onto the planes, ready to land right on Mohammed’s ass and kick him very hard. Well, actually, you are. Officially, at least. If anybody in the rest of the world asks, the Roger de Lauria regiment has been dropped in the rear of the Moroccan army. It’s not like they’re going to count how many of us are there.
The bullshit alarms are ringing at Byron’s head. What the heck is this about? What kind of perverse joke have the big shots in Madrid prepared for us?
-While the rest of the world looks at the great land battle around Ceuta, we, along with several other units already on their way, will perform a very risky mission. If we fail, we lost the war. Or at least screwed it up big time. If we succeed—well, I think that the government will then run out of decorations.
A short pause. Everybody is now paying careful attention.
-What we are going to do is codenamed as Operation Black. Cool name, isn’t it? It is a part of a greater operative codenamed Plan Indigo that everyboy in the Ministry of Defense is crazy about. The success of Indigo, gentlemen, depends on you. You will have to open the way for our land-based forces and you will be alone facing a very pissed off enemy if something goes wrong. And now for the details…
Insignia of the BRIPAC airborne brigade:
DAY 4: JULY 20TH 2002
Despite their air superiority and some isolated victory like the one at the Battle of Congress Island, the Spaniards have been losing ground under the steady pressure of the Moroccan army. Alhucemas and Velez fell on surprise strikes. Melilla was surrendered to prevent civilian deaths, and the defenders of Ceuta are exhausted and falling back towards the sea. The Spanish army has needed two days to prepare his men and the fleet for a full fledged invasion of Morocco. But, finally, everything is ready. As outlined in Plan Blue, at dawn, preceeded by a large naval and air bombardment, tanks, soldiers and marines will land in northern morocco and hopefully push the invaders south. Meanwhile, in the Western Sahara, the Polisario is about to backstab the Moroccans in a desperate push to achieve freedom for the Sahrawi people…although they’re actually working for Spain’s hidden interests.
0.00AM: The Russian freighter Rostov becomes the last civilian ship to cross the Strait before closure is official. The Spanish fleet is already taking positions. Task Force Serrano is already in front of its landing area west of Ceuta while Task Force Prim is still heading for its final position. [Generals Prim and Serrano lead the Spanish army in the first Morocco war in 1859-60]
In Rabat, the Moroccan leadership is awaiting the invasion. Their only hope to win the war now is to push as deep as possible into Ceuta before the invaders can hold a big beachhead. What remains of the Moroccan airforce will be sacrificed if necessary.
However, they have failed to predict the true scale of the Spanish attack. The Spaniards have received fresh supplies from their NATO allies and they want to use them with full effect. They know that the enemy outnumbers them, so the only option to land an army in such a difficult terrain is to overwhelm the enemy with fire, destroying its command and supply line.
The Spaniards have decided to drop twice as many missiles in only 4 hours as have been dropped in the past 4 days, in a not very large area already very punished by constant bombardment. They’re intending to do Shock And Awe… at the limited scale Spanish resources allow.
In Washington, Moroccan diplomats have finally managed to convince the US government that they have nothing to do with the Madrid bombings. Surprinsingly, the Spanish diplomats confirm their counterparts’ claims.
In the Berm, the Polisario soldiers are deploying for their surprise attack. In the Moroccan side of the wall, the now reduced Moroccan garrisons, mostly made up of conscripts and unexperienced soldiers, are in alert in case the Polisario is up to something, but they cannot suspect that the Sahrawis are about to start a full attack, not that they have somehow managed to get antitank and antiair weapons, nor that they somehow have gotten precise, up-to-date maps of the Moroccan deployment and the minefields that border the Berm.
In America, people is staring at the TV’s, ready to witness history’s first amphibious invasion in prime time.
In Ceuta, night doesn’t stop the combat. The availability of night combat gear gives a certain advantage to defenders, but they’re too outnumbered to effectively stop the attack.
In Spain and Morocco, almost nobody sleeps tonight. While the Spaniards mourn the dead of the last morning terror attack on Madrid, people meets at bars and houses to witness the invasion live.
0.30AM: Spanish special forces teams are inserted via light boat in Moroccan territory. Their task is to designate targets for the bombardment and cause as much mayhem as possible in the Moroccan rear guard.
1.AM: Task Force Prim (two Pizarro class amphibious ships escorted by frigates and patrol boats) has reached its position southwest of Ceuta. Fighting inside the city is clearly visible from there.
At the Strait Air Command bases planes start to take off…
At Gando, more planes take off for a very risky mission that will push them to their combat range limit.
1.15AM: Admiral Barberá gives authorization to start the bombing as the planes are arriving.
1.16AM: The entire Spanish fleet starts firing over the Moroccan coast without further warning. The primary targets of the bombardment are coastal positions around the landing zones, transportation hubs in the rear zones and especially command positions and supply depots. The Spanish know that they will be hopelessly outnumbered so they want to face an enemy as unorganized as possible.
Observers on civilian ships describe the view as “morbidly beautiful”. The image of a missile hitting an ammunition depot near Tangiers, producing an enormous mushroom cloud in the clear summer night, becomes another of the images of the war.
In Spain, despite the mourning for the terror attacks, the reaction to the attack is scarily similar to the one after La Selección scores a goal at an important match.
1.25 AM: The airforce joins the bombing attacking specific targets deep inside the Moroccan rear.
1.27AM: the Moroccan commander for Northern Morocco is killed when a missile salvo blasts his command bunker near El Fendek.
In Rabat, the reports are extremely worrying. Not only are the Spaniards throwing amazing amounts of High Explosive into the Moroccan positions, but they have managed to damage the Moroccan chain of command.
1.50: The planes off Gando reach the African coast south of Tarfaya, flying at very low height to avoind being detected by any remaining Moroccan radar.
2.15AM: Spanish planes attack a Moroccan command post next to the Berm, while other planes use missiles to attack the wall itself.
2.30AM: at both invasion fleets, soldiers and tanks start being hurried into the landing boats. The bombardment has lowered intensity since the first wave of planes is heading back to airbase while the second has yet to arrive.
In Rabat, every effort is now being made to retrieve communication with the front. This will lead the Moroccan strategists to make some fatal mistakes dismissing reports of other attacks in the Western Sahara giving greater priority to any operation in the North.
In Ceuta fighting resumes after some minutes of chaos. The situation kind of mirrors the one in Perejil 3 days before, but at a much bigger scale.
In the Western Sahara, fight breaks loose when Polisario units attack Moroccan positions with mortar fire and light rocket launchers mounted on pickups [the Polisario used those with great success during their war with morocco in the 80’s. They were called “the poor man’s Tank”] . Polisario soldiers cross the Berm at several places, avoiding the minefields. What Sahrawis will call Third War of Independence has just begun.
2.45AM: First reports of something wrong going in Western Sahara arrive to Rabat. Fortunately for the Polisario, they are dismissed as the activity near Ceuta claims all attention. Reports about Spanish planes striking that far south are also dismissed.
3AM: the Polisario spearhead has crossed the Berm after destroying several Moroccan outposts. Instead of a single push towards Smara and El Aaiun, the sahrawis know that they are too few and lightly armed to wage a conventional war,so they will resort to good old hit-n-run guerrilla warfare. To counter the Moroccan air superiority, they can now rely on their brand new AA equipment, occasional Spanish air support and the fact the Moroccan airforce will be pinned down and hopefully destroyed in the north.
5AM: after 4 hours of continued missile raining, the bombing ends.
Spanish paratroopers land near the invasion beaches, at the villages of Dar el Kerroub, Afersigoua, Fahama and Aaliyine. [You can check all those names in Google Earth, I’m not making them up. :P]
6AM: 72 hours after the war began, the first troops from the Spanish Marine Corps land at Mendieta Beach supported by Pizarro APC’s and helicopters. They find no resistance and advance inland to get to the important Road 416 that links Ceuta and Tangiers. [The landing beaches have codenames after Spanish football players. For the sake of the timeline, let’s assume this is the small beach next to the village of Ksar-El-Srir. Use Google Maps in hybrid mode to see it clearly]
6.15AM: shortly after, a 2nd landing takes place at Casillas Beach 5 miles north of Mendieta Beach. This beach is protected by a pier, so Leopard Tanks can be safely landed. The invaders find some heavy resistance here.
