For Oman, It’s the End of an Era

The country’s reputation as a neutral and independent nation may be coming to an end.

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When Qaboos bin Said declared himself sultan of Oman in 1970, he strove to modernize the country and disentangle it from the Middle East’s political and religious problems. Under Qaboos, Oman established itself as a mediator for regional disputes and gateway for backchannel diplomacy. It advocated moderation, refrained from intervention in neighboring countries’ domestic affairs, and built relations with nations around the world. In January, Qaboos passed away after 50 years in power. Prior to his death, Qaboos, who did not have children, handpicked his cousin, Haitham bin Tariq, to succeed him. But the new ruler’s ascendancy has coincided with profound changes in the geopolitical environment in which Oman now finds itself, challenging his ability to maintain the country’s unique role as a modernizing force in the Arab region. Oman’s Evolution Historically, Oman has had little interest in the Arab region, at least in part because the Islamic sect that dominates the country, Ibadism, is uncommon in other parts of the region. Ibadism emerged after the Battle of Siffin was fought between two rival caliphs in 657. The sect’s adherents opposed the two factions and called themselves “the people of straightness.” They sheltered in Oman, where they established their imamate […]

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Hilal Khashan
Hilal Khashan is a Professor of political science at the American University of Beirut. He is a respected author and analyst of Middle Eastern affairs. He is the author of six books, including Hizbullah: A Mission to Nowhere. (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2019.) He is currently writing a book titled Saudi Arabia: The Dilemma of Political Reform and the Illusion of Economic Development. He is also the author of more than 110 articles that appeared in journals such as Orbis, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, The Brown Journal of World Affairs, Middle East Quarterly, Third World Quarterly, Israel Affairs, Journal of Religion and Society, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, and The British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies.