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Monday, May 16, 2016

Map on Monday: GIBRALTAR

GIBRALTAR: THE WEST MEDITERRANEAN'S GEOSTRATEGIC CHOKE POINT

By A. Joseph Lynch


The above image is a photograph of British-controlled Gibraltar, a small peninsula jutting out of Spain's southeast coast within the Mediterranean. The population of  30,000 is 80% Gibraltaran, 13% British, 3% Morroccan and 1% Spanish.  In a previous post we examined seven geostrategic choke points. One might be surprised that, given Gibraltar's past geostrategic importance to both Europe and the British Empire, it was not treated in this post. Most strategic analyses today, however, focus on Russia and therefore see the Turkish-controlled Dardanelles as the sole defense against keeping the Russian Black Sea Fleet at bay. Given that any North African, European, or Middle Eastern conflict could spill over into the Mediterranean, Gibraltar should remain an important geostrategic choke point. Anti-Russian bias must not allow us to overlook the continued importance of Gibraltar.

As the map to the left indicates, British-controlled Gibraltar is not located within the Strait of Gibraltar at the closest and central-most point between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Rather it is fixed at the strait's Mediterranean mouth with a strategic focus on the Mediterranean, more than the Atlantic.

Across the mouth immediately south is the Spanish-controlled peninsula adjacent to Morocco called Ceuta. The peaks found on British Gibraltar (known as the Rock of Gibraltar) and Spanish Ceuta together comprise the "Pillars of Hercules" as they were once called ("Gibraltar" is a name with Islamic origins).

Ceuta's history dates back to Roman times, was captured by Muslims in 740, then captured by the Portuguese in 1415 (the same year Henry V won his great victory over the French at Agincourt), and finally ceded to the Spanish in 1668. Although Ceurta has a population of about 80,000 mostly ethnic Spanish, the Moroccan government would like to have control of the Ceuta.

The British captured northern Gibraltar during of the War of Spanish Succession in 1704, and the Spanish ceded control of the peninsula in perpetuity to the British as part of the Treat of Utrecht in 1713. Given Spain's neutrality during World War II, British control of the peninsula played an important role in the battle for the Mediterranean. Spain, naturally, sees the importance of the peninsula and seeks to bring it back under Spanish control. As Britain decides on its place in the European Union, the Spanish have said they would retake Gibraltar if the British exit the EU.

2 comments:

  1. There´s no need for Spain to press to take over Gibraltar. The key is to make a copy on the West side of Algeciras bay, and steal the tourist trade. The key will be to build a 427 meter tall skycraper shaped like the rock. The development can be enhanced with a real airport with a properly shaped set of runways, a huge marina on Algeciras bay (which of course will be protected by giant rock piers which extend right to the marine boundary with Gibraltar territory). Given that there´s a lot of open land available, it can be used for housing developments, shopping malls, and a carefully built copy of old gibraltar town. To give the proper look and feel, the government can provide a special inducement to British expats to move into the newly built condos. These will include all signs in English, Castillian, and Gaelic, british pubs, Indian food restaurants, and tram service to La Linea, should they wish to go through three hour lines to visit "old Gibraltar". Friendship and good will should allow the Spanish to earn a huge amount of cash by leveraging the rock. And this will be a win win project, because I´m sure many residents of Gibraltar will move over and give the right "Gibraltar" flavour.

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