Oman’s $3 Billion Railroad Plan to Blunt Iran Oil Risk: Freight

Oman, which faces Iran across the Strait of Hormuz, said it’s poised to start raising cash for a $3 billion rail line offering an alternative route for oil and freight shipments that funnel through the 21 mile-wide channel.

The nation of 3.3 million people, located on the southern side of the strait, is considering issuing bonds by the end of 2014 to kick-start funding for the track across some of the Arabian peninsula’s harshest terrain, Abdulrahman Al Hatmi, a director at Oman National Railway Co., said in an interview. Continue reading

Massive US Military Buildup on Two Strategic Islands: Socotra and Masirah

While quietly casting lines to draw Tehran into talks on their nuclear dispute, President Barack Obama is reported exclusively by DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military and Washington sources to have secretly ordered US air, naval and marine forces to build up heavy concentrations on two strategic islands – Socotra, which is part of a Yemeni archipelago in the Indian Ocean, and the Omani island of Masirah at the southern exit of the Strait of Hormuz.

Socotra is situated 80 kilometers east of the Horn of Africa and 380 kilometers southeast of the Yemeni coastline. It lies athwart the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. A military base there is in a position to oversee the shipping moving in and out of those strategic naval waterways.

Lushly verdant, Socotra is approximately 120 kilometers long by 40 kilometers wide. Its population of 55,000 has its own distinct language and culture. Since 2010, the US has been quietly building giant air force and naval bases on Socotra with facilities for submarines, intelligence command centers and take-off pads for flying stealth drones, as part of a linked chain of strategic US military facilities in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf.

The Socotra facilities are so secret that they are never mentioned in any catalogue listing US military facilities in this part of the world, which include Jebel Ali and Al Dahfra in the United Arab Emirates; Arifjan in Kuwait; and Al Udeid in Qatar – all within short flying distances from Iran.

Additional US forces are also being poured into Camp Justice on the barren, 70-kilometer long Omani island of Masirah, just south of the Hormuz entry point to the Gulf of Oman from the Arabian Sea.

US military facilities were established there after the signing of an access agreement with Oman in 1980.

Up to 100,000 US troops present by early March

For the new buildup on Socotra, Washington had to negotiate a new deal with Yemen’s ousted ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Injured in an assassination attempt last year, Saleh demanded permission to travel to the United States for medical treatment. The Obama administration first refused, then relented when Saleh made it his condition for consenting to additional troops landing on the island.

Continue reading article: Massive US Military Buildup on Two Strategic Islands: Socotra and Masirah (DEBKAfile / War Sclerotic re-blog)