Sunday, August 15, 2010

WHY IS MOROCCO picking a fight with Spain precisely now, Time magazine ponders:
It was the images of empty food markets on the news, and reporters' overblown warnings of possible shortages, that told Spaniards on Thursday that their nation's five-century dispute with Morocco over the sovereignty of Ceuta and Melilla, two enclaves on the Mediterranean coast, had reignited. In the worst diplomatic spat between the two countries in almost a decade, Moroccan activists were blocking food imports into one of the enclaves and promising more action to come.

The Spanish government and the press were appalled, not so much at the protest, but that it had taken place after King Juan Carlos himself had stepped in to try to calm tensions that had been boiling over for days. For many in Spain, the snub was yet another in a series of signs that the nation doesn't demand the respect it once did — and that its status as a global player is crumbling.

[...] This time, though, Morocco is putting up a fight. The timing of the food blockade illustrates Rabat's intention to take advantage of a weakened Spain, analysts say. "Vultures swarm when they see weakness, and that is what's happening to Spain," says Vicente Palacios, sub-director of the Spanish Foreign Policy Observatory, a research center of a left-leaning think tank close to the government. Spain's relations with Morocco will likely return to normal soon — but its fading diplomatic luster is a problem that's sure to linger.