A mysterious air base is currently being constructed on a strategically-located island off Yemen and which lies in the Bab El-Mandeb Strait, one of the busiest maritime chokepoints, crucial for commercial and energy shipments.
Earlier this year satellite imagery revealed that construction had started on a new runway on the volcanic island.
The Mayun Island, (also known as Perim Island) is currently not claimed by any country, although previous attempts at building a massive runway on the island are associated with the UAE.
According to officials in the internationally-recognised Yemeni government, the UAE is also behind the latest development on the island. The Socotra Post reported that two members of the House of Representatives addressed Prime Minister Moeen Abdulmalik about the air base.
Despite the UAE’s withdrawal in 2019 from the southern port city of Aden on Yemen’s mainland, it has steadily been increasing and consolidating its influence elsewhere in the southern provinces, including on the island of Socotra.
Last year it was reported that the UAE is keen on establishing a spy base on Socotra in coordination with Israel, with which it normalised relations that same year. Israel also has an expressed interest in Bab El-Mandeb, dating back to the 1973 War whereby the Egyptian military blockaded the straits and the Red Sea to Israeli shipping.
Middle East Editor at the open-source intelligence company Janes, Jeremy Binnie, was quoted by AP as stating: “This does seem to be a longer-term strategic aim to establish a relatively permanent presence.”
It is “possibly not just about the Yemen war and you’ve got to see the shipping situation as fairly key there”, he added.