The 79 years old Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said who is considered to be one of the longest rulers in the Middle East region died on Friday, January 10, 2020. Following the news of Qaboos’ death, several leaders across the globe including the former US president, George W. Bush hailed the Sultan for his shrewd political stand in the conflict-torn region and helped in political negotiation between countries.
Sultan Qaboos’ Diplomacy in the Middle-East
Qaboos, a fourteenth-generation descendant of the founder of the House of Al Said, had been ruling Oman for five decades. With the help of the former colonial power, Britain, he took over the regime of the country after a bloodless coup in 1970. Since then, he maintained the ‘neutrality’ position of the country in the affairs of the Middle East. Simon Henderson, director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, referred, “Oman’s diplomatic centrality has been a factor of Qaboos’ personality.”
According to Reuters, “Oman has long been to the Middle East what neutral Switzerland is to global diplomacy, balancing ties between two vast neighbors locked in a regional struggle, Saudi Arabia to the west and Iran to the north.” During Qaboos rule in Oman, Muscat maintained its neutrality in a Gulf conflict when Saudi Arabia and its allies boycotted on Qatar in mid-2017. Moreover, Qaboos Government refrained from taking part in either side when a Riyadh-led military coalition intervened in Yemen against the Iran-supported Houthi Movement.
One of the remarkable moments of his regime was his initiatives and efforts to bring a closer tie between the US and Iran in 2013 which ultimately led to the formation of an international nuclear agreement between Washington and Tehran two years later. However, the US withdrew from the nuclear pact in 2018 and subsequently by Iran in 2019. Simon Henderson stated, “It is hard to see how Oman can involve itself in the Yemen, Iran and Qatar issues until a new leader has established himself – which means for the foreseeable future.”
Haitham, Cousin of Qaboos is the Successor
A state media published the news that Qaboos’ cousin, Haitham bin Tariq al-Said was named his successor after the death of the former Sultan. As per Reuters, “Oman declared three days of official mourning with flags to be flown at half-mast for 40 days for the Western-backed Qaboos.”
Reuters briefly described, “State television broadcast images of the funeral procession driving down a road lined with palm trees. The casket, draped in the Omani flag, was then carried into Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in the capital Muscat, where prayers were being held.” Despite the cause of death is not yet known, it was reported that Qaboos had been unwell for years and spent in Belgium for treatment about a week in the last month.
Kristian Coates Ulrichsen of Texas-based Rice University’s Baker Institute told Reuters, “A smooth succession was expected.” According to the country’s 1996 statute, the ruling family had to choose a successor within three days after leaving the throne. However, Qaboos did not announce a successor and had no children.
Following the country’s high military council urging the ruling family to start choosing the leader’s replacement, Haitham bin Tariq was appointed the Sultan of Oman on Saturday, January 11, 2020. In 2013, Haitham was appointed by Qaboos for the chairman of the committee for Oman’s development and had served as the minister of national heritage and culture. Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum posted in Twitter describing Qaboos as “the sultan of honor, affection, and wisdom.”
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