Dozens of American cargo planes have reached the U.S. bases in Rota and Morón, Spain and the one in Aviano, Italy. It is the largest military deployment at these bases since the 2003 Iraq War.
The almost 30,000 inhabitants of the small town of Rota, in southern Spain, have been surprised by the intense increase in American military air traffic over the last few days. The United States operates a naval base, which services several different types of American naval vessels, out of Rota, and it maintains an airbase one hundred kilometers away in Morón de la Frontera which caters to to the C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft. The US destroyers deployed from Rota are part of the NATO missile shield used to defend itself in the event of an attack by Iran, something that seems closer than ever after the latest events in the region. Aviano’s military base in Italy has also registered a dramatic increase in air traffic.
The increase in traffic in Rota and Morón were detected at the same time that the Pentagon confirmed the death of Qasem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force of Iran, in a concerted U.S. strike. Almost immediately, Iran vowed revenge. The U.S. Department of Defense accused Soleimani of “developing plans to attack U.S. diplomats and service members throughout the region.” (RELATED: Iraqis Celebrate In Streets, Praise Trump After Soleimani Death)
Spanish sources at the bases of Rota and Morón have reported the arrival of military cargo planes and refueling planes at the base. Specifically, the sources reported the arrival on Friday, January 3 of at least three C-5M and one C-17A transport aircraft in addition to a KC-10A tanker aircraft.
In military terms, the deployment of U.S. resources that is taking place in Spain is extraordinary and would seem to signal the beginning of intensified military operations in the Middle East. The Lockheed C-5 Galaxy is one of the largest aircraft ever built, and it can carry up to 135 tons of cargo from Dover base in Delaware to Incirlik in Turkey without refueling. In addition, the C-5M can carry up to 36 standard pallets and 81 soldiers at the same time, two M1 Abrams battle tanks, up to six AH-64 Apache attack helicopters or up to 15 HMMWV military vehicles. Additionally, the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, stationed at Aviano, was ordered to be ready for deployment to protect the U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, accoridng to ABC News.
Other U.S. military bases such as Aviano are also reporting the arrival of dozens of planes to deal with the escalating tension with Iran. What is happening in several U.S. bases in Europe has not been seen since the 2003 war in Iraq. Along with the arrival of transport aircraft, which register on commercial radars, the United States is also deploying assets that leave no signal on commercial radars. In fact, in Rota and Morón, the arrival and transit of combat aircraft used by special forces has also been detected recently.
The U.S. asked to increase its presence in Rota in December
Just a few weeks before the crisis, in mid-December, the United States unofficially communicated its intention to negotiate a 50% increase in its current presence in Rota with Spain. The plan would include the deployment of two destroyers and 600 more sailors at the base. Spain’s new government, formed by a complex alliance of left and extreme left parties with the socialist Pedro Sánchez at the head, could consider the plan this week. However, the new socialist government is likely to oppose the U.S. proposal. Moreover, the future Vice President Pablo Iglesias is in favor of closing the Rota and Morón bases.
During the recent negotiations, the assignments of the socialist leader Pedro Sánchez to the communists, to the Catalan secessionists, to the Basque independentistas, to the heirs of ETA and to the different nationalist groups have made possible a government agreement more difficult, and it will resituate Spain on the international political scene.
The main ally of the new government of Pedro Sánchez is Podemos, the far-left party led by Pablo Iglesias and financed, among others, by Chavez’s Venezuela and Iran. Iglesias is unlikely to remain indifferent to American use of the Spanish bases for a confrontation with Iran. Spanish police have been investigating in recent years the possible financing of Podemos and their leaders through Iranian media. Pablo Iglesias and other leaders of his party became popular thanks to his television programs on the Iranian public channel HispanTV, dedicated since 2011 to provide information and entertainment in Spanish. (RELATED: Ex-CIA Deputy Director Predicts Iran Will Kill Senior American Official As Retaliation For Soleimani Death)
Spain’s position in the fledgling conflict between Iran and the United States will result in the first major conflict between socialists — who are slightly more moderate in terms of relations with the United States — and communist radicals in Spain’s new, fragile coalition government.
Itxu Díaz is a Spanish journalist, political satirist and author. He has written nine books on topics as diverse as politics, music, or smart appliances. He is a contributor to The Daily Beast, The Federalist, and Diario Las Américas, in the United States, and columnist several Spanish magazines and newspapers. He was also an advisor to the Ministry for Education, Culture and Sports in Spain.
Follow him on Twitter at @itxudiaz or visit his website www.itxudiaz.com