by Yannis Ioannou
In an article published last Wednesday on the British website DeclassifiedUK, there is talk of broadening US presence - on a permanent basis - in the areas of the Sovereign British Bases (SBA) in Akrotiri. According to sources in the British Ministry of Defence, the $27 million expansion work will accommodate facilities for up to 129 US Air Force (USAF) personnel with a 2024 horizon. The news, which has not been confirmed by reliable sources in the British Ministry of Defense (ed. the site refers to a debate in the British parliament last May where a British MP said that he could not disclose the number of US soldiers within the British bases in Cyprus), captures the long-running debate, which dates back to the Cold War, about whether the US armed forces are using Cyprus through the British bases by also mentioning the activation of the Cyprus Defense Forces. Those who are familiar with USAF action in Europe and the Middle East view the latter as "spying," deploying both current high-altitude drones of the "Global Hawk" type and renowned U-2 aircraft in intelligence-collecting missions.Google Earth photo published by DeclassifiedUK of Akrotiri base. According to the publication, the area expansion of the base for American use concerns an area of 6,070 square meters with a 147-room building that will host, until 2024, 129 members of the American Air Force.
The big picture
Although the British website frames the debate in terms of whether or not Americans are using British territory on Cyprus for bombing missions in the Middle East, the reality is that Cyprus served as a significant hub for Western intelligence gathering throughout the Cold War, with London and Washington putting their close strategic cooperation into action. In addition, areas of Cyprus have been and are being used for ELINT (Electronic Intelligence), MASINT (Measurement & Signature Intelligence) and COMINT (Communications Intelligence) missions for the Eastern Mediterranean and MENA regions. Following 2013 and the emergence of the Islamic State, the international war on terror and the international coalition's Operation Inherent Resolve (2014-present) against ISIS brought Cyprus back to the forefront of international efforts by emphasizing its geographical location and putting British bases at the forefront of Western operational planning. And, of course, there will be disagreement about America's position there.
[This article was translated from its Greek original]