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INFORME SRA 2021 / Presentación
La pandemia causada por el virus Covid-19 ha tenido un gran impacto en el todo el mundo y muy especialmente en las naciones americanas: tres de los cuatro países con más muertos –Estados Unidos, Brasil y México, que suman más de un millón de fallecidos– se encuentran en el Hemisferio Occidental. Latinoamérica ha sido el área del planeta con mayor afectación por la enfermedad, en proporción a su población, y con peores consecuencias económicas. Esta situación ha supuesto, en el orden de la seguridad, una especial vulnerabilidad regional frente a potencias externas y mafias internas.
Si hace dos años poníamos en marcha este informe de Seguridad Regional Americana (SRA) afirmando que la geopolítica había regresado al continente, por el creciente interés de China y Rusia en el área de tradicional influencia estadounidense, ahora puede decirse que esas dos potencias extrahemisféricas han aprovechado la emergencia sanitaria para desplegar una “diplomacia de las vacunas” y consolidar su influencia, mientras Estados Unidos prepara su propio flujo de ayuda vecinal, a punto ya de concluir la inoculación de su población.
En este contexto, a lo largo de 2020 se produjeron episodios significativos. Las exigencias de seguridad alimentaria de China han reforzado la presencia de flotas de pesqueros chinos en las inmediaciones de las aguas de varios países sudamericanos, que ven amenazados sus caladeros con prácticas de pesca ilegal y presunta invasión de sus zonas económicas exclusivas. Eso ha llevado a un cierto movimiento de seguridad colectiva y una mayor interlocución con el Comando Sur estadounidense.
Por otro lado, el crimen organizado ha aprovechado también la situación pandémica, confiando en la distracción de las autoridades en otro tipo de esfuerzos. En el último año, Paraguay ha surgido como gran ‘hub’ en la salida de la cocaína del interior del continente, al tiempo que se afianza como principal productor de marihuana de Sudamérica, cuando ese cultivo se perfila como oportunidad de negocio legal en nuevos países. Por su parte, Guatemala y Honduras consolidan sus ‘ensayos’ en el cultivo de la coca, dando un salto –apenas cuantitativo, pero sí cualitativo– en el universo del narcotráfico. La noticia positiva en que el proceso de paz y los confinamientos de la pandemia han reducido los homicidios en Colombia a mínimos históricos.
Reacción de EEUU
A brief outline of the European defense system, integrated into the European External Action Service and its importance to the Union
The European Union will launch the Conference on the Future of Europe on May 9th, marking the beginning of the event that will feature debates between institutions, politicians and civil society on several topics that concern the community, including security and defense. It is clear that the majority of the European Union favors a common defense effort, and the Union has taken steps to ensure a solid structure to lay the framework for a possible integration of forces. Following the efforts to unify foreign policy objectives, a unified defense is the next logical step for European integration.
Course for the Somali National Armed Forces, led by a Spanish Colonel with instructors from Italy, Sweden, Finland and Spain [EUTM-Somalia]
ARTICLE / José Antonio Latorre
According to the last standard Eurobarometer, around 77% of Europeans support a common defense and security policy among European Union member states. The support for this cause is irregular, with the backing spanning from 58% (Sweden) to 93% (Luxembourg). Therefore, it is expected that security and defense will definitely take a prominent role in the future of the Union.
In 2017, the European Commission launched the “White Paper on the Future of Europe,” a document that outlines the challenges and consequently the possible scenarios on how the Union could evolve by 2025. In the field of security, the document considers three different scenarios: Security and Defense Cooperation, Shared Security and Defense, and Common Defense and Security. In the first scenario, the member states would cooperate on a voluntary basis, similarly to an ad-hoc system. The second scenario details one where the tendency would be to project a stronger security, sharing military and economic capabilities to enhance efficiency. The final scenario would be one where members expand mutual assistance and take part in the integration of defense forces; this includes a united defense spending and distribution of military assets to reduce costs and boost capabilities.
Although these are three different predictions, what is clear is that the enhancement of European security is of greatest importance. As former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in the 2016 State of the Union address: “Europe can no longer afford to piggyback on the military might of others. We have to take responsibility for protecting our interests and the European way of life. It is only by working together that Europe will be able to defend itself at home and abroad.” He was referring to the paramountcy of a strategic autonomy that will permit the union to become stronger and have more weight in international relations, while depending less on the United States.
The existing framework on security
The European Union does not have to start from scratch to achieve these goals, since it currently has a Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC) branch. The bureau is situated within the EU Military Staff, part of the European External Action Service in Brussels. This operational headquarters was established on June 8th, 2017, with the aim of boosting defense capabilities for the European Union outside its borders. It was created in order to strengthen civil/military cooperation through the Joint Support Coordination Cell and the Civil Planning and Conduct Capability, avoiding unnecessary overlap with NATO. Its main responsibilities include operational planning and conduct of the current non-executive missions; namely the European Union Training Missions (EUTM) in Mali, Somalia and Central African Republic.
A non-executive mission is an operation conducted to support a host nation with an advisory role only. For example, EUTM Somalia was established in 2010 to strengthen the Somali federal defense institutions through its three-pillar approach: training, mentoring and advising. The mission is supporting the development of the Somali Army General Staff and the Ministry of Defense through advice and tactical training. The mission has no combat mandate, but it works closely with the EU Naval Force – Operation ATALANTA (prevention and deterrence of privacy and protection of shipping), EUCAP Somalia (regional civilian mission), and AMISOM (African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia), in close cooperation with the European Union. The mission, which is located in Mogadishu, has a strength of over 200 personnel, with seven troop contributing states, primarily from Italy and Spain. Non-executive missions have a clear mandate of advising, but they can be considered as a prototype of European defense cooperation for the future.
The Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) is the framework for cooperation between EU member states in order to conduct missions to maintain security and establish ties with third countries through the use of military and civilian assets. It was launched in 1999 and it has become a bedrock for EU foreign policy. It gives the Union the possibility to intervene outside its borders and cooperate with other organizations, such as NATO and the African Union, in peacekeeping and conflict prevention. The CSDP is the umbrella for many branches that are involved with security and defense, but there is still a need for an enhancement and concentration of forces that will expand its potential.
Steppingstones for a larger, unified project
Like all the European Union, the CSDP is still a project that needs construction, and a European Union military should be a priority. In recent years, there have been efforts to implement measures to advance towards this goal. Firstly, Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) was launched in 2017 to reinforce defense capabilities and increase military coordination at an interoperable level. Participation is voluntary, but once decided, the country must abide by legally binding commitments. So far, 25 member states have joined the integrated structure, which depends on the European External Action Service, EU Military Staff and the European Defense Agency. Presently, there are 46 projects being developed, including a Joint EU Intelligence School, the upgrade of Maritime Surveillance, a European Medical Command and a Cyber and Information Domain Coordination Center, among the many others. Although critics have suggested that the structure will overlap with NATO competences, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that he believed “that PESCO can strengthen European defense, which is good for Europe but also good for NATO.” It is important to add that its alliance with NATO was strengthened through common participation in the cybersecurity sector, joint exercises, and counterterrorism. Secondly, the launch of the European Defense Fund in 2017 permits co-funded defense cooperation, and it will be part of the 2021-2027 long-term EU budget. Finally, the mentioned Military Planning and Conduct Capability branch was established in 2017 to improve crisis management and operational surveillance.
Therefore, it is a clear intention of the majority of the European Union to increase capabilities and unify efforts to have a common defense. Another aspect is that a common military will make spending more efficient, which will permit the Union to compete against powers like China or the United States. Again, the United States is mentioned because although it is an essential ally, Europeans cannot continue to depend on their transatlantic partner for security and defense.
A European Union military?
With a common army, the European Union will be a significant player in the international field. The integration of forces, technology and equipment reduces spending and boosts efficiency, which would be a historical achievement for the Union. European integration is a project based on peace, democracy, human dignity, equality, freedom and the protection and promotion of human rights. If the Union wants to continue to be the bearer of these values and protect those that are most vulnerable against the injustices of this century, then efforts must be concentrated to reach this objective.
The Union is facing tough challenges, from nationalisms and internal divides to economic and sanitary obstacles. However, it is not the first time that unity has been put at risk. Brexit has shown that the European project is not invulnerable, that it is still not fully constructed. The European way of life is a model for freedom and security, but this must be fought for and protected; it can never be taken for granted.
Europe has lived an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity due to past endeavors at its foundation. It is evident that there will always be challenges and critics, but the only way to continue to be a leader is through unification; and it starts with a European Army. There are already mechanisms in place to ensure cooperation, such as those explored with non-executive missions. These are the stepping-stones for defense coordination and partnerships in the future. Although it is a complex task, it seems more necessary than ever before. For the protection of Western values and culture, for the promotion of human rights and dignity, and for the defense of freedom and democracy, European integration at the defense level is the next step in the future of the European Union.
An update on the Iranian nuclear accord between 2018 and the resumed talks in April 2021
The signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), reached in 2015 to limit Iran's nuclear program, met again on April 6 in Vienna to explore the possibility of reviving the accord. The US withdrawal after Donald Trump becoming president put the agreement on hold and lead Tehran to miss its commitments. Here we offer an update on the issue until the international talks resumed.
Trump's announcement of the US withdrawal from the JCPOA on May 8, 2018 [White House]
ARTICLE / Ana Salas Cuevas
The Islamic Republic of Iran is a key player in the stability of its regional environment, which means that it is a central country worth international attention. It is a regional power not only because of its strategic location, but also because of its large hydrocarbon reserves, which make Iran the fourth country in oil reserves and the second one in gas reserves.
In 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) brought to the light and warned the international community about the existence of nuclear facilities, and of a covert program in Iran which could serve a military purpose. This prompted the United Nations and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the P5: France, China, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom) to take measures against Iran in 2006. Multilateral and unilateral economic sanctions (the UN and the US) were implemented, which deteriorated Iran’s economy, but which did not stop its nuclear proliferation program. There were also sanctions linked to the development of ballistic missiles and to the support of terrorist groups. These sanctions, added to the ones the United States imposed on Tehran in the wake of the 1979 revolution, and together with the instability that cripples the country, caused a deep deterioration of Iran’s economy.
In November 2013, the P5 plus Germany (P5+1) and Iran came to terms with an initial agreement on Iran's nuclear program (a Joint Plan of Action) which, after several negotiations, translated in a final pact, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in 2015. The European Union adhered to the JCPOA.
The focus of Iran's motives for succumbing and accepting restrictions on its nuclear program lies in the Iranian regime’s concern that the deteriorating living conditions of the Iranian population due to the economic sanctions could result in growing social unrest.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action
The goal of these negotiations was to reach a long-term comprehensive solution agreed by both parties to ensure that Iran´s nuclear program would be completely peaceful. Iran reiterated that it would not seek or develop any nuclear weapons under any circumstances. The real aim of the nuclear deal, though, was to extend the time needed for Iran to produce enough fissile material for bombs from three months to one year. To this end, a number of restrictions were reached.
