Sunday, November 21, 2010
Yes, talk of the town is the case of the Duqm spy ring.
It seems around 15 (or 17 or 19 or...) Omani nationals were busted a couple of weeks ago, apparently for operating as spies for the Abu Dhabi crown price's outfit.
Well, Oman's Government, led by the Ministry of Finance, is investing heavily in a new industrial mega-port complex in Duqm, a previously sleepy coastal town in the middle of nowhere between Muscat and Salalah.
This is also where the technocrats wanted to put a huge coal fired power station (there is no coal in Oman to speak of, BTW). The Omanis have (cunningly) secured the partnership of the port of Antwerp, a really really big mega-port in Belgium, who will be able to bring a whole heap of expetise in the port business to Oman.
As part of that complex, the obvious play for Oman was to add a 'free trade port facility', where goods can be shipped in and out without significant duty or paperwork. The goods can be processed too, and 'value added'. It seems the Abu Dhabi crowd were concerned that the strategic location of the port* would impact the outlook for the UAE's planed free trade zone in Abu Dhabi, and indeed were concerned about the impact on the existing Jebal Ali Free Trade port in Dubai [note: now also effectively owned by Abu Dhabi, post Dubai-meltdown].
So it seems the foreign intelligence arm of the Abu Dhabi Royal family had managed to bribe several Omanis to betray their country and provide intel on the goings on in Duqm. They got caught, in a pretty impressive victory for Omani intelligence.
It's not in the papers.
Why all the talk about such a secret situation, you may ask. The word is the UAE, as a demonstration of their petulance, have blockaded all pork shipments from the UAE to Oman. This is why there is a drastic shortage of nice American and other land imported pork product in Oman right now.
Did you notice? No pork folks. The Oscar Myer ship is not trapped at sea, but her cargo is apparently stuck at the border. A Bacon blockade. Swine sanctions.
Porcine Petulance, if you will. Why retaliate with a bacon ban? I have no idea. The UAE has always been insane, so, why not? Maybe it's difficult for Oman to complain about it?
Despite this side effect, Well done ISS.
*The Duqm port is on the Indian Ocean, close to all major E African/Indian trade routes, and OUTSIDE the straights of Hormuz and the confines of Gulf. A free trade zone would attract Indian, Pakistani, and most critically Iranian business, aided and abetted by the Chinese and the Koreans. Closer to the rest of the world, safer and cheaper wrt fuel and labour, this could have a serious impact on the UAE ports.