By Staff Writer
The United States agreed on Sunday to a strategic port deal with Oman that will give the US military better access to the Gulf region and reduce the need to send ships through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow stretch of water just off the coast of Iran, according to US officials.
The US embassy in Oman issued a statement that confirmed the deal and said that it gave the US access to facilities and ports in Duqm and Salalah, which “reaffirms the commitment of both countries to promoting mutual security goals”.
Oman had agreed to this because they want to develop Duqm, formerly just a fishing village, into a key Middle East industrial and port centre as it diversifies its economy beyond oil and gas exports while remaining neutral in Middle Eastern politics and diplomacy. The US is increasingly concerned about Iran’s expanding ballistic and nuclear missile programs, which have become more advanced in recent years despite US sanctions and diplomatic pressure.
One US official, who did not wish to have their name published, said that this deal improved access to ports that connect to a network of roads that stretch across the Middle East, which is significant because it gives the US military great resiliency in a crisis.
The US official continued: “We used to operate on the assumption that we could just steam into the Gulf, [but] the quality and quantity of Iranian weapons raise concerns.”
Following the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal agreement in May last year and the subsequent reimposement of US sanctions on Iranian oil, the Iranian Regime threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20% of global oil supply passes. Of course, it is worth noting that the Iranian Regime has threatened to do this multiple times in the past and has never actually achieved it.
The US official said that this agreement would expand US military options in the region for any kind of crisis, with a second official, who also wished to remain anonymous, confirming that Duqm is an ideal port for large ships because it’s even big enough to turn around an aircraft carrier. The US Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain in the Persian Gulf.
The second official, who noted that these negotiations began under the Obama administration, said: “The port itself is very attractive and the geostrategic location is very attractive, again being outside the Strait of Hormuz.”