This comprehensive solution involved a mutually defined enrichment plan with practical restrictions and transparent measures to ensure the peaceful nature of the program. In addition, the resolution incorporated a step-by-step process of reciprocity that included the lifting of all UN Security Council, multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran´s nuclear program. In total, these obligations were key to freeze Iran’s nuclear program and reduced the factors most sensitive to proliferation. In return, Iran received limited sanctions relief.
More specifically, the key points in the JCPOA were the following: Firstly, for 15 years, Iran would limit its uranium enrichment to 3.67%, eliminate 98% of its enriched uranium stocks in order to reduce them to 300 kg, and restrict its uranium enrichment activities to its facilities at Natanz. Secondly, for 10 years, it would not be able to operate more than 5,060 old and inefficient IR-1 centrifuges to enrich uranium. Finally, inspectors from the IAEA would be responsible for the next 15 years for ensuring that Iran complied with the terms of the agreement and did not develop a covert nuclear program.
In exchange, the sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union and the United Nations on its nuclear program would be lifted, although this would not apply to other types of sanctions. Thus, as far as the EU is concerned, restrictive measures against individuals and entities responsible for human rights violations, and the embargo on arms and ballistic missiles to Iran would be maintained. In turn, the United States undertook to lift the secondary sanctions, so that the primary sanctions, which have been in place since the Iranian revolution, remained unchanged.
To oversee the implementation of the agreement, a joint committee composed of Iran and the other signatories to the JCPOA would be established to meet every three months in Vienna, Geneva or New York.
United States withdrawal
In 2018, President Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 Iran deal and moved to resume the sanctions lifted after the agreement was signed. The withdrawal was accompanied by measures that could pit the parties against each other in terms of sanctions, encourage further proliferation measures by Iran and undermine regional stability. The US exit from the agreement put the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on hold.
The United States argued that the agreement allowed Iran to approach the nuclear threshold in a short period of time. With the withdrawal, however, the US risked bringing this point closer in time by not waiting to see what could happen after the 10 and 15 years, assuming that the pact would not last after that time. This may make Iran's proliferation a closer possibility.
Shortly after Trump announced the first anniversary of its withdrawal from the nuclear deal and the assassination of powerful military commander Qasem Soleimani by US drones, Iran announced a new nuclear enrichment program as a signal to nationalists, designed to demonstrate the power of the mullah regime. This leaves the entire international community to question whether diplomatic efforts are seen in Tehran as a sign of weakness, which could be met with aggression.
On the one hand, some opinions consider that, by remaining within the JCPOA, renouncing proliferation options and respecting its commitments, Iran gains credibility as an international actor while the US loses it, since the agreements on proliferation that are negotiated have no guarantee of being ratified by the US Congress, making their implementation dependent on presidential discretion.
On the other hand, the nuclear agreement adopted in 2015 raised relevant issues from the perspective of international law. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action timeline is 10 to 15 years. This would terminate restrictions on Iranian activities and most of the verification and control provisions would expire. Iran would then be able to expand its nuclear facilities and would find it easier to develop nuclear weapons activities again. In addition, the legal nature of the Plan and the binding or non-binding nature of the commitments made under it have been the subject of intense debate and analysis in the United States. The JCPOA does not constitute an international treaty. So, if the JCPOA was considered to be a non-binding agreement, from the perspective of international law there would be no obstacle for the US administration to withdraw from it and reinstate the sanctions previously adopted by the United States.
The JCPOA after 2018
As mentioned, the agreement has been held in abeyance since 2018 because the IAEA inspectors in Vienna will no longer have access to Iranian facilities.
Nowadays, one of the factors that have raised questions about Iran’s nuclear documents is the IAEA’s growing attention to Tehran’s nuclear contempt. In March 2020, the IAEA “identified a number of questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities at three locations in Iran”. The agency’s Director General Rafael Grossi stated: “The fact that we found traces (of uranium) is very important. That means there is the possibility of nuclear activities and material that are not under international supervision and about which we know not the origin or the intent”.
The IAEA also revealed that the Iranian regime was violating all the restrictions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The Iranian leader argued that the US first violated the terms of the JCPOA when it unilaterally withdrew the terms of the JCPOA in 2018 to prove its reason for violating the nuclear agreement.
In the face of the economic crisis, the country has been hit again by the recent sanctions imposed by the United States. Tehran ignores the international community and tries to get through the signatory countries of the agreement, especially the United States, claiming that if they return to compliance with their obligations, Iran will also quickly return to compliance with the treaty. This approach has put strong pressure on the new US government from the beginning. Joe Biden's advisors suggested that the agreement could be considered again. But if Washington is faced with Tehran's full violation of the treaty, it will be difficult to defend such a return to the JCPOA.
In order to maintain world security, the international community must not succumb to Iran’s warnings. Tehran has long issued empty threats to force the world to accept its demands. For example, in January 2020, when the UK, France and Germany triggered the JCPOA’s dispute settlement mechanism, the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a direct warning, saying: “If Europeans, instead of keeping to their commitments and making Iran benefit from the lifting of sanctions, misuse the dispute resolution mechanism, they’ll need to be prepared for the consequences that they have been informed about earlier”.
The purpose of the agreement is to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power that would exert pressure on neighboring countries and further destabilize the region. For example, Tehran's military influence is already keeping the war going in Syria and hampering international peace efforts. A nuclear Iran is a frightening sight in the West.
The rising in tensions between Iran and the United States since the latter unilaterally abandoned the JCPOA has increased the deep mistrust already separating both countries. Under such conditions, a return to the JCPOA as it was before 2018 seems hardly imaginable. A renovated agreement, however, is baldly needed to limit the possibilities of proliferation in an already too instable region. Will that be possible?
IDF soldiers during a study tour as part of Sunday culture, at the Ramon Crater Visitor Center [IDF]
ESSAY / Jairo Císcar
The geopolitical reality that exists in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean is incredibly complex, and within it the Arab-Israeli conflict stands out. If we pay attention to History, we can see that it is by no means a new conflict (outside its form): it can be traced back to more than 3,100 years ago. It is a land that has been permanently disputed; despite being the vast majority of it desert and very hostile to humans, it has been coveted and settled by multiple peoples and civilizations. The disputed territory, which stretches across what today is Israel, Palestine, and parts of Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Syria practically coincides with historic Canaan, the Promised Land of the Jewish people. Since those days, the control and prevalence of human groups over the territory was linked to military superiority, as the conflict was always latent. The presence of military, violence and conflict has been a constant aspect of societies established in the area; and, with geography and history, is fundamental to understand the current conflict and the functioning of the Israeli society.
As we have said, a priori it does not have great reasons for a fierce fight for the territory, but the reality is different: the disputed area is one of the key places in the geostrategy of the western and eastern world. This thin strip, between the Tigris and Euphrates (the Fertile Crescent, considered the cradle of the first civilizations) and the mouth of the Nile, although it does not enjoy great water or natural resources, is an area of high strategic value: it acts as a bridge between Africa, Asia and the Mediterranean (with Europe by sea). It is also a sacred place for the three great monotheistic religions of the world, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the “Peoples of the Book”, who group under their creeds more than half of the world's inhabitants. Thus, for millennia, the land of Israel has been abuzz with cultural and religious exchanges ... and of course, struggles for its control.
According to the Bible, the main para-historical account of these events, the first Israelites began to arrive in the Canaanite lands around 2000 BC, after God promised Abraham that land “... To your descendants ...” The massive arrival of Israelites would occur around 1400 BC, where they started a series of campaigns and expelled or assimilated the various Canaanite peoples such as the Philistines (of which the Palestinians claim to be descendants), until the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah finally united around the year 1000 BC under a monarchy that would come to dominate the region until their separation in 924 BC.
It is at this time that we can begin to speak of a people of Israel, who will inhabit this land uninterruptedly, under the rule of other great empires such as the Assyrian, the Babylonian, and the Macedonian, to finally end their existence under the Roman Empire. It is in 63 BC when Pompey conquered Jerusalem and occupied Judea, ending the freedom of the people of Israel. It will be in 70 AD, though, with the emperor Titus, when after a new Hebrew uprising the Second Temple of Jerusalem was razed, and the Diaspora of the Hebrew people began; that is, their emigration to other places across the East and West, living in small communities in which, suffering constant persecutions, they continued with their minds set on a future return to their “Promised Land”. The population vacuum left by the Diaspora was then filled again by peoples present in the area, as well as by Arabs.
The current state of Israel
This review of the historical antiquity of the conflict is necessary because this is one with some very special characteristics: practically no other conflict is justified before such extremes by both parties with “sentimental” or dubious “legal” reasons.
The current state of Israel, founded in 1948 with the partition of the British Protectorate of Palestine, argues its existence in the need for a Jewish state that not only represents and welcomes such a community but also meets its own religious requirements, since in Judaism the Hebrew is spoken as the “chosen people of God”, and Israel as its “Promised Land”. So, being the state of Israel the direct heir of the ancient Hebrew people, it would become the legitimate occupier of the lands quoted in Genesis 15: 18-21. This is known as the concept of Greater Israel (see map).
On the Palestinian side, they exhibit as their main argument thirteen centuries of Muslim rule (638-1920) over the region of Palestine, from the Orthodox caliphate to the Ottoman Empire. They claim that the Jewish presence in the region is primarily based on the massive immigration of Jews during the late 19th and 20th centuries, following the popularization of Zionism, as well as on the expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians before, during and after the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, a fact known as the Nakba, and of many other Palestinians and Muslims in general since the beginning of the conflict. Some also base their historical claim on their origin as descendants of the Philistines.
However, although these arguments are weak, beyond historical conjecture, the reality is, nonetheless, that these aspirations have been the ones that have provoked the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This properly begins in the early 20th century, with the rise of Zionism in response to the growing anti-Semitism in Europe, and the Arab refusal to see Jews settled in the area of Palestine. During the years of the British Mandate for Palestine (1920-1948) there were the first episodes of great violence between Jews and Palestinians. Small terrorist actions by the Arabs against Kibbutzim, which were contested by Zionist organizations, became the daily norm. This turned into a spiral of violence and assassinations, with brutal episodes such as the Buraq and Hebron revolts, which ended with some 200 Jews killed by Arabs, and some 120 Arabs killed by the British army.
