An interesting report recently appeared in the Spanish daily, ABC, and was also covered in the Gibraltar newspaper Panorama. It is on a theme that I have often written about – security in the Strait of Gibraltar.
Although Gibraltar’s strategic importance has declined over the years it still plays a major role in the security of one of the world’s most major and busiest waterways – The Strait.
ABC is suggesting that Britain, France and Morocco are gaining greater influence in the area of the Strait of Gibraltar at the direct expense of Spain. Needless to say the USA is at the heart of this with part of the blame for the current situation placed on the icy relations that existed between Spanish premier, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and the previous US president George Bush.
According to Panorama: “Reports … suggest that Britain is to install modern missiles at Gibraltar. The plan has the support of NATO which has always considered Gibraltar as a key point for its Mediterranean defence strategy…Sources consulted by the paper indicate that something is brewing, pointing at the Americans having decided that the control of the southern coast of the Strait should be in the hands of the Moroccans and the northern control should be retained by Britain from Gibraltar.The paper suggests that Morocco, with the support of France, may be playing a fundamental role, taking advantage of the state of relations of Spain with the USA.”
There is a heavy NATO presence in the Med with particular concerns over security in the Strait because of the narrow waterway and the ability of Al Qaeda linked cells in North Africa to launch an attack on vessels from the Morocco coastline. The Spanish SIVE electronic surveillance system is used to monitor traffic leaving Morocco in case it should represent a clandestine attempt to smuggle drugs or immigrants in to Spain. Without a doubt the same system has a wider security element and one presumes it is duplicated by similar British military monitoring capability in Gibraltar. It certainly is by NATO patrols in the area. Hence it makes sense to get Morocco on-side and involved as the friendly local power on the south of the Strait.
I recently wrote that attempts to bounce Gibraltar in to a joint sovereignty deal with Spain engineered by Tony Blair and his henchman, the startled rabbit Jack Straw, floundered on the outright opposition of the people of the Rock. However the vital sticking point was the refusal of the Ministry of Defence to lose total control of the military installations and probably the USA’s concerns over joint Spanish jurisdiction of those bases. It remains to be seen whether the new Obama administration in Washington melts the chilly relations with Madrid – but even if it does there appears to be a basic mistrust of Spain on the part of the USA’s military and Defence Department.