6.25AM: The Spanish helicopters and tanks make an easy job of the defenders at Casillas Beach and seize the small port while advancing south towards the road.
6.30AM: first, confuse news of the landings arrive to Rabat.
More landings take place at Puyol Beach, assigned to Task Force Prim, south of Ceuta. [Puyol Beach is the long beach at the village of Restinga, in the Mediterranean side of the Straits] The Moroccans had accurately predicted that this beach would be scenario of a landing, but their forces have been crushed by the bombing.
At H+1 hour, the Spanish army has around five thousand men in Moroccan soil, supported by tanks and helicopters and holding 3 small beachheads around Ceuta that expand slowly while more soldiers are poured onto the beaches. They’re facing an enemy that greatly outnumbers them but that has been decapitated by the initial Spanish bombardment. Time is running out for the Moroccans.
Meanwhile, chaos has broken out in Western Sahara, with the cities going in Intifada mode and the Moroccan garrisons and MINURSO blue helmets completely overwhelmed by the situation and the swift polisario attack.
7AM: The heavy bombing has been successful so far, creating havoc in the Moroccans rear and flanks and making them unable to mount a coordinate counterattack in the first, decisive hours.
In Mendieta Beach, Marines advance quickly to take the low hills that surround the beach. The few scattered defenders are taken out quickly. APC’s and light armour advance towards the village of Afersigoua.
In Casillas Beach, the first Leopards are being unloaded at the docks while the marines are still cleaning the area from Moroccan defenders. Infantry units supported by helicopters and VAMTACs [which is Spanish for Humvee; the name change is due to the Spanish army having both American-made Hummers and Spanish-made Uros] have taken the road crossing, cutting an important supply line for the Moroccans.
In between both beachheads, the paratroopers have taken the village of Dar el Kheroub. The village lies at about 2 miles of each beach, making it a very important location. The paras will have to hold on to it until they can be relieved.
In Puyol Beach, Moroccan resistance has been higher due to their accurate estimation of a large Spanish landing here. Some Spanish units are even pinned down in the beach for some minutes under heavy fire from the defenders, entrenched at the tourist resorts [Puyol Beach, or Restinga as it is known, seems to be a tourist resort with urbanizations and bungalows. Cool image, isn’t it?].
7.20AM: Spanish infantry takes Afersigoua without finding much resistance.
The paras at Dar el Kheroub have to endure a first Moroccan counterattack to retake the village. The attackers are repulsed due to their lack of armour and artillery support.
Harriers from the Principe de Asturias attack Moroccan artillery in the area to prevent a bombing of the landing zones.
In Puyol Beach, naval support has allowed the Spaniards to progress from the beach towards the road. The Moroccan defenders of the beach either withdraw or surrender.
In Rabat, news of the landings have arrived, but the chaos in command and communication makes the Moroccan command unable to respond co-ordinately in these first hours. Even worse, the Spanish paratroopers and special units infiltrated into the Moroccan rear, leads the Moroccan officials to believe the Spanish beachhead is much deeper than it actually is.
Leopard 2 Tanks make their first real tank battle ever when tanks at Casillas Beach try to advance north through Road 416 and force the mountain pass that leads to El Horra. They meet with moroccan armoured units that have been trying to start an improvised counterattack towards the beachhead.
Spanish units advance west from Mendieta Beach to protect the Spanish right flank and prepare for an advance on Tangiers.
In the Western Sahara, the Moroccans have achieved some isolated successes against the polisario by using helicopters to move troops quickly towards the combat points, but the unexpected use of AA weapons by polisario soldiers has caused them high casualties. The polisario advance towards Smara and Dakhla.
7.35AM: The Spanish have won the tank battle of El Horra pass after the Leopards prove to be very superior than the Moroccans’ outdated M-60.
Another Moroccan counterattack against Dar el Kheroub is more successful. The Moroccans know that the village is key to prevent both beachheads at Mendieta and Casillas beach to join, and several improvised units supported by tanks, helicopters and light artillery assault the village. The paratroopers try to resist but are forced to fall back towards the coastal road.
7.45AM: The Moroccan counterattack is met by large concentrations of naval fire and air attacks.
In Puyol beach, the Spanish deploy along the road. The small port of Restinga is taken, while some units advance towards the hills and the village of aaliyine. But the bulk of the Spanish advance is directed north, towards the city of Fnideq. If the Spanish take Fnideq and the important road junction north of the city, the attackers of Ceuta will have lost their last supply route. Other units deploy south to protect the flank of the beachhead and prepare for an advance on Tetouan.
8AM: In Rabat, the Moroccan command is starting to have a clearer view of the situation. Communications with the combat area have now been retrieved, and a new commander is named to coordinate the counterattacks against the beachheads. Unfortunately, most of the most important and well-placed units have been crushed by the initial bombardment. To the Moroccan command’s dismay, many ammunition and fuel depots have been destroyed. The Moroccans have a big army in the combat zone, but have no way to resupply it, at least in the first hours.
In Madrid, their Spanish counterparts congratulate themselves as the landings are going on schedule.
The Moroccan airforce makes its last combat sortie in a desperate attempt to attack the beachheads.
8.15AM: Marine units from Mendieta Beach contact with the paratroopers at the outskirts of Dar el kherroub and engage the Moroccan spearhead. Shortly after, Leopards coming from Casillas Beach arrive and engage the Moroccan right flank.
The Spanish airforce takes off to counter any air counterattack from the Moroccans.
8.30AM: The Moroccan counterattack has been repulsed, with the Moroccans losing most of their tanks and the Spaniards accomplishing their goals of retaking the village and joining both beachheads.
The new Moroccan commander on northern morocco is facing now a dilemma. Should he order his best units, fighting in Ceuta to fall back and attack the beachheads? Or should he try a last, desperate attempt to take the city before the Spanish Task Forces can join, trapping his army at Ceuta?
8.35AM: The last surviving Moroccan mirages attack the Spanish landing places, but the AA support from the frigates destroys many of them before they can make significant damage. When the F-18 and Harriers arrive, the battle is lost for the Moroccans. At 8.50 AM, the Moroccan airforce has ceased to exist as a significant combat force.
9AM: the Spanish reach the southern slums of Fnideq.
In Cairo, the Arab League starts another emergency meeting to discuss the alleged Algerian support to the Spaniards and the sahrawi “rebels”.
In the beachheads, unloading of soldiers and equipment keeps on at good rhythm. So far, every Moroccan attempt to attack the landing zones has failed.
9.30AM: The new Moroccan commander has made his decision. And it is the worst one. Instead of throwing the lot using his best units to either attack Ceuta or the beachheads, he will keep on the pressure on the city while some units are withdrawn for a counterattack. The most obvious targets for this are the Spanish advance on Fnideq and the villages of afersigoua and El Horra, but the difficult terrain and terrible logistics are turning the organization and movement of troops into a nightmare.
In the main cities of the Western Sahara, riots keep raging. El Aaiun and Smara are under martial law.
10AM: Ironically, the Spaniards prefer not to advance too much by fear of exposing their flank. They have also overestimated the Moroccan capability to mount an early counterattack. Instead, more troops are being unloaded into the beaches at a frantic pace while the most important points and mountain passes are being fortified. The Spaniards want to turn the rugged terrain to the moroccans’ disadvantage.
In Ceuta, the attackers have reached the port after one day of street battle. However, rumours are being spread about a massive landing in their rear that will cut them off.
In Tindouf, Sahrawi president Abdelaziz announces that the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is tired of awaiting for the UN decision for a referendum, and that the ceasefire is broken.
10.30AM: In Cairo, members of the Arab League approve trade sanctions and boycotting of Algeria due to its collaboration with Spain.
The Spaniards reach the village of Dar Guarda, only 8 miles north of Tetouan. The eastern beachhead around Puyol Beach already stretches through 12 miles of Moroccan coast while the Spaniards cautiously advance west to occupy the litoral plain.
Combat breaks out in Fnideq. The Moroccan defenders are able to repulse a first Spanish attack before naval artillery opens fire on the city.
10.45AM: The Spanish police has identified the terrorist cell that organized the Madrid bombing.
The first coffins carrying dead Spanish soldiers arrive to Madrid Barajas Airport, being received by the royal family and members of the government.
Opinion polls in both countries still show mass support for the war.
Moroccan units in the outskirts of Ceuta start being withdrawn for the counterattack, scheduled for 3PM.
Without waiting for the counterattack order and due to a failure in communications, Moroccan troops try a frontal attack into the Puyol Beach beachhead.
In Western Sahara, Moroccan troops achieve a first success towards Polisario destroying a Polisario cell near Smara.
Several freighters leave the naval base of Rota. Nobody notices them as there are hundreds of freighters in an enormous traffic jam all over the Gulf of Cadiz.
11AM: The Spanish airforce launches an attack on road junctions and railway installations all over northern and central morocco to prevent reinforcements to attack northwards. This is the first major attack on civilian targets.
In Puyol Beach, the Spanish are taken by surprise and are forced to withdraw towards the beach.
11.15AM: Task Force Prim starts bombing the Moroccan attackers. Their advance towards Puyol Beach soon bogs down.
In Fnideq, the combination of naval and armoured support has allowed the Spaniards to regain the lost terrain, but the Moroccan defenders are forcing the Spanish marines to engage in house-to-house fighting.
Moroccan troops are being pulled down from Ceuta.
11.30AM: Spanish advance units cross the river south of Ksar es-Srir [southern edge of the Mendieta beachhead] and see that the road to Tangiers is open, with only few Moroccan troops guarding it.
The Moroccan counterattack towards Puyol Beach is starting to falter. The attackers have lost most of their tanks (mostly obsolete M48 and M60 tanks) to the far more powerful Spanish Leopards.
In Rabat and Casablanca, antiwar demonstrations are held.
The first Moroccan prisoners are being transported into the Spanish ships. From there, they will be transferred into prisoner camps at Cadiz.
In Northern Morocco, Spanish prisoners from Melilla, Velez and Alhucemas start their 4th day of captivity. Red Cross officials visit them and insist that they are being well treated.
In Washington, Spanish representatives insist that no ceasefire will be agreed upon until Ceuta is relieved and Spain has gotten a compensation.
At midday, (H+6 hour) the Spaniards have been able to repulse every Moroccan attacks onto the beachheads. The Spanish air superiority has been decisive to drive back the Moroccan uncoordinated assaults onto the beaches, destroy artillery positions that would be able to bomb the landing places and create general mayhem in the Moroccan communications system.
Meanwhile, the Moroccans have been able to start mounting a coordinated attack on the Spanish positions. They know they will have to rely on sheer numbers since they lack air support and their weaponry is hopelessly obsolete.
In Western Sahara, the polisario offensive has been stopped whenever polisario units have met large concentrations of Moroccan troops or the Moroccans have been able to use their small remaining airforce, but the cities are already in full rebellion.
1PM: In Madrid, Spanish police locates the Al Qaeda cell in a flat in Getafe, near the airbase.
In the beachheads, the Spanish troops are finishing their preparations for the expected great Moroccan counterattack.
Around Ceuta, Moroccan troops are moving towards their new attack positions.
2PM: In Algiers, islamists starts riots protesting the alleged collaboration of the Algerian government with the “crusaders”
Troops from the Western Sahara have finally managed to cross the punished Moroccan road system and are starting to concentrate at Tetouan for a counterattack on the Spanish southern flank.
More troops are moving through the important Road S601, the only road left to supply the Moroccan army in Ceuta.
2.15PM: Spanish air reconnaissance reports about suspicious troop movements in Northern Morocco. The Spanish command knows that the Moroccans have finally managed to overcome their communication problems and that a coordinate counterattack will start anytime soon.
In Rabat, the offensive is delayed to 4PM to allow more troops to arrive.
In Ceuta, the Moroccan offensive has bogged down and the defenders are able to take terrain back for the first time in two days.
3PM: Spanish troops advancing through Fnideq are ordered to take defensive positions.
More tanks and soldiers are unloaded as fast as possible.
The first mayor anti-western riot by angry muslim radicals in Europe takes place in Rotterdam, Netherlands, being suppressed by the police.
In the Moroccan side, the best units of the Armée Royale are now ready to start the counteroffensive. They rely on a heavy artillery bombing of the beaches combined with a mass attack on Fnideq and the southern edge of Puyol Beach; together with secondary attacks on El Horra pass and Afersigoua. The Moroccan strategy relies on breaking the exposed Spanish flanks at the eastern beachhead and advance through the coastal road to destroy it. Once this beachhead is destroyed, all efforts can be devoted to a mass attack on the western beachhead while the coastal road is open again for the Moroccans.
America is waking up with CNN and Fox News constantly broadcasting images of the invasion, such as the Spanish fleet bombing the coast, Leopards firing on Moroccan M-60’s and Spanish paratroopers landing on a village. Every commentator agrees that Moroccan will have to surrender in 48 or less hours, although there are also critical voices with Spain.
The Spanish airforce, now uncontested ruler of the sky, is making constant sorties over the deployment zones.
The Spaniards have been able to unload artillery onto the beaches.
3.50PM: When air and satellite reconnaissance confirms that preparations for a counteroffensive are obvious, the airforce and the fleet start bombing the troop concentration zones, especially the bigger ones north of Tetouan and Fnideq. The surviving Moroccan batteries are also targeted.
Spanish GEOs assault the apartment where the terrorist cell is believed to be hiding. The terrorists blow themselves before surrendering, destroying the apartment and killing two GEOs [this is the same terrorist cell that in OTL caused the Atocha bombings in 2004. In TTL, the war has prompted them to act before, in a less well prepared attack.]
After 3 days of riots and demonstration, a tense calm returns to Spain’s main cities.
4PM: The Moroccan counteroffensive starts in the middle of the mayhem caused by the Spanish attack.
Despite being quickly suppressed by the Spanish airforce, Moroccan artillery is able to hit several important targets at Puyol Beach, including an oil tank and a transport boat.
4.15PM. Moroccan infantry and tanks start moving towards the Spanish positions on Puyol Beach. After some minutes of heavy fighting, they are able to repulse the Spaniards again out of Fnideq, while the southern army tries to advance towards Dar Guarda and reach the beach there.
In the western sector, the Moroccans launch secondary attacks against Afersigoua and El Horra pass, but the Spanish defensive positions hold out, killing many attackers.
5PM: The Moroccan offensive has met a moderate success; despite suffering horrendous losses the Moroccans are able to take back Fnideq and advance through the coastal road. Their tanks now have Puyol Beach under range.
In the South, the Moroccan attackers have also penetrated into Dar Guarda, but the Spanish oppose a stubborn resistance.
In Ceuta, the city defenders are able to counterattack and expel the Moroccans from the port.
In Algiers and Orán, islamists attack government buildings. The Algerian government resorts to the army to restore peace.
5.30PM: The Moroccan attack over Afersigoua breaks down, as the inflexible Spanish resistance combined with air support and difficult terrain makes very difficult to advance. The Moroccan troops, mostly 2nd rate units made up of conscripts, soon start to withdraw.
Spanish police foils another terrorist attack against railway stations in Sevilla and Córdoba.
5.45PM: The main Moroccan attack into Puyol Beach from Fnideq is again repulsed by the combination of naval and air support to the Spanish. In a brief but intense combat, the small contingent of Spanish Leopards destroys most of the enemy’s T-72.
