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.
retake Gibraltar if the British exit the EU.