Another dark episode of this time was the complicit relations between the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Almin Al-Husseini, and the Nazi regime, united by a common agenda regarding Jews. He had meetings with Adolf Hitler and gave them mutual support, as the extracts of their conversations collect. But it will not be until the adoption of the “United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine” through Resolution 181 (II) of the General Assembly when the war broke out on a large scale. The Jews accepted the plan, but the Arab League announced that, if it became effective, they would not hesitate to invade the territory.
And so, it was. On May 14, 1948, hours after the proclamation of the state of Israel by Ben-Gurion, Israel was invaded by a joint force of Egyptian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanian troops. In this way, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War began, beginning a period of war that has not stopped until today, almost 72 years later. Despite the multiple peace agreements reached (with Egypt and Jordan), the dozens of United Nations resolutions, and the Oslo Accords, which established the roadmap for achieving a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine, conflicts continue, and they have seriously affected the development of the societies and peoples of the region.
The Israel Defense Forces
Despite the difficulties suffered since the day of its independence, Israel has managed to establish itself as the only effective democracy in the region, with a strong rule of law and a welfare state. It has a Human Development Index of 0.906, considered very high; is an example in education and development, being the third country in the world with more university graduates over the total population (20%) and is a world leader in R&D in technology. Meanwhile, the countries around it face serious difficulties, and in the case of Palestine, great misery. One of the keys to Israel's success and survival is, without a doubt, its Army. Without it, it would not have been able to lay the foundations of the country that it is today, as it would have been devastated by neighboring countries from the first day of its independence.
It is not daring to say that Israeli society is one of the most militarized in the world. It is even difficult to distinguish between Israel as a country or Israel as an army. There is no doubt that the structure of the country is based on the Army and on the concept of “one people”. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) act as the backbone of society and we find an overwhelming part of the country's top officials who have served as active soldiers. The paradigmatic example are the current leaders of the two main Knesset parties: Benny Ganz (former Chief of Staff of the IDF) and Benjamin Netanyahu (a veteran of the special forces in the 1970s, and combat wounded).
This influence exerted by the Tzahal in the country is fundamentally due to three reasons. The first is the reality of war. Although, as we have previously commented, Israel is a prosperous country and practically equal to the rest of the western world, it lives in a reality of permanent conflict, both inside and outside its borders. When it is not carrying out large anti-terrorist operations such as Operation “Protective Edge,” carried out in Gaza in 2014, it is in an internal fight against attacks by lone wolves (especially bloody recent episodes of knife attacks on Israeli civilians and military) and against rocket and missile launches from the Gaza Strip. The Israeli population has become accustomed to the sound of missile alarms, and to seeing the “Iron Dome” anti-missile system in operation. It is common for all houses to have small air raid shelters, as well as in public buildings and schools. In them, students learn how to behave in the face of an attack and basic security measures. The vision of the Army on the street is something completely common, whether it be armored vehicles rolling through the streets, fighters flying over the sky, or platoons of soldiers getting on the public bus with their full equipment. At this point, we must not forget the suffering in which the Palestinian population constantly lives, as well as its harsh living conditions, motivated not only by the Israeli blockade, but also by living under the government of political parties such as Al-Fatah or Hamas. The reality of war is especially present in the territories under dispute with other countries: the Golan Heights in Syria and the so-called Palestinian Territories (the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip). Military operations and clashes with insurgents are practically daily in these areas.
This permanent tension and the reality of war not only affect the population indirectly, but also directly with compulsory military service. Israel is the developed country that spends the most defense budget according to its GDP and its population. Today, Israel invests 4.3% of its GDP in defense (not counting investment in industry and military R&D). In the early 1980s, it came to invest around 22%. Its army has 670,000 soldiers, of whom 170,000 are professionals, and 35.9% of its population (just over 3 million) are ready for combat. It is estimated that the country can carry out a general mobilization around 48-72 hours. Its military strength is based not only on its technological vanguard in terms of weapons systems such as the F-35 (and atomic arsenal), material, armored vehicles (like the Merkava MBT), but also on its compulsory military service system that keeps the majority of the population trained to defend its country. Israel has a unique military service in the western world, being compulsory for all those over 18 years of age, be they men or women. In the case of men, it lasts 32 months, while women remain under military discipline for 21 months, although those that are framed in combat units usually serve the same time as men. Military service has exceptions, such as Arabs who do not want to serve and ultra-Orthodox Jews. However, more and more Israeli Arabs serve in the armed forces, including in mixed units with Druze, Jews and Christians; the same goes for the ultra-orthodox, who are beginning to serve in units adapted to their religious needs. Citizens who complete military service remain in the reserve until they are 40 years old, although it is estimated that only a quarter of them do so actively.
Israeli military service and, by extension, the Israeli Defense Forces are, therefore, the greatest factor of social cohesion in the country, above even religion. This is the second reason why the army influences Israel. The experience of a country protection service carried out by all generations creates great social cohesion. In the Israeli mindset, serving in the military, protecting your family and ensuring the survival of the state is one of the greatest aspirations in life. From the school, within the academic curriculum itself, the idea of patriotism and service to the nation is integrated. And right now, despite huge contrasts between the Jewish majority and minorities, it is also a tool for social integration for Arabs, Druze and Christians. Despite racism and general mistrust towards Arabs, if you serve in the Armed Forces, the reality changes completely: you are respected, you integrate more easily into social life, and your opportunities for work and study after the enlistment period have increased considerably. Mixed units, such as Unit 585 where Bedouins and Christian Arabs serve, allow these minorities to continue to throw down barriers in Israeli society, although on many occasions they find rejection from their own communities.
Israelis residing abroad are also called to service, after which many permanently settle in the country. This enhances the sense of community even for Jews still in the Diaspora.
In short, the IDF creates a sense of duty and belonging to the homeland, whatever the origin, as well as a strong link with the armed forces (which is hardly seen in other western countries) and acceptance of the sacrifices that must be made in order to ensure the survival of the country.
The third and last reason, the most important one, and the one that summarizes the role that the Army has in society and in the country, is the reality that, as said above, the survival of the country depends on the Army. This is how the military occupation of territories beyond the borders established in 1948, the bombings in civilian areas, the elimination of individual objectives are justified by the population and the Government. After 3,000 years, and since 1948 perhaps more than ever, the Israeli people depend on weapons to create a protection zone around them, and after the persecution throughout the centuries culminating in the Holocaust and its return to the “Promised Land,” neither the state nor the majority of the population are willing to yield in their security against countries or organizations that directly threaten the existence of Israel as a country. This is why despite the multiple truces and the will (political and real) to end the Arab-Israeli conflict, the country cannot afford to step back in terms of preparing its armed forces and lobbying.
Obviously, during the current Covid-19 pandemic, the Army is having a key role in the success of the country in fighting the virus. The current rate of vaccination (near 70 doses per 100 people) is boosted by the use of reserve medics from the Army, as well as the logistic experience and planning (among obviously many other factors). Also, they have provided thousands of contact tracers, and the construction of hundreds of vaccination posts, and dozens of quarantine facilities. Even could be arguable that the military training could play a role in coping with the harsh restrictions that were imposed in the country.
The State-Army-People trinity exemplifies the reality that Israel lives, where the Army has a fundamental (and difficult) role in society. It is difficult to foresee a change in reality in the near future, but without a doubt, the army will continue to have the leadership role that it has assumed, in different forms, for 3,000 years.
 Genesis 15:18 New International Version (NIV). 18: “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi [a] of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates’.”
 Great Israel matches to previously mentioned Bible passage Gn. 15: 18-21.
 Independent, JS (2019, May 16). This is why Palestinians wave keys during the 'Day of Catastrophe'. Retrieved March 23, 2020, from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/nakba-day-catastrophe-palestinians-israel-benjamin-netanyahu-gaza-west-bank-hamas-a8346156.html
 Ross Stewart (2004). Causes and Consequences of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. London: Evan Brothers, Ltd., 2004.
 Record of the Conversation Between the Führer and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem on November 28, 1941, in in Berlin, Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1918-1945, Series D, Vol. XIII, London , 1964, p. 881ff, in Walter Lacquer and Barry Rubin, The Israel-Arab Reader, (NY: Facts on File, 1984), pp. 79-84. Retrieved from https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-mufti-and-the-f-uuml-hrer#2. “Germany stood for uncompromising war against the Jews. That naturally included active opposition to the Jewish national home in Palestine .... Germany would furnish positive and practical aid to the Arabs involved in the same struggle .... Germany's objective [is] ... solely the destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab sphere .... In that hour the Mufti would be the most authoritative spokesman for the Arab world. The Mufti thanked Hitler profusely. ”
 United Nations General Assembly A / RES / 181 (II) of 29 November 1947.
 Tzahal is a Hebrew acronym used to refer to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
 Newsroom. (8th. June 2009). Arming Up: The world's biggest military spenders by population. 03-20-2020, by The Economist Retrieved from: https://www.economist.com/news/2009/06/08/arming-up
 Gross, JA (2016, May 30). Just a quarter of all eligible reservists serve in the IDF. Retrieved March 22, 2020, from https://www.timesofisrael.com/just-a-quarter-of-all-eligible-reservists-serve-in-the-idf/
 AHRONHEIM, A. (2020, January 12). Arab Christians and Bedouins in the IDF: Meet the members of Unit 585. Retrieved March 19, 2020, from https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/The-sky-is-the-limit-in-the- IDFs-unique-Unit-585-613948
Preparan proyectar “poder de combate creíble” en la nueva era de “competición estratégica”
Si el Ártico fue un importante escenario en la Guerra Fría, en la nueva tensión geopolítica su progresivo deshielo incluso acentúa sus características estratégicas. El Departamento de Defensa de Estados Unidos adecuó en 2019 su estrategia para el Ártico a los nuevos planteamientos de rivalidad con Rusia y China, y luego su concreción ha correspondido a las fuerzas más involucradas en esa región: en 2020 la Fuerza Aérea presentó su propio documento y en este 2021 lo ha hecho la Armada, implicando también al Cuerpo de Marines y la Guardia Costera. Las directrices buscan garantizar la proyección de “poder de combate creíble”.
La tripulación del submarino USS Connecticut en los ejercicios ICEX 2020 [US Navy]
ARTÍCULO / Pablo Sanz
El Ártico es importante por la riqueza natural aún por explotar que contiene su subsuelo (el 22% de los depósitos de hidrocarburo del mundo, que por lo que afecta al petróleo serían 90.000 millones de barriles) y por su posición estratégica en el globo: ahí confluyen las dos grandes masas continentales de Eurasia y América. La apertura de nuevas rutas marítimas gracias al progresivo deshielo no solo supone una ventaja comercial, sino además capacita actuar militarmente con mayor rapidez sobre ese y sobre otros escenarios.
Son muchos los países interesados en promover la cooperación y multilateralismo en la región, y así se hace desde el Consejo Ártico; no obstante, el complejo entorno de seguridad del Círculo Polar Ártico ha llevado a las principales potencias a fijar estrategias para defender sus respectivos intereses. En el caso de Estados Unidos, el Departamento de Defensa actualizó en junio de 2019 la estrategia para el Ártico que había elaborado tres años antes, con el fin de adecuarla al nuevo planteamiento surgido con la Estrategia de Seguridad Nacional (NSS) de 2017 y trasladado a la Estrategia de Defensa Nacional (NDS) de 2018, documentos que dejan atrás la era del combate contra el terrorismo internacional y elevan a “rivalidad” la relación con China y Rusia, en una nueva situación geopolítica de “competición estratégica”.
La estrategia del Pentágono para el Ártico luego ha sido concretada por la Fuerza Aérea en un informe propio, presentado en julio de 2020, y después por la Armada, en enero de 2021. Con las mismas líneas generales, esos enfoques marco apuntan a tres objetivos:
1) Como “nación ártica”, por su soberanía sobre Alaska, Estados Unidos debe garantizar la seguridad en su territorio e impedir que desde posiciones polares pueda amenazarse otras partes del país.
2) Estados Unidos pretende establecer y liderar alianzas y acuerdos en el Ártico conforme al derecho internacional para mantener una situación de estabilidad en la zona.
3) Estados Unidos se compromete a preservar la libre navegación y el libre sobrevuelo en el Círculo Polar Ártico, limitando al mismo tiempo injerencias rusas y chinas contrarias a esa general libertad de acceso y tránsito.
Para conseguir estos objetivos, el Pentágono ha definido tres mecanismos de actuación:
i) Potenciar la concienciación sobre la importancia de la zona: la capacidad del Departamento de Defensa para detectar amenazas en el Ártico es un requisito previo para disuadir o responder a actividades de competidores estratégicos en la región.
ii) Mejorar y promover operaciones en el Ártico: el Departamento de Defensa mejorará la capacidad de actuación de sus fuerzas para operar en el Ártico mediante ejercicios y despliegues regulares en la región, tanto de forma independiente como junto con aliados. Algunos ejercicios se realizarán dentro del contexto de la OTAN mientras que otros serán bilaterales o multilaterales.
iii) Fortalecer el orden basado en las reglas que rigen el Ártico: el Departamento de Defensa seguirá trabajando junto con aliados de Estados Unidos para mantener y fortalecer el régimen de libertad de navegación y de sobrevuelo. Esto ayudará a disuadir la realización de actos agresivos en la zona.
A partir de la nueva NDS el Departamento de Defensa establece que las Fuerzas Armadas estadounidenses deben estar en condiciones de resolver el principal problema detectado –la erosión del margen competitivo contra China y Rusia–, siendo capaces de “detener y, en caso necesario, derrotar la agresión de una gran potencia”. Para ello debe desarrollar una fuerza “más letal, resiliente, ágil y preparada”, que en la región del Ártico debe alcanzar un “creíble poder disuasorio”.
La doctrina militar estadounidense advierte que el carácter de “colchón estratégico” que venía teniendo el Ártico “se está erosionando”, convirtiéndose “en una vía de amenaza para el territorio nacional debido a los avances de las grandes potencias competidoras”. Además, “acoge puntos de lanzamiento críticos para la proyección global de poder y recursos naturales cada vez más accesibles”. No obstante, advierte que “la posibilidad inmediata de conflicto es baja”.
Así, pues, dentro del contexto de la implementación de la estrategia de defensa nacional, el Pentágono proclama que continuará preparando sus unidades con el fin de garantizar que el Ártico sea una región segura y estable en la que se salvaguarden los intereses nacionales de Estados Unidos, la seguridad regional y el trabajo conjunto de las naciones implicadas para abordar los problemas comunes.
Los documentos de la Fuerza Aérea y de la Armada estadounidenses describen medidas de apoyo para garantizar la capacidad de disuadir acciones hostiles en el Ártico por parte del resto de competidores regionales en la zona, al tiempo que priorizan un enfoque cooperativo y continuo que preserve las reglas por las cuales se rige el Ártico.
Aire y mar
Debido a que la corriente del Golfo de México se dirige a la vertiente europea del Ártico, la vertiente norteamericana sufre unas condiciones ambientales aún más duras, con menos infraestructuras marítimas y vías terrestres. Eso hace que el peso de la Fuerza Aérea en la defensa de este espacio sea claramente mayor, aportando el 80% de los recursos que el Pentágono dedica a la región.
Su actuación se asienta sobre diversas localizaciones. Seis de ellas se encuentran en Alaska: las grandes bases aéreas de Elmendorf-Richardson y Eielson; las instalaciones de aviso temprano de misiles de Clear y el radar de misiles de defensa de Eareckson, y otros puntos para coordinación, entrenamiento y escuela de supervivencia. Otras dos están en Groenlandia: el campo Raven de entrenamiento para aviones LC-130 y el recinto de Thule para aviso temprano de misiles. En Canadá, dispone de un sistema de una cincuentena de radares compartido por el NORAD (Mando Norteamericano de Defensa Aérea).
La Fuerza Aérea se propone mejorar esas capacidades, así como las de comando, control, comunicaciones, inteligencia, vigilancia y reconocimiento (C3ISR). También se ha fijado el objetivo de aumentar las condiciones para el repostaje de combustible. Una vez se complete el despliegue de los F-35 en Eielson, Alaska acogerá más cazas avanzados que cualquier otra localización del mundo.
Por su parte, la Armada estadounidense hace girar su posicionamiento en torno al concepto de “Ártico Azul”, expresando gráficamente así la progresiva homologación con el conjunto de océanos del planeta lo que históricamente ha sido un casquete blanco infranqueable. La Armada contempla el aumento de su presencia, tanto con buques tripulados como con nuevas embarcaciones no tripuladas. En su documento estratégico, advierte que la investigación en nuevas capacidades “puede no quedar completamente realizada e integrada en la fuerza naval al menos en una década”.
La mayor presencia naval en la región se materializará también mediante el aumento de operaciones que ya realizan rutinariamente en el Ártico la Segunda y la Sexta Flotas y mediante la sincronización con el Cuerpo de Marines y la Guardia Costera que está basada en Alaska. Para asegurar ese incremento operacional, la Armada llevará a cabo una mejora de las instalaciones para el atraque y asistencia de sus buques.
El documento de la Armada, que no concreta preparativos específicos, tampoco incluye los planes anunciados por la Guardia Costera de contar con una nueva flota de rompehielos. En la actualidad existen solo dos en servicios y la previsión es construir tres buques medios y tres pesados para 2029.
Con todo ello, Washington intenta hacer frente al acelerado esfuerzo que están llevando a cabo sus más directos competidores. En julio de 2020 el Departamento de Estado alertó sobre el creciente interés en el Ártico por parte de Rusia y China, a quienes acusó de protagonizar una competición “cada vez más agresiva” y lamentó que aquellos países que desean “paz, libertad y democracia”, incluido Estados Unidos, han sido unos “ingenuos”.
Rusia y China
Rusia nación con mayor masa de tierra y población dentro del Círculo Polar Ártico, región de la que Rusia obtiene el 25% de su PIB. Ningún otro país tiene tanta presencia militar permanente por encima del paralelo 66; tampoco otra nación cuenta con tantos barcos rompehielos, fluya flota Moscú quiere aumentar con catorce nuevos buques, uno de ellos de propulsión nucleaar.
Rusia formó su comando estratégico conjunto de la Flota del Norte en diciembre de 2014. “Desde entonces, Rusia ha fortalecido gradualmente su presencia creando nuevas unidades para el Ártico, reformando vieja infraestructura y aeródromos y estableciendo nuevas bases militares a lo largo de la costa. Hay también un esfuerzo concertado para establecer una red de sistemas de misiles de defensa aérea y costera, radares de aviso temprano, centros de rescate y variedad de sensores”, según constata el informe estratégico para el Ártico del Departamento de Defensa norteamericano. Estados Unidos también advierte que Rusia intenta regular el tráfico marítimo en la Ruta Norte con maneras que pueden exceder la autoridad que le permite el derecho internacional.
China, por otro lado, sin ser una nación ártica (Mohe, su ciudad más al norte está a la misma latitud de Filadelfia o Dublín) quiere ser un actor importante en la región. Es un país observador del Consejo Ártico y reivindica un estatus de “nación próxima al Ártico” que Washington no reconoce. En 2018 elaboró el primer libro blanco sobre su política para el Ártico y ha integrado esa área en su iniciativa de la nueva Ruta de la Seda.
Las actividades diplomáticas, económicas y científicas de China en el Ártico han crecido exponencialmente durante los últimos años. De momento su presencia operacional es limitada: cuenta con un rompehielos de capacidad polar de fabricación ucraniana (el Xuelong; recientemente ha construido el Xuelong 2), que ha navegado por aguas árticas en operaciones que China describe como expediciones de investigación.
La apertura de rutas marítimas árticas interesa a China, pues podría acortar los tiempos de envíos comerciales a Europa y reducir su dependencia de los flujos que atraviesan el estrecho de Malaca, un punto especialmente vulnerable.
Últimamente, China ha estado participando en crecientes actividades diplomáticas con los países nórdicos y cuenta con estaciones de investigación en Islandia y Noruega; además, explota recursos mineros en Groenlandia. Esto pone de manifiesto el creciente interés de Pekín por consolidar su presencia en la zona ártica a pesar de su lejanía respecto a la región.
Su gran capacidad financiera, además, lleva a que Rusia cuente con China para desarrollar proyectos energéticos y de infraestructura en la región, como es el caso de una instalación para gas natural licuado en Yamal. Según Frédéric Laserre, experto en geopolítica del Ártico de la Universidad de Laval, Rusia no tiene otra elección que aceptar capital chino para construir y desarrollar las infraestructuras necesarias para explotar los recursos debido a las sanciones económicas occidentales.
Hackers iraníes falsificaron correos preelectorales de los Proud Boys, pero la actuación postelectoral real de este y otros grupos resultó más disruptiva
Si en las elecciones presidenciales de Estados Unidos de 2016 las operaciones de injerencia extranjera fueron protagonizadas por Rusia, en las de 2020 la atención estuvo en los hackers iraníes, por la novedad que suponían en un campo de operaciones donde igualmente actuaban rusos y chinos, cada cual persiguiendo sus intereses. En concreto, Teherán deseaba una derrota de Donald Trump para que su sucesor demócrata revirtiera el duro régimen de sanciones impuesto contra el régimen iraní. Pero esas actuaciones en el ciberespacio por parte de Irán, Rusia y China fueron poco eficaces debido a la mayor alerta de las agencias de seguridad e inteligencia norteamericanas. Al final esos intentos exteriores de desprestigiar la democracia estadounidense y de minar la confianza de los votantes en su sistema electoral se quedaron pequeños frente al daño causado por el propio caos interno.