In Washington and New York, Spanish representatives to the US government and the UN insist that no ceasefire will be agreed until the Spanish army has achieved its estrategical goals of liberating Melilla and forcing the Moroccan government to renounce its claims on the cities.
6PM: After two hours of combat, the Moroccan offensive has bogged down and it hasn’t failed yet due to the Moroccan numerical superiority. The attackers, however, have lost most of their artillery and tanks.
8PM: The Moroccan counterattack has failed. After 4 hours of combat, the Moroccans haven’t been able to achieve their goals of destroying the Spanish position around Puyol Beach, and the Spaniards are again pushing back and regaining the lost terrain. The situation in the other beachhead is even worse for the Moroccans, since the Spaniards have not only repulsed every counterattack, but have also advanced in two directions: towards Tangiers through Road 416, and from Afersigoua towards Ben el Ouidane and its key road junction.
As night of D-day falls, the Spanish have landed a big army in Moroccan soil and repulsed every enemy attacks against the beachheads. The Moroccan airforce has been definitely destroyed along with the best units of the army. During the night, the Spanish go on the counteroffensive, with both armies slowly advancing towards each other to complete the surrounding and destruction of the Moroccan army besieging Ceuta. The Moroccans, though, still have a good deal of their army redeploying around Tetouan and south of Tangiers.
Meanwhile, an unnoticed Spanish fleet is navigating south…
Map with the situation in Northern Morocco as of Midnight, July 21st. Red arrows are failed Moroccan counterattacks during the entire 20th:
A Morocco-Spain war in 2002 -2008 Turtledove Award
No Spanish Civil War 2009, 2010 Turtledove Award
DAY 5: JULY 21st 2002
The Moroccans have lost the initiative. After losing most of their tanks and best units in the foiled counteroffensive of past afternoon, and with the Spanish airforce having control of the skies, their position around Ceuta is unsustainable. With the Spanish army slowly expanding its beachheads and the Moroccan reinforcements still deploying to protect Tangiers and Tetouan, the Spaniards are having the upper hand in the battle for northern morocco.
Not everything is lost for the Moroccans, though. They still control Melilla, where things are slowly going back to normality, and where a Spanish landing would be next to impossible, and the polisario advance in the Sahara has met with failure whenever the remaining Moroccan airforce has been able to attack the advancing guerrillas.
Midnight: The straits are reopened to civilian traffic after 24 hours, as most of the invasion army is already in North Africa. The US Navy command coordinating the passage, though, is warned that Spanish ships carrying supplies and reinforcements (most being rented/confiscated freighters) will enjoy top priority.
In Western Sahara, the Moroccan garrisons have repealed every polisario attempt to attack the cities.
In the combat zone of northern morocco, the Spanish are advancing slowly to cut the roads leading to Ceuta and cut off the Moroccan army besieging Ceuta.
In Ceuta, the situation is one of stagnation, with both sides unable to advance, although the city defenders have regained some lost terrain.
In Madrid’s Ministry of Defence, the planners know that the most difficult phase is over and that the army can go on the offensive to achieve the objectives laid out in Plan Blue. The main efforts are now devoted to prepare Operation Black, scheduled for the next day.
2AM:In Rota, after the Galicia assault ship is being loaded with more soldiers. Their objective will be to start a secondary landing in the atlantic shore of Tangiers, encircling the city before the defenders can react [This is NOT Operation Black, but a secondary landing included in Plan Blue]
6AM: as sun rises over the combat zone, the Spanish advance continues at a faster pace.
In the western edge of the combat zone, Spanish infantrymen supported by tanks advance through the coastal road. Their objective, Tangiers and its big port. Resistance here is scarce.
In the Afersigoua sector, the Spanish also advance towards Ben Ouidane and the road junction. After their failed attack, the Moroccan troops in that sector are too tired and unorganized to mount a serious resistance.
The situation is more even at the Puyol Beach sector, where the Moroccans are still opposing a heavy resistance at Fnideq and where the Spaniards seem unable to break the Moroccan positions around Dar Guarda; the last defendable position before Tetouan. In that same sector, Spanish troops are also advancing towards Ben Ouidane, although the difficult terrain and scarce roads make their advance slow and bloody.
7AM: In Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, the airstrips are finally prepared to be used by military aircraft.
In Western Sahara, the Polisario advance is faltering, as they have now lost the surprise factor and the Moroccans still have some helicopters in the area and the situation in the cities is starting to calm down.
8AM: Europe wakes up at the 5th day of war with newspapers reporting about the latter day’s battles and the Moroccan defeat. The general attitude is that Morocco will have to sue for peace in less than 2 days. Riots keep going on in France’s main cities, and other cities such as Rotterdam, Antwerp, Copenhagen, Leeds or Frankfurt.
The Galicia leaves Rota, making its way between a swarm of civilian freighters heading towards the reopen straits.
After a brief combat, Spanish soldiers enter Mrarech, only 10 miles east of Tangiers. The Moroccan defenders tried to hold the pass over the wadi but the Spanish tanks managed to cross the bridge before the Moroccans were able to destroy it. [with this swift advance along the coast, the Spanish are of course exposing their flank. This is not that important since a) the moroccan forces in the area are too few and scattered to attack the Spanish supply line from Mendieta Beach, b) should Tangiers fall, the city port and naval base will allow a perfect supplying point for the Spanish, rendering the coastal road and the port at Casillas Beach irrelevant. Anyway, the bulk of the Moroccan force is now around Tetouan and El Fendek, and redeploying them towards Tangiers would be next to impossible]
9AM: Spanish troops have reached Ben Ouidane. If they take the village, the Moroccan army in the north is toast. The Moroccans know this and defend the village house to house.
In Tarifa, the same tourists that left the city in panic 4 days before are now coming to the city for a more sinister attraction: seeing the combats live from the beach. Literally. This is a far more mediatic war than the past war in Afghanistan, since it is being fought in an area with a decent presence of video cameras and internet connections. Since the first day, the web has been full of video footage of almost everything related, from dogfighting over the straits to street combat in Ceuta, even images of the first Spanish landings. The war has also become the hottest topic in blogs and message boards. The feared attacks by Islamic hackers have failed to materialize.
Melilla starts its fourth day of Moroccan occupation. Movement restrictions have been lifted and the Moroccan military is now allowing the passage of supply trucks from the mainland, while power and water have been already restored.
10AM: The Spanish offensive against Dar Guarda starts with an air and naval bombing. After 5 days, the view of warplanes in Andalusia heading south towards Africa has become routine for inhabitants and tourists.
Refugees are crowding the routes leading south from Tetouan, making the moroccan logistics situation even worse.
After 24 calm hours in that sector, the Spanish resume their attack in the north, advancing towards El Horra and the 2nd road junction between Road 416 and Road 8303.
In Fnideq, the Spanish are slowly advancing to take the city for the 3rd time in less than one day.
The Spanish freighters carrying troops and equipment are navigating south, unnoticed between the many ships that crowd the Moroccan coast.
After 4 days of crisis, European stock exchanges start to recover.
11AM: The Spanish reach the village of Talaa Cherif, only 7 miles east of Tangiers. The Moroccan command is making frantic attempts to reinforce the city, but the continued air bombardment over the roads make it very difficult.
Midday: The Galicia is taking positions in front of the landing beach southwest of Tangiers, escorted by a frigate. The troops, mostly infantry with scarce armoured support are commanded to take the airport and link with the other advancing Spanish troops, surrounding Tangiers before the enemy is able to reinforce the city.
Spanish tanks break the Moroccan resistance north of Chejirat. They already have Tangiers in sight.
The Tangiers garrison is ordered to take defensive positions while more troops are hurried up to the city. If the Spaniards try to assault it, they will have to pay dearly.
The battle for El Ouidane and the road junction follows on, with the Spaniards advancing slowly thanks to air and armoured support.
In Madrid, the victims of the latter day’s terror attack are being buried.
