Dr Hani Albasoos –
The pursuit of national interests and the promotion of international relations depends on the foreign policy of the state, which is the primary tool through which the Sultanate of Oman can achieve its interests and enhance its relations. Oman reflects a wonderful example in embodying the spirit of cooperation and good relations, and it represents an oasis of calm and tranquility, while conflicts prevail in many regions of the world. It seems that the Omani policy does not differ from the characteristics of its people, as the Omani reconciliation, the positive image, and the state of calm and tranquility.
Oman’s foreign policy has shown a steady and continuous trend, unlike many countries in the Middle East, as the charismatic character and wisdom of the late Sultan Qaboos had the most significant impact on this direction. The uniqueness of the Sultanate of Oman and its philosophy of positive neutrality is based on pragmatism, tolerance, and peace-building. Such a policy led to a state of balance and harmony with neighbouring countries.
At the beginning of Omani Renaissance in the year 1970, the late HM Sultan Qaboos managed to protect the country from regional conflicts and never participated in crises and disputes except through diplomatic means, negotiation or cooperation, which provided an appropriate environment for producing an internal development led by the Sultan. The Sultanate of Oman has become a safe country to host peace operations in the region. It has led direct talks between Iran and the United States on the nuclear file in 2015, as the Sultanate sponsored secret negotiations between the United States and Iran since 2011.
The Sultanate also succeeded in concluding some security and commercial cooperation agreements that link it with Iran, as Oman benefits from the oil supply trade that passes through the Strait of Hormuz, which it shares with Iran. Besides, the Sultanate contributed positively to many issues of the region. During the Iraq war and Iran in the 1980s, Oman remained neutral and refused to use its lands to bomb Iran. In another position that demonstrates the objectivity and neutrality of Oman’s foreign policy, the Sultanate announced its refusal to establish a Gulf Alliance in place of the Cooperation Council. It threatened to withdraw from the Council if it turned into a union. In this, the Sultanate considered that this position is a continuation of its foreign policy, known as permanent neutrality and that such a union undermines the Sultanate’s relationship with Iran. Oman’s opposition to raising the level of Gulf Cooperation to a union came in the words of Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdallah in 2013 in the Manama Dialogue in Bahrain, where he said: “We are against a union.”
Oman’s diplomatic process depends on a balance of interests, ward off corruption and disputes, and the pursuit of mutual benefits. Depending on the pragmatic thought of the late HM Sultan Qaboos, Oman managed to win allies without enemies.
HM Sultan Qaboos played the most significant role in achieving a policy of balance and non-alignment and achieved economic development in what is known as the Omani Renaissance. This is how the Sultanate, led by the late Sultan, moved away from political rivalries and conflicts that might adversely affect development. Thus, Oman’s foreign policy was formed in accordance with the ability of the Sultan to establish a rhythm of diplomacy that seeks to establish friendly relations with other countries, non-interference in the internal affairs of others, and respect for international laws, charters, and norms.
HM Sultan Qaboos was considered the critical factor for the success of Oman’s foreign policy, as his vision of internal and international relations of the Sultanate were the key to building the modern state. The late Sultan succeeded in removing the isolation and restrictions imposed on the Sultanate and establishing diplomatic relations with many countries of the world. The success of Omani diplomacy is due to the Sultan’s policy and pragmatic directives, where he assesses matters based on reality, balance, wisdom, consideration, looking at political consequences, and adopting the principle of awareness and rationality. Therefore, the late Sultan Qaboos had good relations with the Gulf states, Iran, and the United States. He did not take extreme positions with one country against another but adopted a neutral policy as a formula to win the support of all nations within his plan to protect the Sultanate in the long run.
And unlike other GCC countries, he managed to build a good relationship with Iran, and this did not affect the Sultanate’s relationship with the United States. Still, Oman succeeded in being a channel of communication and a stage for US-Iranian negotiations, which resulted in the Iranian nuclear agreement in 2015.
The author teaches
international politics at SQU.