Asalto al Capitolio, en Washington, el 6 de enero de 2021 [TapTheForwardAssist]
ARTÍCULO / María Victoria Andarcia
Rusia siempre estuvo en el ojo de la seguridad estadounidense durante el año electoral de 2020, después de que quedara constatada su injerencia en las elecciones presidenciales de cuatro años antes. No obstante, aunque la principal preocupación siguió siendo Rusia y también se temía una ampliación de las operaciones de China, Irán se llevó los titulares de algunos avisos lanzados por las autoridades norteamericanas, probablemente por la facilidad con que pudieron atribuir a actores iraníes diversas actuaciones. A pesar de ese múltiple frente, el desarrollo de las votaciones no arrojó ninguna evidencia de que las campañas de desinformación extranjeras hubieran tenido efectividad. La rápida identificación de los agentes implicados y la reacción ofensiva por parte de los servicios de seguridad e inteligencia estadounidenses pudieron prevenir que se llegara a la situación de 2016. Como ha señalado el Atlantic Council, esta vez “la desinformación doméstica eclipsó la acción foránea”.
Dadas las directas consecuencias que la llegada de Joe Biden a la Casa Blanca puede suponer en la política de Washington hacia Irán, este artículo presta más atención a los intentos iraníes por afectar al desarrollo de las elecciones de Estados Unidos. La incidencia de las operaciones iraníes fue mínima y tuvieron un perfil menor que las desarrolladas por Rusia en 2016 (país que a su vez tuvo menos implicación que en esas anteriores elecciones).
En mayo y junio de 2020 se registraron unos primeros movimientos en cuentas de Microsoft, como más adelante revelaría la propia compañía. Un grupo iraní llamado Phosphorus había logrado tener éxito en acceder a cuentas de empleados de la Casa Blanca y del equipo de campaña para la reelección de Trump. Fueron unas señales iniciales de que Teherán estaba montando algún tipo de operación cibernética.
A comienzos de agosto, el director del Centro de Contrainteligencia y Seguridad Nacional, William Evanina, apuntaba a Teherán –también a Moscú y Pekín– de usar desinformación en internet para “influir en los votantes, desencadenar desorden y minar la confianza” ciudadana en el sistema. En relación a Irán afirmaba: “Evaluamos que Irán busca socavar las instituciones democráticas estadounidenses y el presidente Trump, y dividir al país ante las elecciones de 2020”. Añadía que los esfuerzos iraníes se centraban en la difusión de desinformación en las redes sociales, donde hacía circular contenido contra Estados Unidos. Evanina atribuía como motivación de estas acciones la percepción iraní “de que la reelección del presidente Trump resultaría en una continuación de la presión de Estados Unidos sobre Irán en un esfuerzo por fomentar un cambio de régimen”.
A raíz del debate entre Trump y Biden televisado el 29 de septiembre, Twitter eliminó 130 cuentas que “parecían originarse en Irán” y cuyo contenido, que había puesto en conocimiento del Buró Federal de Investigaciones (FBI), pretendía influir en la opinión pública durante el debate presidencial. La compañía solo ofreció cuatro ejemplos. Dos de las cuentas eran proclives a Trump: en una el usuario era @jackQanon (en referencia al grupo conspiratorio QAnon) y la otra expresaba apoyo a Proud Boys, una organización de extrema derecha con vínculos supremacistas a la que Trump había pedido “quedar en guardia y mantenerse alerta”. Las otras dos cuentas habían expresado mensajes pro Biden.
A mediados de octubre, el director de Inteligencia Nacional, John Ratcliffe, se refirió en rueda de prensa a la actuación cibernética de Irán y Rusia como una amenaza al proceso electoral. Según manifestó Ratcliffe, la operación iraní consistió primordialmente en una serie de correos electrónicos en los que se hacía creer que eran enviados por el grupo Proud Boys. Dichos correos contenían amenazas de fuerza física para quienes no votaran por Trump, y tenían como finalidad instigar violencia y dañar la imagen de este último, asociando su campaña con grupos radicales y con esfuerzos para intimidar a votantes. Curiosamente luego los Proud Boys adquirirían un gran protagonismo por ellos mismos en las concentraciones postelectorales en Washington y la toma del Capitolio.
Si bien el portavoz del Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores de Irán, Said Jatibzadeh, negó estas acusaciones recalcando que “para Irán es indiferente quien gana las elecciones de Estados Unidos”, las autoridades norteamericanas insistieron en su versión y la Oficina de Control de Activos Extranjeros del Departamento del Tesoro de Estados Unidos (OFAC) sancionó a cinco entidades iraníes por haber intentado socavar las elecciones presidenciales. Según el comunicado de la OFAC, el Cuerpo de la Guardia Revolucionaria Islámica y la Fuerza Quds usaron los medios iraníes como plataformas para esparcir propaganda y desinformación a la población estadounidense.
De acuerdo con la OFAC, la empresa iraní de comunicación audiovisual Bayan Gostar, habitual colaboradora de la Guardia Revolucionaria, había “planeado influir en las elecciones explotando los problemas sociales dentro de los Estados Unidos, incluida la pandemia de COVID-19, y denigrando a las figuras políticas estadounidenses”. La Unión de Radio y Tevisión Islámica de Irán (IRTVU), que la OFAC considera un brazo de propaganda de la Guardia Revolucionaria, y la Unión Internacional de Medios Virtuales “ayudaron a Bayan Gostar en sus esfuerzos por llegar a la audiencia estadounidense”. Estos medios “amplificaron narrativas falsas en inglés y publicaron artículos de propaganda despectivos y otro contenido dirigido a Estados Unidos con la intención de sembrar la discordia entre la audiencia estadounidense”.
Estados Unidos asegura que la injerencia iraní no se limitó a las elecciones, que se celebraron el 3 de noviembre (con un nivel de voto por adelantado y por correo sin precedentes), sino que siguió después en las semanas siguientes, intentando aprovechar el desconcierto existente por el cuestionamiento del resultado electoral mantenido por la Administración Trump. Días antes de Navidad, el FBI y la Agencia de Seguridad de Infraestructura y Ciberseguridad del Departamento de Seguridad (CISA) dieron a conocer que presuntamente Irán estaba detrás de una página web y de varias cuentas de redes sociales dirigidas a provocar más violencia contra varios funcionarios estadounidense. La página web titulada “Enemies of the People” contenía fotografías e información personal tanto de funcionarios como de personal del sector privado que tenían relación con el proceso de recuento y autentificación de los votos emitidos en las elecciones, en ocasiones enfrentados a las denuncias de fraude mantenidas por Trump y sus seguidores.
La actuación atribuida a Irán puede interpretarse como un modo de vengar el ataque aéreo con drones ordenado por Washington para asesinar en Irak a Qasem Soleimani, jefe de la Fuerza Qurds, por cuya muerte el 3 de enero de 2020 Teherán había jurado represalias. Pero sobre todo revela un esfuerzo continuo por parte de Irán de aliviar los efectos de la política de “máxima presión” de Estados Unidos impulsada por Trump. Dada la intención expresada por Biden durante la campaña electoral de cambiar la política exterior estadounidense hacia la República Islámica, ésta tendría la oportunidad de recibir un trato más laxo por parte de Estado Unidos si Trump perdía las elecciones presidenciales. Biden había indicado que si llegaba al poder cambiaría la política hacia Irán, posiblemente volviendo al acuerdo nuclear firmado en 2015 con la condición de que Irán respetara los límites de su programa nuclear acordados entonces. El Plan Conjunto de Acción Comprensiva (JCPOA, por sus siglas en inglés) fue considerado un hito en la política exterior del entonces presidente Barack Obama, pero luego la Administración Trump decidió no respetarlo por considerar que habían quedado fuera asuntos como el desarrollo de misiles de Irán y su injerencia militar en otros países de la región.
Pocos días antes de la toma de posesión del nuevo mandatario americano, el presidente iraní, Hasán Rohaní, instó a Biden a levantar las sanciones impuestas a la República Islámica y volver al acuerdo nuclear de 2015. Irán espera que la Administración Biden tome los primeros pasos para compensar por las acciones del gobierno anterior y así avanzar hacia un posible entendimiento entre ambas naciones. La decisión de volver al acuerdo no se tomará de forma inmediata ya que Biden hereda un país dividido y tardará un tiempo revertir las políticas de Trump. Con las elecciones presidenciales iraníes acercándose en junio de este año, el gobierno de Biden gana tiempo para intentar una reformulación nada fácil, pues el contexto de Oriente Medio ha cambiado sustancialmente en estos últimos cinco años.
▲ A Challenger 2 tank on Castlemartin Ranges in Pembrokeshire, Wales, fires a ‘Squash-Head’ practice round [UK MoD]
COMMENTARY / Jairo Císcar Ruiz
At the end of last summer, two news pieces appeared in the forums and specialized magazines of the military field in the Anglo-Saxon world. The first of them was the forecast of the continuity (and worsening due to the current pandemic) of the spending cuts suffered in the UK Defense budget since 2010. The second, linked to the first, was the growing rumors of a possible withdrawal of the Challenger 2 tanks, which were already reduced to a quarter of their original strength. At a time of great economic instability, it seemed that the UK's strategic vision had decided to focus on its main assets to maintain its deterrent power and its projection of force: the very expensive nuclear arsenal and the maintenance and expansion of new naval groups in order to host the F-35B.
However, both pieces of news have been quickly overtaken by the announcement of the Boris Johnson executive to inject about 22 billion dollars over 4 years to take British power back to the levels of 30 years ago. Also, the decommissioning of battle tanks was dismissed by ministerial sources, who argued that it was simply a possibility raised in the "Integrated Review" that is being carried out by the British Ministry of Defense.
Although the waters have calmed down, the debate that has arisen as a result of these controversies seems extremely interesting, as well as the role that armored units will have on the battlefield of the future. This article aims to make a brief reflection, identifying possible scenarios and their implications.
The first of them It is a reality: the United Kingdom must improve its armored forces, which run the risk of becoming obsolete, not only in the face of threats (Russia has had since 2015 the T-14 Armata, a 5th generation tank; and recently the modernized version of the mythical T-90, Proryv-3), but also in front of their allies, such as France or Germany, which are already starting the project to replace their respective armor with the future European Main Battle Tank. It is not only a matter of improving their operational capabilities, but also of evolving their survival on the battlefield.
At a time when military technology is advancing by leaps and bounds (hypersonic projectiles; battlefield dominated by technology; extensive use of drones ...), it is necessary to rethink the traditional way of waging war. In the last Nagorno-Karabakh crisis, images and evidence of the effectiveness of the use of Israeli “suicide” drones could be seen against groups of infantry, but also against armored vehicles and tanks. Despite Foreign Policy accusing poor training and the complex terrain as the main factors for these casualties, the question is still up in the air: does the "classic" tank as we know it still have a place on the battlefield?
Experience tells us yes. The tank is vital in large military operations, although, as noted above, new threats must be countered with new defenses. To this day, the tank remains the best vehicle to provide direct fire quickly and efficiently, against other armor, infantry, and reinforced enemy positions. By itself it is an exceptional striking force, although it must always act in accordance with the rest of the deployed troops, especially with Intelligence, Logistics units and the Infantry. It should not be forgotten that in a battlefield characterized by hybrid warfare, it is necessary to consider the increasingly changing environment of threats.
Sensors and detection systems on the battlefield are persistently more innovative and revolutionary, capable of detecting armored vehicles, even if they are camouflaged; when integrated with lethal precision firing systems, they make concealing and wearing heavy armor a challenge. There are technical responses to these threats, from countering electronic direction finding through spoofing and interference, to mounting active protection systems on vehicle hulls.
Despite the above, obviously, the battle tank continues to be a great investment in terms of money that must be made, questionable in front of the taxpayer in an environment of economic crisis, although at the strategic level it may not be.
There are also those who broke a spear in favor of withdrawing the tanks from their inventories, and it seems that today they regret having made this decision. The United Kingdom has the example of the army of the Netherlands, which in 2011 withdrew and sold to Finland 100 of its 120 Leopard 2A6s as a means of saving money and changing military doctrine. However, with Russia's entry into Ukraine and its increasing threats to NATO's eastern flank, they soon began to miss the armored forces' unique capabilities: penetrating power, high mobility that enables turning movements to engulf the enemy, maneuverability, speed, protection, and firepower. In the end, in 2015, they handed over their last 20 tanks (crews and mechanics included) to the German army, which since then has a contingent of a hundred Dutch, forming the Panzerbataillon 414. Knowing how important the concept of “lessons learned” is in military planning, perhaps the UK should pay attention to this case and consider its needs and the capabilities required to meet them.
A roadmap to the middle position would be to move towards an “army of specialization”, abandoning its armored units and specializing in other areas such as cyber or aviation; but this would only be possible within the framework of a defense organization more integrated than NATO. Although it is only a distant possibility, the hypothetical and much mentioned European Army -of which the United Kingdom would most likely be excluded after the Brexit- could lead to the creation of national armed forces that would be specialized in a specific weapon, relying on other countries to fulfill other tasks. However, this possibility belongs right now to the pure terrain of reverie and futurology, since it would require greater integration at all levels in Europe to be able to consider this possibility.
In the end we find the main problem when organizing and maintaining an army, which is none other than money. On many occasions this aspect, which is undoubtedly vital, completely overshadows any other consideration. And in the case of a nation’s armed forces, this is very dangerous. It would be counterproductive to ignore the tactical and strategic aspects to favor just the purely pecuniary ones. The reality is that Western armed forces, whether from the United Kingdom or any other NATO country, face not only IEDs and insurgent infantry in the mountainous regions of the Middle East, but also may have to confront peer rivals equipped with huge armored forces. Russia itself has about 2,000 battle tanks (that is, not counting other armored vehicles, whether they are capable of shooting rounds or not). China increases that figure up to 6,900 (more than half are completely out of date, although they are embarking on a total remodeling of the Chinese People's Army in all its forces). NATO does not forget the challenges, hence the mission "Enhanced Forward Presence" in Poland and the Baltic Republics, in which Spain contributes a Tactical Group that includes 6 Leopardo 2A6 Main Battle Tanks, 14 Pizarro Infantry Fighting Vehicles, and other armored infantry transports.
Certainly, war is changing. We can't even imagine how technology will change the battlefield in the next decade. Sometimes, though, it is better not to get ahead of time. Taking all aspects into account, perhaps the best decision the UK Ministry of Defense could make would be to modernize its tank battalions to adapt them to the current environment, and thus maintain a balanced military with full operational capabilities. It is plausible to predict that the tank still has a journey in its great and long history on the battlefield, from the Somme, to the war of the future. Time (and money) will tell what ends up happening.
 Doubts have existed since the very "birth" of the battle tank during the First World War. In each great war scene of the twentieth century that has contributed significant technological innovations (World War I; Spanish Civil War; World War II; Cold War; Gulf ...) it seemed that the tank was going to disappear under new weapons and technologies (first reliability problems, then anti-tank weapons and mines, aviation, RPG's and IED's…) However, armies have learned how to evolve battle tanks in line with the times. Even more valuable, today's tanks are the product of more than 100 years of battles, with many lessons learned and incorporated into its development, not only on a purely material level, but also in tactics and training.
▲ A B-1B Lancer unleashes cluster munitions [USAF]
ESSAY / Ana Salas
The aim of this paper is to study the international contracts on cluster bombs. Before going deeper into this issue, it is important to understand the concept of international contract and cluster bomb. “A contract is a voluntary, deliberate, legally binding, and enforceable agreement creating mutual obligations between two or more parties and a contract is international when it has certain links with more than one State.”
A cluster bomb is a free-fall or directed bomb that can be dropped from land, sea, or air. Cluster bombs contain a device that releases many small bombs when opened. These submunitions can cause different damages, they are used against various targets, including people, armored vehicles, and different types of material. It is an explosive charge designed to burst after that separation, in most cases when impacting the ground. But often large numbers of the submunitions fail to function as designed, and instead land on the ground without exploding, where they remain as very dangerous duds.
The main problem with these types of weapons is that they may cause serious collateral damage such as the death of thousands of civilians. Because of that, the legality of this type of weapon is controversial. Out of concern for the civilians affected by artifacts of this type, the Cluster Bomb Convention was held in Dublin, Ireland in 2008. There, a treaty was signed that prohibited the use of these weapons. Not all countries, though, signed the treaty; major arms producers, such as the United States, Russia and China, are not parties in the convention.
Among other things, the Convention proposed a total ban on cluster munitions, the promotion of the destruction of stocks in a period of 8 years, the cleaning of contaminated areas in 10 years, and assistance to the victims of these weapons.
Convention on Cluster Munitions: geopolitical background
The antecedents of this convention are in the recognition of the damage produced by the multiple attacks that have been carried out with cluster munitions. The International Handicap Organization has produced a report that offers concrete and documented data on the victims of cluster bombs around the world. In Laos, the attacks were designed to prevent enemy convoys make use of dense vegetation to camouflage among the trees. Furthermore, in this way it was not necessary to use ground troops. In Kosovo (1999), the targets were military posts, road vehicles, troop concentrations, armored units, and telecommunications centers. In Iraq cluster bombs have been used several times. During Operation “Desert Storm” in 1991, US forces dropped almost 50,000 bombs with more than 13 million submunitions on Iraq in air operations alone (not taking into account those dropped from the sea or by artillery). Estimates suggest that a third did not explode, and were found on roads, bridges and other civil infrastructure.
Pressure for an international ban on cluster bombs has recently intensified, following Israel's bombardments with these weapons in southern Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Also, in Afghanistan, in 2001 and 2002, during the US offensive, more than 1,200 cluster bombs with almost 250,000 submunitions were dropped against Taliban military bases and positions. These targets were near towns and villages, whose civilian population was affected. UN demining teams estimate that around 40,000 munitions did not explode. These have been the main concern of NGOs. On the one hand, because of the large percentage of civilians who have been affected by the cluster bombs and on the other hand, due to the amount of submunitions that did not explode at the time and that are in the affected areas, being an even greater risk for the security of the civilian population or even for their agriculture in those lands.
Due to the great commotion over the death of thousands of civilians and after several attempts, a convention on such munitions was adopted in Dublin, where more than 100 countries had come together for an international agreement. The Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted on May 30, 2008, in Dublin and signed on December 3-4, 2008 in Oslo, Norway. The Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force on August 1, 2010.
One of the major problems addressed in the Convention was the threat posed by submunitions that do not explode as expected, and which remain in the area as a mortal danger, turning the affected area into a large minefield where the civilian population is the most vulnerable. A study indicates that 20-30% of these bombs do not explode either due to manufacturing defects, or to falls in soft areas or in trees, for example.
Articles 3 and 4 of the Convention are of great importance. Article 3 refers to the stockpile, storage, and destruction of cluster bombs. Here all Parties haves the obligation of making sure to destroy their stored cluster bombs no later than 8 years. Article 4, on the cleaning and destroying of cluster munition remnants and education on risk reduction, is intended to protect possible victims from the danger of bombs that have not exploded. Article 5 reinforces the obligation of the signatory parties to assist the victims of cluster bombs.
After the convention there is a double deal on cluster bombs. Since the destruction of the entire arsenal of these ammunitions and submunitions was approved, the affected companies and the countries involved will have a new challenge in hiring companies that carry out the extinction of these reserves.
The main manufacturers of cluster bombs are the United States, Russia, China, Israel, Pakistan, and India. Approximately 16 states are the largest producers of this ammunition and submunition worldwide, and none of these countries adhered to the convention on cluster munitions. Some of the countries involved are Greece, South Korea, North Korea, Egypt, Iran, Poland, Turkey, Brazil, Singapore, Romania, and Poland. The date on which the cluster munitions were produced is not clear because of the lack of transparency and the data available.
A total of 85 companies have produced, along history, cluster bombs or their essential parts. Many of these companies are headquartered in the United States or Europe, but others are state-owned industries located in developing countries. Cluster munition production involves the manufacturing and integration of a large number of parts, including metal parts, explosives, fuses, and packaging materials. All components are seldom produced by a single company in the same state. This makes difficult to determine the true extent of the international trade in cluster munitions.
International trade on cluster bomb has slackened. As the cluster munition monitor of 2017 states, the US company Textron Systems Corporation, for example, has slowed production of the CBU-105 weapon due to “reduced orders, and claimed that the current political environment has made it difficult to obtain sales approvals from the executive branch.”
Manufactures are also adapting their production to international regulations. Following a study by Pax on “Worlwide Investments in cluster munitions,” Avibras (Brazil), Bharat Dynamics Limited (India), China Aerospace Science and Industry (China) or Hanwha (South Korea) are some of the companies that develop or produce cluster bombs according to the definition given by the Dublin Convention in 2008.
It is important to warn about the existing sensitivity regarding the production of cluster bombs. Undoubtedly, they pose a serious problem from the point of view of civil protection, but many companies engaged in the production and the funders of this kind of weapons have a high interest in keeping them legal.