12.30PM: The Spanish airforce launches a heavy attack against the Moroccan troop concentrations south of Tangiers.
In Dar Guarda, the Moroccan resistance starts to falter.
1PM: Spanish soldiers land at Jbila Beach (codename Albelda Beach). In a few minutes, they have advanced towards the airport and captured the landing strip (Tangiers Airport is right next to the sea) overwhelming the garrison.
A few miles to their northeast, the Spanish advance from Mendieta Beach continues unopposed. The Spanish tanks are at only 1 mile from Chejirat. If they’re able to break the Moroccan lines there, they will reach the plain south of Tangiers and join with their comrades at the airport.
2PM: In the western Sahara, the Moroccan army seems to be regaining the initiative after a 2nd polisario attack on Smara is repulsed.
The Spanish take the terminal of Tangiers airport while reinforcements are being unloaded onto Albelda Beach. The Moroccan counterattack is being difficulted by the continuous Spanish air attacks.
3PM: At El Horra pass, the Spaniards advance towards the road junction. At 3.10PM, the first Spanish tanks have reached the junction of Road 8303 and Road 416 while more troops are rushed to the area. Unless the Moroccans can somehow expel them, the Moroccan army around Ceuta is in serious trouble.
The situation is more static north of Tetouan, where the bigger Moroccan troop concentrations are. However, the Spaniards are slowly making their way south.
At Tangiers, the Moroccans try to make a defensive line east of the city, but they’re an easy prey for the Spanish tanks and aircraft. At 3.15, most of their defensive positions have been bypassed by the Leopards. Tangiers is about to be under siege…
Southwest of the city, the Spanish take the village of Jbila. During the entire war the Moroccans have had numbers advantage to make up for the spaniards’ technological superiority, but this time the Tangiers garrison is outnumbered.
4PM: the Spanish finally take Dar Guarda and force the pass towards Tetouan.
In El Horra pass, every Moroccan counterattack has failed. The Spanish are now advancing south through road 8303 to surprise the defenders of Ben el Ouidane. The road is guarded by rear units that did not expect such a breakthrough and that have been completely surprised by the Spanish blitz attack.
4.30PM: In El Fendek, the Moroccan command learns about the Spanish advance and knows that the war is lost. However, after a tense phone call to Rabat, a decision is made to resist. The Moroccans still trust in a counterattack from Tetouan and El Fendek that will drive the Spaniards out of the road junctions.
In Tangiers, the Moroccans have been driven out of their positions by the Spanish attack from both the north and the southwest. The Spanish advance has been incredibly fast and the defenders have been caught off guard. At 4.45 PM, Spanish tanks make contact with units landed at Albelda Beach: Tangiers is now isolated from the rest of morocco.
5PM: Rumours that the Spaniards have broken through and that they are effectively cut off spread among many units around Ceuta and Ben el Ouidane.
The polisario stop their advance on the West Sahara cities due to the Moroccan pressure.
5.15PM: The Moroccan defense at Ben el Ouidane is finally broken. The Moroccan troops withdraw in disorder from the road junction.
More Spanish troops are pouring into the Tangiers outskirts while the armoured group, after having advanced 25 miles in one day advances south to chase the withdrawing Moroccan troops, towards Aouama and Chouikrech.
Finally, and only after Moroccan troops are withdrawn from the city to attack El Horra pass, the Spaniards are able to take and hold on to Fnideq. The bulk of the Moroccan army is trapped at the outskirts of Ceuta.
5.30PM: Spanish officials contact the mayor of Tangiers, asking for a bloodless surrender of the city.
Aouama falls to the Spanish troops. The left flank of the Moroccan defense line running from Tangiers to Tetouan seems to have vanished in a few hours.
All over the combat zone, the Moroccan troops fall back. Ben el Ouidane is now firmly under Spanish control, with troops heading south towards El Fendek and north to meet with the troops coming from El Horra pass.
6PM: The mayor of Tangiers and the garrison commander agree to a surrender of the city, against the explicit orders of the Rabat command.
North of Tetouan, the Spaniards force the pass of Wad-Ras: Tetouan is already on their sight.
6.30PM: Spanish troops start entering Tangiers and disarming the city defenders.
In the north, the isolated Moroccan units still resist the Spanish advance, but the bulk of the battle is now south.
7PM: Spanish officials confirm that Tangiers has fallen. All over Spain, crowds gather in the streets to celebrate this first major victory in the war.
7.30PM: The Spanish stop their advance 8 miles south of Tangiers.
In the Tetouan front, the Moroccans are falling back towards the city.
In Washington US officials try to agree to a ceasefire now that Tangiers is on Spanish hands, but the Polisario intervention is giving another headache to the US government. On the first hand, a Moroccan West Sahara is on the US’s interest due to the interests of American oil companies in the zone. On the other hand, forcing a ceasefire in the north would allow the Moroccans to crush the Polisario, pissing off the European allies and the warmongers in the US, who want a decisive step in favour of the Spanish; and suggesting uncomfortable analogies with the 1991 shia uprising in Iraq. Again, nothing is achieved.
8PM: The Spanish flag now waves over Tangiers’ town hall, while the first supply ships enter the port.
As sun sets over the battlefields, it becomes clear that Morocco has lost. Ceuta cannot be taken. The armies sent to take the city have been trapped by the Spanish advance, and the remaining Moroccan armies trying to protect Tangiers and Tetouan have been crushed. All over the world, the general opinion is that Spain has won and Morocco should settle for peace.
In the Western Sahara the situation is different: the Moroccans are holding the polisario attackers and slowly regaining the lost ground.
Meanwhile, some apparently innocuous Spanish freighters have arrived to the port of Fuerteventura.
The Northern Front at Midnight of July 22nd
PLAN INDIGO-TOP SECRET V070702
[COLOR]This document can only be read by CLEARANCE RED personnel. If you are not CLEARANCE RED, please dispose of this document without reading it. Unauthorized reading of documents is prosecuted. Offenders may be subjected to military law. [/color]
OPERATION BLACK- VERSION 070702
Operation Black is the decisive point of Plan Indigo to achieve Indigo’s strategic goal of attaining an advantageous position from where the Spanish government can decide the fate of Western Sahara with as few foreign interference as possible. According to Repsol’s estimations (see Appendix B and C), economical control of the zone under a friendly independent Sahrawi Republic can be very profitable to Spain and will at least compensate a part of the negative backlash that can be expected in the aforementioned scenario of a total war against Morocco.
Operation Black’s preparations [see Appendix A] will start at D-Day, but the final clearance won’t be given until Operation Pink succeeds and the Polisario is drawn to the war. If Operation Pink fails, Operation Black must be cancelled. Operation Black should happen around D+5 day.
Operation Black’s primary targets are the surprise capture of El Aaiun and to hold the city against any Moroccan counterattack. Should the situation be favourable, there will be advances on Smara and Boukhdour, with secondary landings on Boukhdour and Dakhla.
The troops will be transported via air and sea in Hercules transports and civilian freighters. The operation will be controlled from Fuerteventura. The civilian airports at Fuerteventura and Lanzarote shall be militarized and prepared for military use [for preliminary preparations see Appendix D, E, F]. It is unnecessary to say that this will strain our logistics and transports situation to the limit and that a perfect coordination between every branch of the Armed Forces is necessary for success. The operation is extremely risky and the political and diplomatical cost of failure would be enormous.
No naval support shall be provided as the movement of military ships would prevent the surprise. To make up for that, fighter aircraft will be redeployed to Canarias during the night before the Operation, using Tangiers Airport if necessary and available.
The forces involved in the operation are detailed in Appendix G.
The first step will be an airborne assault on Layoune-plage to capture the port and El aaiun airport by BRIPAC troops supported by light armour.
The second step once these targets are secured will be the unloading of the main invasion force comprising several armoured platoons at Layoune Plage and the loading of further reinforcements via air bridge between Fuerteventura and El Aaiun airport.
DAY 6: JULY 22nd 2002
Midnight: Hercules Transport planes start arriving to Fuerteventura Airport. More planes and fighters will follow in the next hour.
In the north, the Spanish have stopped their advance to reorganize and resupply.
In Tangiers, Spanish troops are patrolling the city, now placed under curfew.
The only places where limited combats are still held are the Moroccan pockets around Ceuta and Ben Ouidane.
In the Tangiers front, the Spaniards prefer to wait for the morning before launching a final attack.
The Principe de Asturias is moving south.
In the Western Sahara, the Moroccans think that the worst has passed. The polisario haven’t been able to take any major city and they are even withdrawing from some positions. The Moroccan commander at the Western Sahara Theater trusts in a fast victory here.
1AM: Although air attacks against El Aaiun have been common for the past 5 days, the Moroccan troops are surprised by the unusual violence of this last one, striking AA positions and communication centers.
After resupplying near Fuerteventura, the invasion fleet heads towards El Aaiun.
At the airports, the Hercules are resupplied while the soldiers prepare for the final stage of their voyage.
4AM: In the north, the Spanish artillery has finished unloading and starts attacking the Moroccan defensive positions without waiting for dawn.
5AM: The first wave of Chinook transports carrying the heavy equipment for the airborne brigade take off from Fuerteventura Airport, while the invasion fleet is waiting off Layoune plage.
5.30AM: The Hercules transports carrying paratroopers take off at Gando and Fuerteventura
A little explanation about El Aaiun: This is the only major city in Western Sahara, at around 100 miles southwest of Fuerteventura island. The city lies next to a wadi or stational river (of no relevance: it will be dry in July), 12 miles off the coast. Layoune-Plage is the El Aaiun’s port, little more than some docks and portuary installations. Both places are united by a single road that goes through a tank commander’s wet dream: a large, unmolested extension of sand. The objectives of the initial attack are the port to safely land armoured forces, and the airport, to land reinforcements for the airborne troops. These troops will have to hold their position until the tanks are unloaded at the port and make their way to the city. Once the port and the airport are in Spanish hands, the Spaniards can start pumping troops via air or sea from the Canary islands. Without El Aaiun, the entire Moroccan army at the western sahara is cut off from the rest of Morocco and in a very dire logistical situation.
5.55AM: In Layoune-Plage, a part of the usual garrison has been redeployed towards Smara to take part in the combats against Polisario. The Moroccans think that an assault from the sea is impossible.
6AM: With the sun rising, the first Hercules approach the West Saharan coast. The Moroccans at Layoune-plage think at first that it is another air attack; but they are surprised to see the big planes approaching from the sea.
6.05AM: The Moroccans realize what is happening when the first wave of paratroopers descends above Layoune-Plage.
A second formation of Hercules flies above the coast. Its objective: El Aaiun airport.
6.07AM: The first Spanish paratroopers land at the port and engage the defenders.
Layoune-plage is not a single village. Actually, it is little more than a bunch of portuary and military installations scattered around 3 miles of coast. The weakened garrison is mostly concentrated at the barracks, far from the docks. The Spanish paratroopers know this and are landing unmolested 1 mile north of the barracks.
6.10AM: El Aaiun is woken up by the roar of plane engines. At 6.12 AM, the first paratroopers land near the terminal of the airport.
6.15AM: With several hundred of paratroopers already in ground, the Spanish advance south towards the Moroccan garrison.
The Moroccan commander at El Aaiun receives a message reporting that Layoune-plage is under attack by Spanish paratroopers.
The first Chinook helicopters arrive to the perimeter controlled by the paratroopers and start unloading light armour, VAMTACs and light artillery.
In El Aaiun Airport, the paras are having a tougher time than their comrades at the port. The Moroccans have bigger troop numbers there and have armoured support. However, most of the Moroccan troops usually deployed in El Aaiun are either fighting the polisario in the desert or patrolling the city.
Fighter aircraft takes off at Gando to support the operation. In Fuerteventura, a second wave of Hercules transports takes off too.
6.20AM: Rabat receives a call from the Western Sahara Headquarters. El Aaiun is under attack. There are airborne troops at the airport. They’re definitely not Polisario guerrillas. Layoune-plage is under attack and the Spanish are disembarking troops [this is not true…yet]
6.30AM: In Tindouf, the polisario government is desperate. Their drive to the sea has failed and the polisario army has suffered great losses and has been unable to take a single city. Then they receive a phone call. King Juan Carlos of Spain is informing President Abdulaziz that Spanish airborne troops have landed at El Aaiun to help the polisario in their struggle against the Moroccans. The call is intercepted by NSA agents.
In Layoune-Plage, the Spanish are advancing towards the barracks while the Chinooks finish unloading their cargo.
Due to the situation in Layoune-Plage, the Spanish command at Fuerteventura decides to give green light to the fleet to approach the port and start unloading the heavy equipment. Some Hercules already in flight are transferred to the Airport, where more paratroopers are already landing.
6.37AM: Western Sahara is a usually hermetic zone to reporters. It is even worse in the event of a war. Thus, the first indication to the outer world that something fishy is going on at el Aaiun is a post at a blog written by a Moroccan student at the El Aaiun university.
In Rabat, the situation is one of confusion and hope at the same time. Confusion because this is totally unexpected and the El Aaiun garrison has been caught totally off guard. Hope because they know that the Spaniards are risking a lot here and that if the invasion here is defeated, Morocco can force Spain to the negotiating table. After all, they have no naval support and only have a thin air support. Immediately, Moroccan troops at Smara and Boukhdour are ordered to proceed towards El Aaiun, even withdrawing from combat against polisario troops.
There is also a large concentration of armoured troops in southern morocco being ready to be sent north. These troops, including the last major tank forces the Moroccans have, are ordered to head south.
6.45AM: Outnumbered and surprised, the Moroccan garrison at Layoune Plage surrenders while the first ships enter the port and start unloading tanks and artillery. The Spanish have accomplished their first objective.
At the airport, the situation is more difficult for the assaulters. Despite the reinforcements and the Chinook helicopters now landing with heavy equipment, they have taken many casualties as the Moroccans outnumber them. At 6.50 AM an air raid by F-18 based at Gando relieves a bit of the pressure on the paratroopers, but now the raid on the airport depends on how fast reinforcements can be brought from Layoune-plage.
6.50AM: In Washington, George Bush’ aide awakens him reporting that it seems that the Spaniards have invaded the Western Sahara.
At 7AM, the Spaniards control the port and are unloading Leopard tanks, with their new desert camo still fresh, artillery, VAMTACs, light armour and more soldiers, preparing to advance on the city. In the airport, the new reinforcements are helping the paratroopers to hold their position, while transport helicopters keep unloading equipment. The Moroccans have lots of infantry and light armour, but lack the necessary AA equipment.
7.30AM: South of Tangiers, the Spanish are resupplying and resting, ready to keep their advance south.
In Ceuta, the Moroccan resistance is slowly crumbling under the constant bombardment.
Only in Tetouan neither side is willing to advance. The Moroccans prefer to keep their defensive positions and the Spaniards don’t want to engage in a street fighting.
In El Aaiun, unloading of tanks and reinforcements keeps going on at good pace while Moroccan prisoners are transported onto the ships. At the airport, the Spaniards are holding their ground and protecting the landing strips from the Moroccan attack. Their situation is relieved by the ill-advised Moroccan decision of sending a troop column towards Layoune Plage.
8AM: A convoy leaves Rota towards the Canary Islands and Western Sahara.
First rumours of an invasion of Western Sahara start to spread in both Spain and Morocco.
At Layoune-Plage, the Spaniards have already disembarked a couple of Leopard platoons. Air reconnaissance reports that the city defenders have no heavy armour. The advance on El Aaiun is authorized.
In Tangiers, the Spanish artillery opens fire on the Moroccan positions.
8.30AM: In a very tense conversation, the foreign affairs minister of Spain dismisses the US proposal of withdrawal from Western Sahara in exchange for a US active intervention that will bring Morocco on its knees.