There are very controversial weapons. Many countries insist on that cluster munitions are legal weapons, that, although not essential, have great military use. Some states believe that submunitions can be accurately targeted to reduce damage to civilians, meaning that military purposes can be isolated in densely populated areas. On the other hand, others believe that the ability of cluster munitions to destroy targets just as effectively throughout the attack area can cause those using them to neglect the target, thus increasing the risk of civilian casualties.
The future of International contracting on cluster bombs
As Jorge Heine defines the "New Diplomacy", it requires the negotiation of a wide range of relationships with the state, NGOs and commercial actors. “As middle powers have demonstrated, through joining forces with NGOs, they have actually succeeded in augmenting their power to project their interests into the international arena.” Cluster munition is an example of this case.
Because of this, parties forming international contracts for the purchase and financing of cluster bombs are forced to change the object of the cluster bomb business. As mentioned earlier, the new business will be the destruction of these weapons, rather than their production. Especially munitions with high submunition failure rates. For this reason, countries such as Argentina, Canada, France, UK, Denmark, Norway, Spain and more have promoted a new business on the destruction of the storage of cluster bombs. As a result, cluster munitions move away from their useful life and have more chances of being destroyed than of being sold for profit.
By financing companies that produce cluster munitions, financial institutions (in many cases states themselves) help these companies to produce the weapon. But to achieve an effective elimination of cluster bombs, more than a convention is needed. The effort requires national legislation that reflects that purpose. Domestic governments must provide clear guidelines by introducing and enforcing legislation that prohibits investment in cluster munitions producers.
As a military tactic, the use of cluster bombs provides a high percentage of success. A good number of states and armies defend that they are effective weapons, sometimes even decisive ones, depending on the circumstances and the context. It is often argued that using another type of weapon to achieve the same objective would require more firepower and use more explosives, and that this would cause even greater collateral damage. At the same time, and to avoid the low reliability of these weapons, some armies have begun to modernize their arsenals and to replace older weapons with more modern and precise versions that incorporate, for example, guidance or self-destruct systems. Their main objective in developing cluster bombs is to compensate for precision failures with more munitions and, on the other hand, to allow a greater number of targets to be hit in less time.
Advances in technology can certainly reduce some of the humanitarian problems generated by the less advanced types of cluster bombs but a good number of military operations are currently peace operations, where the risk generated by these products also becomes a military concern, not just humanitarian. For example, to address the issue of unexploded ordnance, weapons are being developed that have self-destruction or, at least, self-neutralization mechanisms.
There is great uncertainty about how the norms of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) are interpreted and whether they are applied rigorously in the case of cluster munitions, given the lack of precision and reliability of these weapons. The Convention on Cluster Munitions gives hope, but we must consider the different current situations and how they can change. We also have to take into account that this agreement leaves open many possibilities of circumventing what has been signed. For example, guided or self-destructive cluster bombs do not fall under the umbrella of this pact.
Despite the provisions of International Humanitarian Law, existing cluster munitions have caused large numbers of civilian casualties in various conflicts. A better implementation of the IHL, including the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War, will not be able to fully address the problems caused by these weapons. There is a need for specific rules on these munitions as outlined above.
 Renzo Cavalieri and Vincenzo Salvatore, An introduction to international contract law, Torino: Giappichelli, 2018.
 During the years 1964 to 1973, Laos was bombed by the United States. The attacks were intended to cut off North Vietnamese supply lines and support Laotian government forces in their fight against communist rebels.
 CBU-105 is a free fall cluster bomb unit of the United States Air Force.
 Pax is a peace organization with the aim of “bringing peace, reconciliation and justice in the world”.
 Matthew Bolton and Thomas Nash, “The Role of Middle Powe-NGO Coalitions in Global Policy: The Case of the Cluster Munitions Ban”, Global Policy, Vol. 1, No. 2 (May 2010), pp 172-184.
 Some essential component for the operation of the bomb is deactivated.
As the United States considers moving its AFRICOM from Germany, the relocation to US Navy Station Rota in Spain offers some opportunities and benefits
The United States is considering moving its Africa Command (USAFRICOM) to a place closer to Africa and the US base in Rota, Spain, in one of the main alternatives. This change in location would undoubtedly benefit Spain, but especially the United States, we argue. Over the past years, there has been a ‘migration’ of US troops from Europe, particularly stationed in Germany, to their home country or other parts of the hemisphere. In this trend, it has been considered to move AFRICOM from “Kelly Barracks,” in Stuttgart, Germany, to Rota, located in the province of Cádiz, near the Gibraltar Strait.
▲ Entrance to the premises of the US Navy Station Rota [US DoD]
ARTICLE / José Antonio Latorre
The US Africa Command is the military organization committed to further its country’s interests in the African continent. Its main goal is to disrupt and neutralize transnational threats, protect US personnel and facilities, prevent and mitigate conflict, and build defense capability and capacity in order to promote regional stability and prosperity, according to the US Department of Defense. The command currently participates in operations, exercises and security cooperation efforts in 53 African countries, compromising around 7,200 active personnel in the continent. Its core mission is to assist African countries to strengthen defense capabilities that address security threats and reduce threats to US interests, as the command declares. In summary, USAFRICOM “is focused on building partner capacity and develops and conducts its activities to enhance safety, security and stability in Africa. Our strategy entails an effective and efficient application of our allocated resources, and collaboration with other U.S. Government agencies, African partners, international organizations and others in addressing the most pressing security challenges in an important region of the world.” The headquarters are stationed in Stuttgart, Germany, more than 1,500 kilometers away from Africa. The United States has considered to move the command multiple times for logistical and strategic reasons, and it might be the time the government takes the decision.
Bilateral relations between Spain and the United States
When it comes to the possible relocation of AFRICOM, the main competitor is Italy, with its military base in Sigonella. An ally that has been increasingly important to the United States is Morocco, which has offered to accommodate more military facilities as its transatlantic ally continues to provide the North African country with weapons and armament. However, it is important to remember that the United States and Spain cooperate in NATO, fortifying their security and defense relations in the active participation in international missions. Although Italy also belongs to the same organizations, it is important to emphasize the strategic advantages of placing the command in Rota as opposed to in Sigonella: Rota it is a key point which controls the Strait of Gibraltar and contains much of the needed resources for the relocation. Spain combines the fact that it is a European Union and NATO member, while it has territories in Africa and shares key interests in the region due to multiple current and historical reasons. Spain acts as the bridge with Northern Africa in the West. This is an argument that neither Morocco nor Italy can offer.
The relations between Spain and the United States are regulated by the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement and Agreement on Defense Cooperation (1988), following the Military Facilities in Spain: Agreement Between the United States and Spain Pact (1953), enacted to formalize the alliance in common objectives and where Spain permits the United States to use facilities in its territory. There are two US military bases in Spanish territory: US Air Force Base Morón and US Naval Station Rota. Both locations are strategic as they are in the south, essential for their proximity to the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea and, particularly, to Africa. Although it is true that Morocco offers the same strategic advantages as Rota, it is important to take into account the similarities in culture, the Western point of view, the shared strategies in NATO, and the shared democratic and societal values that the Spanish alternative offers. The political stability that Spain can offer as part of the European Union and as a historical ally to the United States is not comparable with Morocco’s.
If a relocation is indeed in the interest of the United States, then Spain is the ideal country for the placement of the command. Since the consideration is on the Naval Station in Rota, then the article will evidently focus on this location.
Rota as the ideal candidate
Rota Naval Station was constructed in 1953 to heal bilateral relations between both countries. It was placed in the most strategic position in Spain, and one of the most in Europe. Naval Station Rota is home to Commander, Naval Activities Spain (COMNAVACT), responsible for US Naval Activities in Spain and Portugal. It reports directly to Commander, Navy Region Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia located in Naples, Italy. There are around 3,000 US citizens in the station, a number expected to increase by approximately 2,000 military personnel and dependents due to the rotation of “Aegis” destroyers.
Currently, the station provides support for NATO and US ships as well as logistical and tactical aid to US Navy and US Air Force units. Rota is key for military operations in the European theatre, but obviously unique to interests in Africa. To emphasize the importance of the facility, the US Department of Defense states: “Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota plays a crucial role in supporting our nation’s objectives and defense, providing unmatched logistical support and strategic presence to all of our military services and allies. NAVSTA Rota supports Naval Forces Europe Africa Central (EURAFCENT), 6th Fleet and Combatant Command priorities by providing airfield and port facilities, security, force protection, logistical support, administrative support and emergency services to all U.S. and NATO forces.” Clearly, Naval Station Rota is a US military base that will be maintained and probably expanded due to its position near Africa, an increasingly important geopolitical continent.
Spain’s candidacy for accommodating USAFRICOM
Why would Spain be the ideal candidate in the scenario that the United States decides to change its USAFRICOM location? Geographically speaking, Spain actually possesses territories in Africa: Ceuta, Melilla, “Plazas de Soberanía,” and Canary Islands. Legally, these territories are fully incorporated as autonomous cities and an autonomous community, respectively.
Secondly, the bilateral relations between Spain and the United States, from the perspective of security and defense, have been very fluid and dynamic, with benefits for both. After the 1953 convention between both Western countries, there have been joint operations co-chaired by the Secretary General of Policy of Defense (SEGENPOL) of the Spanish Ministry of Defense and the Under Secretary General for Defense Policy (USGDP) in the United States Department of Defense. Both offices plan and execute plans of cooperation that include: The Special Operations “Flint Lock” Exercise in Northern Africa, bilateral exercises with paratrooping units, officer exchanges for training missions, etc. It is important to add to this list that Spain and the United States share a special relationship when it comes to officers, because all three branches (Air Force, Army, Navy) have exchange programs in military academies or bases.
Finally, when it comes to Spain, it must be noted that the fluid relationship maintained between both countries has created a very friendly and stable environment, particularly in the area of Defense. Spain is a country of the European Union, a long-time loyal ally to the United States in the fight against terrorism and in the shared goals of strengthening the transatlantic partnership. This impeccable alliance offers stability, mutual confidence and reciprocity in terms of Defense. The United States Africa Command needs a solid “host”, committed to participating in active operations in Africa, and there is no better candidate than Spain. Its historical relationship with the countries in Northern Africa is important to take into account for perspective and information gathering. The Spanish Armed Forces is the most valued institution in society, and it is for sure more than capable of accommodating USAFRICOM to its needs in the South of the country, as it has always done for the United States, however, this remains a fully political decision.
The United States’ position
Rota is an essential strategic point in Europe, and increasingly, in the world. The US base is well known for its support to missions from the US Navy and the US Air Force, and its responsibility only seems to increase. In 2009, the United States sent four destroyers from the Naval Base in Norfolk, Virginia, to Rota, as well as a large force of US Naval Construction units, known as “Seabees” and US Marines. It is also worth noting that NATO has its most important pillar of an antimissile shield in Rota, given the geographical ease and the adequate facilities. From the perspective of infrastructure, on-hand station services, security and stability, Rota is the ideal location of the USAFRICOM compared to Morocco.