In Madrid, Spanish officials confirm that a joint amphibious and airborne invasion of the Western Sahara is being undertaken.
9AM: In Spain, the past 12 hours have seen the most excessive displays of patriotism in decades, perhaps centuries. The average Spaniard is used to its army being used in peacekeeping missions and the former military glory of the country is seen as something akin to fairy tales. Then the landings in North Africa and the fall of Tangiers came. And now these impossibly audacious landings in El Aaiun. The Spanish public is now viewing the war with an unknown patriotic pride.
In Layoune-plage, a column of Leopards supported by Pizarros and infantry is now advancing towards the city…
At the airport, the situation is slowly changing to favour the Spaniards, who now have more men in the ground.
Attack helicopters take off from Gando to support the assault on El Aaiun.
At the Souk pocket [the isolated Moroccan troops trapped between Ben Ouidane and the Puyol Beach sector] the situation is desperate for the besieged, who are enduring endless bombardments and are running out of ammo.
In southern morocco, the last Moroccan army is travelling south to try to take the invaders back to the sea.
In Tindouf, hundreds of sahrawi civilians take the streets to cheer for the Spanish help to the sahrawi cause. [which is kind of ironic since the Polisario started out as a guerrilla opposing Spanish rule]
9.25AM: Halfway from El Aaiun, the Spanish tanks avance unopposed through the desert, under a heavy july sun. Reconaissance Vamtacs report about a Moroccan column advancing towards Layoune-plage.
In the Tangiers sector, the Spanish army starts a careful advance south by the N2 road towards the Moroccan base at El Fendek.
In Tangiers proper, the city wakes up with Spanish troops on the streets and military ships unloading supplies at the port.
9.27: The Spanish engage the Moroccan column 5 miles southwest of El Aaiun.
9.31AM: The Moroccan column was made up of trucks escorted by light armour. They didn’t have a chance against the Leopards, but the commander was able to report El Aaiun that there were Leopards on the road before communications abruptly ended.
The Spanish advance towards El Fendek continues with scarce opposition. The Moroccans have been trying to form a defensive line south of Tangiers from where launch a last counterattack, but the unexpected fall of the city and the Spanish breakthrough have destroyed the western half of the line.
Also, Spanish ships start firing on the Moroccan positions around Tetouan.
9.40AM: In Rabat, the news of Spanish tanks in El Aaiun are received with consternation. The Moroccan command supposed this was an airborne attack, not another full-fledged invasion. However, they trust in the street combat situation to cause at least some casualties among the Leopards and deny the commander permission to surrender or withdraw.
9.45AM: The first tanks arrive to El Aaiun airport, setting the battle in spain’s favour.
At the city, the commander is facing a very difficult decision. He outnumbers the Spanish but has no armoured support and many of his men are pinned down patrolling the city. The relief column he sent to the port was annihilated. He can even see the Hercules landing at the Spanish-held airport from his own office window!. He knows that resistance is very difficult and when the Spanish airforce join the battle, he and his army will be toast, way before the promised reinforcements can arrive.
Spanish troops deploy around the port road to protect it in the event of a Moroccan attack.
9.50AM: A Moroccan column driving from Smara to El Aaiun is attacked by Polisario guerrillas. The sahrawis manage to inflict severe casualties to the column.
10AM: King Juan Carlos addresses the nation. He justifies the decision of invading the western sahara as Spain’s historical duty of helping the sahrawi people after abandoning them at the Moroccans in 1976.
In el Aaiun airport, the Spanish have managed to repeal the Moroccan attack and are now ready to advance on the city.
At the Souk pocket, the Moroccan positions are being bypassed and overwhelmed by the Spanish attack.
10.15AM: The first Spanish troops enter El Aaiun driving from the airport road directly to the city centre and avoiding the labyrinth slums of the southern city. They’re met by scarce Moroccan resistance and dozens of sahrawi civilians that cheer them as liberators.
10.20AM: The Moroccan commander sends a message to the Spanish troops expressing his wish for a honourable surrender.
10.30AM: the Spanish reach Roumnane, 15 miles south of Tangiers and only 13 miles north of El Fendek.
Moroccan units at El Aaiun receive orders to surrender their arms to the Spaniards. Some have already done so.
11AM: there are already hundreds of Spanish soldiers in El Aaiun, while a large column of vehicles is driving to the city from the port. Moroccan soldiers surrender to the Spanish troops while hundreds of civilians greet the Spaniards. There are not many reporters, but the Spanish army has brought some cameras to record as much as possible for propaganda purposes.
For the following months, those images of sahrawi people cheering and jumping onto the Leopards to hug the tankmen will be reviewed at Washington with careful attention, even with envy…
At the Souk pocket, Moroccan units are also surrendering en masse. At 11.10, Spanish troops coming from Ben el Ouidane and El Horra make contact at the 8303 road, effectively destroying the pocket.
At 11.15 AM, the first Spanish tanks arrive to the Town Hall, where the city authorities are awaiting them to surrender. At 11.30 AM, 26 years later, the Spanish flag waves again over El Aaiun next to a Sahrawi one.
12PM: The images of the fall of El Aaiun are now being broadcast all over the world. Most arab and muslim viewers are shocked to see fellow muslims welcoming the Spanish troops.
In the North, the Spanish command is about to start a last offensive that will end the war in that front.
In the Ceuta sector, the city defenders are slowly regaining the lost terrain, while the Moroccans, now trapped, have to endure continuous bombing and are running out of ammunition.
In the Tangiers sector, ironically, the Spanish advance is being slowed by the damage 5 days of air and naval bombing have inflicted on the roads. However, the Spanish forces have to do little more than pursuit the withdrawing Moroccan troops.
In the Tetouan Sector, the Spanish offensive starts with an attack towards the airport and the coastal village of Martil. The Spaniards do not want a frontal assault on the city and prefer to surround it.
1PM: In El Aaiun, the Spanish are proceeding to disarm their Moroccan counterparts while reinforcements are brought via sea and air.
In Southern Morocco, armoured units, mostly M60 and M48 with a few of the last remaining Moroccan T72, cross the West Saharan border. The Moroccans are relying in a fast advance through the coast to recapture Layoune-plage. They also expect to surprise the Spaniards still inside the city, denying the Spanish’ tank advantage and forcing them to surrender to prevent civilian losses, just like in Melilla.
In Fuerteventura, troops are being readied for a landing in Boukhdour.
All over the Western Sahara, Moroccan columns try to converge on El Aaiun, under constant polisario and Spanish air attack.
1.15PM: General [nombre], commander of the El Aaiun operation arrives to the city airport to receive the Moroccan surrender and coordinate the city defense towards any Moroccan counterattack.
In Spain, polls reflect a massive support to the Western Sahara invasion.
At Ceuta, the Moroccan lines are beginning to crumble under the Spanish pressure. Some of the Moroccan soldiers have been fighting non stop for 5 days and have been isolated for two. Only the difficult terrain prevent a faster advance for the Spaniards.
At El Fendek, the Moroccan commander is unable to gather troops for the expected counteroffensive. The Spanish broke through the Moroccan positions south and east of Tangiers and are approaching El Fendek. There are already reports of units refusing to fight.
2PM: The Spanish reach the Wadi[nombre] near Seguedla, southern limit of the Spanish advance according to Plan Blue. The spanish’ main advance will now go east, towards El Fendek and Tetouan.
In El Aaiun, the Moroccan General surrenders officially to his Spanish counterpart.
A polisario column finally reaches the ocean at Dakhla bay, just in front of the city.
Attack helicopters arrive to El Aaiun airport. Air support, though, must still be based at Gando and Fuerteventura.
2.15PM: The Algerian army is mobilized.
Satellite reconnaissance shows a large Moroccan armoured force going south towards El Aaiun.
In Tetouan, the Spanish have entered Martil and are advancing towards the airport.
Meanwhile, Spanish units are only 10 miles away from El Fendek.
2.40PM: Satellite data are transmitted to the new Spanish HQ at El Aaiun. Looks like the Moroccans are throwing their last armoured forces against the city in a last attempt.
Despite being outnumbered in a 3 to 1 ratio, the Spanish commander knows that his tanks cannot fight in the city. This final battle will have to be fought in the desert. Immediately, orders are given to reorganize the El Aaiun occupiers and move their armoured forces north to engage the Moroccans. He counts on destroying them before the Moroccan columns advancing from Boukhdour, Smara and the desert can arrive to El Aaiun.
3PM: Spanish mechanized units enter Tetouan Airport.
At El Fendek, the Moroccan command starts evacuating the village.
3.30PM: Spanish troops leave El Aaiun heading north to meet the Moroccan column.
More Spanish reinforcements are being landed at Layoune-plage. They head south towards Boukhdour and east towards Bou Craa and Smara.
The reinforcement convoy is heading towards Western Sahara, including the navy tanker Marqués de la Ensenada, and escorted by the Alvaro de Bazán. With the Moroccan navy and airforce destroyed, they’re navigating unmolested.
In Tetouan, the Spanish capture the airport terminal. The Moroccan position in the city is now in trouble.
4PM: In the Ceuta sector the Moroccans are being driven out of their positions and falling back towards the sea.
In Tetouan, instead of trying to enter the city, the Spaniards cross the wadi south of it using improvised bridges and advance through the perimetral road. Inside the city, the Moroccan soldiers, mostly unexperienced conscripts, fear that they will be besieged like their comrades in Ceuta.
Meanwhile, the Spaniards are approaching El Fendek while the Moroccan defenders seem unable to stop them . Tetouan is about to be surrounded, while the Moroccan line is hacked to pieces.
4.30PM: the Spanish reconnaissance north of El Aaiun reports of Moroccan tanks approaching.
At Ceuta, some Moroccan units are already surrendering to the Spaniards.
The first Spanish tanks enter El Fendek, only a few minutes after the Moroccan command has fled south.
Moroccan intelligence warns Rabat about suspicious troop movements all around Algeria.
4.45PM: What will be known as the Battle of the Sands starts when Spanish helicopters attack a Moroccan armoured column 20 miles north of El Aaiun. The Moroccans are advancing on a broad front hoping to use their numerical superiority to bypass the Spaniards and retake Layoune-plage while trying to either envelope the Spanish tanks in the desert or forcing them into the city.
The Spaniards rely on their tanks’ superiority and their air support, but the Spanish commander fears that his Leopards run out of ammunition in the desert and have to withdraw to the city.
5PM: In Ceuta, the Moroccan position is unsustainable. Many units have already surrendered to the enemy, while others’ positions have been surrounded by the Spaniards. The Moroccan commander decides to surrender to prevent a worse carnage. The biggest, best armed, most experienced part of the Moroccan army is now out of combat.
In the desert, the Spanish tanks advance to meet the Moroccans.
Another Moroccan column is attacked near Bou Craa. The Moroccan redeployment towards El Aaiun is gradually degenerating into a withdrawal. The polisario renew their attack towards Smara.
In Tetouan, rumours that El Fendek has fallen and that the Spaniards are now approaching the city from two directions are now widespread.
5.30PM: The Moroccans expected that the spaniards would try to hold the city by keeping their tanks stationary near it to withdraw towards the city if necessary. They didn’t expect that they would dare to attack their line exposing their flanks to a Moroccan attack. But the Spanish commander knows that his only hope to win the battle is to fully profit from his tanks’ superior mobility and firepower. The Leopards engage the center of the Moroccan advance 15 miles north of El Aaiun.
5.45PM: The Moroccan T-72 were notably inferior to their enemies. In a brief combat, the largest tank battle since the 1991 Gulf War, the Spanish tank contingent has managed to knock out of combat every tank on their range. The center of the Moroccan line has ceased to exist. In the flanks, Spanish helicopters and Pizarros attack the Moroccan columns advancing towards the city and Layoune-plage.
In both Spain and Morocco, people is stuck in front of radios and TV’s, following the latest reports of the battle.
6PM: In Ceuta, the Spanish troops are busy receiving the surrender of the Moroccans and disarming the hundreds of prisoners. News of this catastrophe to the Moroccan arms are being censored in Morocco, but Spain receives the news with joy: Finally, Ceuta is no longer under siege. Anyway, Moroccan censorship is useless as many Moroccans are able to connect to international websites.
6.25PM: The Leopards have arrived to the Moroccan rear leaving a track of wrecked tanks and trucks. Unfortunately, some of them have run out of ammunition and have to withdraw from combat, while the rest turns back to surprise the rest of the Moroccan columns from the rear.
Algeria is starting to concentrate troops at the frontier.
In the Tetouan sector, El Fendek is now firmly on Spanish hands. The two Spanish columns are now converging on Tetouan.
6.35PM: The first units coming from Puyol Beach make contact with the Ceuta garrison at the city outskirts. The images of soldiers running into each other, hugging and cheering are soon being broadcasted worldwide. The Spaniards are now running into a serious problem as there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Moroccan prisoners that have to be taken care off. The prisoner camps built in Cadiz are already near their limit.
In Tetouan, the city garrison knows that they’re Morocco’s last chance, but the news are very demoralizing. The Spaniards have taken the airport and are surrounding the city and penetrating the outer suburbs. In any moment, they may order a massive air attack that reduces the city to rubble. Rumours of a great defeat in Ceuta and the Sahara are widespread, and the morale of the conscript soldiers is already very low.
7PM: The Moroccans managed to arrive to only 2 miles north of Layoune-Plage before being stopped by the Spanish defense. Some 20 miles east of them, the other Moroccan column heading towards El Aaiun has been surprised by the Spanish attack from their rear.
The Spanish command decides to withdraw air support from the almost won battle and use his planes and helicopters to attack the Moroccan columns approaching the capital from Boukhdour, Smara and Dakhla.
7.30PM: The Spanish make a first probe attack towards Tetouan Downtown, being surprised to see that the Moroccans resistance is mostly nominal and that many units choose to surrender.
In Layoune-Plage, the Moroccans are being slowly pushed towards the sea.
North of El Aaiun, the Moroccan spearheads were taken by surprise by the Spanish attack. Attacked from both the front and the rear by Leopards, Pizarros and infantry, they are routed and withdraw in disorder towards Smara.
8PM: Knowing that the battle is lost, and with the main commander of the attack group dead in his command tank somewhere north of the city, the attackers of Layoune-plage surrender after the Spanish counterattack pushes them to the beach.
In Tetouan, some Moroccan units still resist at the Medina, but the Spanish have no desire to start a terrible house-to-house fight in the labyrinths of the old city. Instead, they choose to advance through the downtown accepting the surrender of many scattered Moroccan troops.
As night falls, the Moroccan army is not an effective combat force anymor. Their only forces capable of a sustained resistance are fighting at the desert against the polisario, and now the Spanish airforce can come from its new base at El Aaiun and hack them to pieces from the air. In the north, the expected Moroccan counterattack in the El Fendek-Tetouan line was destroyed before it could even start when the Spanish broke through the Moroccan positions after the fall of Tangiers, and only isolated units keep resisting against all odds. Melilla is defended by 2nd rate units and is vulnerable to another Spanish air landing [actually the Spaniards have run out of paratroopers and are unable to conduct a large scale raid on Melilla, but the Moroccans can’t know this]. Meanwhile, the Algerian army has adopted a hostile stance and can cross the border in any moment…
At 11 PM, the Moroccan ambassador in Switzerland receives a peace proposal from his Spanish counterpart, using the Swiss government as a mediator. The terms are harsh.
A Morocco-Spain war in 2002 -2008 Turtledove Award
No Spanish Civil War 2009, 2010 Turtledove Award
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.
A Morocco-Spain war in 2002 -2008 Turtledove Award
No Spanish Civil War 2009, 2010 Turtledove Award