Moreover, Rota is, and continues to be, a geographical pinnacle for flights from the United States heading to the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Afghanistan. Most recently, USS Hershel “Woody” Williams arrived in Rota and joined NATO allies in the Grand African Navy Exercise for Maritime Operations (NEMO) that took place in the Gulf of Guinea in the beginning of October of 2020. In terms of logistics, Rota is more than equipped to host a headquarters of the magnitude of USAFRICOM and it would be economically efficient to relocate the personnel and their families as the station counts with a US Naval Clinic, schools, a commissary, a Navy Exchange, and other services.
The United States has not made a formal proposition to transfer Africa Command to Rota, but if there is a change of location, it is one of the main candidates. As Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs González Laya stated, the possible transfer of USAFRICOM to Rota is a decision that corresponds only to the United States, but Spain remains fully committed with its transatlantic ally. González Laya emphasized that “Spain has a great commitment to the United States in terms of security and defense, and it has been demonstrated for many years from Rota and Morón.” The minister reminded that Spain maintains complicity and joint work in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel with an active participation in European and international operations in terms of training local armies to secure order. A perfect example of the commitment is Spain’s presidency of the Sahel Alliance, working for a secure Sahel under the pillars of peace and development.
In 2007, when USAFRICOM was established, it could have been reasonable to install the headquarters in Germany, but now geographical proximity is key, and what better country for hosting the command than Spain, which has territories in the continent. The United States already has a fully equipped military base in Rota, and it can count on Spain to guarantee a smooth transition. Spain’s active participation in missions, her alliance with the United States and her historic and political ties with Africa are essential reasons to heavily consider Rota as the future location of USAFRICOM. Spain has been, and will continue to be, a reliable ally in the war against terrorism and the fight for peace and security. Spain is a country that believes in democracy, freedom and justice, like the United States. It is a country that has sacrificed soldiers in the face of freedom and has stood shoulder to shoulder with its transatlantic friend in the most difficult of moments. As a Western country, both countries have been able to work together and achieve many common objectives, and this will only evolve. As the interests in Africa expand, it is undoubtedly important to choose the best military facility to accommodate the command’s military infrastructure as well as its personnel and their families. The United States, in benefit of its strategic objectives, would be making a very effective decision if it decides to move the Africa Command to Rota, Spain.
La reactivación de la guerra en la excolonia deja a Madrid con poco margen de maniobra por la ola migratoria que llega al archipiélago canario.
La reactivación de la guerra en la excolonia deja a Madrid con poco margen de maniobra por la ola migratoria que llega al archipiélago canario
España no ha tenido nunca un fácil papel en el conflicto del Sáhara Occidental. Su salida de ese territorio norafricano se produjo en un contexto de prisa descolonizadora por parte de una ONU que luego ha preferido tomarse tiempo en el proceso. España se ha visto atascada entre la defensa de los derechos de los saharauis y la conveniencia de no perjudicar la complicada vecindad con Marruecos. Ahora que el Frente Polisario ha reabierto la guerra, con el fin de que algo se mueva internacionalmente en torno al conflicto, España se ve atada por crisis de la llegada de migrantes a Canarias, archipiélago situado frente a la línea divisoria de Marruecos y el Sáhara Occidental. He aquí un resumen de los últimos acontecimientos en la cuestión saharaui.
ARTÍCULO / Irene Rodríguez Caudet
El Frente Polisario ha declarado la guerra a Marruecos después de 29 años de paz. Esta organización, creada fundamentalmente para defender la independencia del Sáhara Occidental frente a España, representa una parte importante de la población saharaui que busca la autodeterminación de su pueblo.
El reino alauita, por su parte, reclama la soberanía sobre los territorios. Emprendió medidas que detonaron el reciente conflicto en el paso fronterizo de Guerguerat, donde unos manifestantes cortaron la carretera que une el Sáhara Occidental con Marruecos. Los militares marroquíes dispararon contra los asistentes a la concentración el 13 de noviembre y el Frente Polisario declaró el estado de guerra.
El Sáhara Occidental es un territorio en estado de descolonización desde 1960 bajo los auspicios de la ONU como parte de los procesos llevados a cabo durante la segunda mitad del siglo XX para poner fin a los imperios coloniales europeos. Este proceso prosiguió hasta 1975, año de la Marcha Verde, en la cual un ejército de 350.000 civiles marroquíes se adentró hacia la antigua colonia para reclamarla como suya, al lado de Mauritania. En ese momento, el Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro (Frente Polisario), dio inicio a una guerra de guerrillas que no encontraría un alto al fuego hasta 1991.
A pesar de los esfuerzos de Marruecos por poseer la antigua colonia española, los saharauis tienen proclamada su propia república desde 1976, la República Árabe Saharaui Democrática (también conocida bajo el acrónimo RASD), reconocida por varios estados —en total 84, aunque más de la mitad de ellos han cancelado, congelado o suspendido el reconocimiento dada la violación de sus obligaciones internacionales— y presidida por Brahim Gali.
Desde que España abandonó el territorio, la ONU ha dictado varias resoluciones que exigen la celebración de un referéndum de autodeterminación que marque el futuro del Sáhara Occidental como país independiente o proponga otras alternativas.
En este conflicto, las diferentes partes involucradas siguen distintas estrategias. Marruecos, por su lado, tiene la intención de prolongar el conflicto para poder consolidar su poder en territorio saharaui. No contempla la independencia de la excolonia española, sino que promueve planes de autonomía limitada en un proyecto de Acuerdo Marco conocido como la “tercera vía” para lo que considera sus provincias meridionales. Además, ocupa estas provincias militarmente, mediante pasos fronterizos, seis bases militares y con más de la mitad del territorio saharaui bajo su control.
Frustrado por la posición inmovilista de las Naciones Unidas, el Frente Polisario siempre ha contado con la amenaza de retomar el conflicto armado. La RASD solo consta de unos pocos territorios que estén completamente supervisados por ella —aproximadamente una cuarta parte del Sáhara Occidental— y ha obtenido menos reconocimiento mundial que el Frente Polisario como organización, al que la ONU admite como representante del pueblo saharaui.
La falta de nuevas propuestas más imaginativas procedentes de la ONU, junto con la actitud de las partes involucradas, en particular de la marroquí, han imposibilitado el avance hacia una solución satisfactoria del conflicto. La falta de progreso, sin embargo, no obedece únicamente a estas razones. También es necesario tener en cuenta los refugiados saharauis radicados en Tinduf, Algeria. Es la crisis humanitaria más larga de la historia, que lleva 45 años prolongándose y afecta a 173.600 refugiados, de los cuales muchos no han conocido otra vida.
La estrategia violenta, que imperó durante más de quince años, se dejó de lado en 1991 para mantener un alto el fuego y para pasar a tácticas de negociación que no están siendo muy fructíferas. Pese a los intentos de acuerdos pacíficos, a mediados de noviembre de este año, el Frente Polisario decretó el estado de guerra, poniendo fin a una paz que se mantuvo durante casi 20 años.
Marruecos reclama los territorios saharauis como suyos y llega al punto de incluirlos sin tapujos como parte de Marruecos en los mapas oficiales del Reino más recientes, semejantes a los de inicios del siglo XX, momento en el cual el país magrebí tenía el control sobre el Sáhara. Por esa razón, después de la colonización española y la posterior descolonización, Marruecos reclama la excolonia. Según expresan constantemente sus autoridades, las llamadas “provincias saharauis” siempre han estado bajo su soberanía.
El conflicto no solo enfrenta a Rabat con El Aaiún, sino que también involucra a las partes que apoyan a unos líderes o a otros. Por un lado, están los países árabes —Jordania, Arabia Saudí, Qatar, Emiratos Árabes Unidos o Kuwait— que apoyan a Marruecos, y por otra parte una nación, que a pesar de tener un deseo muy expreso de ejercer su propia soberanía y reclamar la legitimidad de la RASD, cuenta con pocos o ningún apoyo internacional.
En 2021, la MINURSO, la misión desplegada por la ONU para garantizar la paz y la celebración del referéndum de autodeterminación, cumplirá 30 años desde que empezó su despliegue; a día de hoy cuenta con 240 observadores, pero no ha visto coronado su objetivo. Los saharauis defienden que la tarea de la ONU no ha sido efectiva en ningún aspecto y que únicamente ha permitido el expolio marroquí de los recursos naturales del Sáhara. Tampoco se ha observado ningún avance respecto al referéndum de autodeterminación, y la falta de acción ha llevado al levantamiento del alto el fuego por parte del gobierno saharaui. El Frente Polisario ha optado ahora por emprender estas medidas dado que cada vez se hace más evidente la falta de avances de la misión de la ONU.
El país de Mohammed VI ha enviado efectivos para apaciguar las manifestaciones en las principales ciudades saharauis y en las vías de comunicación que conectan Marruecos con Sáhara Occidental. Mientras tanto, su contraparte asegura haber causado pérdidas materiales y humanas en las bases militares marroquíes situadas en territorio saharaui. Marruecos no reconoce ninguna de estas alegaciones, pero se defiende con uso de fuego frente a la amenaza del Frente Polisario.
Entre tanto, Dajla, la segunda ciudad más poblada del Sáhara Occidental, está sirviendo de corredor para pateras y cayucos, que en los últimos días llegan en multitud al puerto de Arguineguín, en Gran Canaria. Este hecho causa que Marruecos y España estén todavía más pendientes de la situación en el Sáhara y que tengan que afrontar este problema de forma conjunta, algo complicado debido a las históricas confrontaciones entre los dos países por el conflicto saharaui. Sin embargo, mientras unos están de paso, yéndose, otros vuelven a su tierra nativa: el Frente Polisario ha hecho un llamamiento a todos los saharauis que viven en territorio nacional y extranjero para unirse a la lucha.
La situación del Sáhara Occidental queda pendiente de nuevos desarrollos en el conflicto y de las decisiones que adopte Marruecos. Mientras hay posiciones internacionales que siguen reclamando la celebración de un referéndum de autoterminación, el statu quo acabar influyendo en la ONU para la aceptación de la propuesta de autonomía hecha por Marruecos. El gobierno español ha evitado pronunciarse a favor del plebiscito, aunque en esto hay división entre el PSOE y Podemos, formación que urge a la celebración de la consulta. Aunque la crisis migratoria de Canarias obedece a dinámicas más complejas, la sospecha de que Marruecos ha permitido la llegada de más refugiados en momentos decisivos del reabierto conflicto del Sáhara obliga a España a una actitud de cautela.