On Friday, Oman’s monarch, Sultan Qaboos bin Said died after having ruled the country for nearly five decades. Various news reports suggest that Qaboos had been suffering from colon cancer since 2014.
Oman’s Diwan of the Royal Court issued an obituary on Saturday (January 11) announcing a three-day period of mourning. “…the Diwan of Royal Court mourns His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, who passed away on Friday, the 14th of Jumada Al-Ula, the 10th of January 2020, after establishing a comprehensive renaissance over the past 50 years since he assumed power on the 23rd of July 1970,” the statement said.
Qaboos, who did not have children will be succeeded by his cousin and Oman’s Minister of Heritage and Culture Sultan Haitham bin Tariq bin Taymur.
Who was Sultan Qaboos?
Qaboos was born on November 18, 1940, in Salalah, which is the capital of Oman’s southern province of Dhofar, where he spent his childhood. At the time the state was known as Oman and Muscat.
In 1960, Qaboos joined the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, England, while he was completing his studies in England. He returned to Oman in 1964 and, following a bloodless coup in the year 1970, overthrew his father Sultan Said bin Taimur and took over the throne with the backing of the British.
The statement issued by the Diwan of Royal Court said that it was Qaboos’ “renaissance”, which resulted in a “balanced foreign policy that was saluted with respect by the whole world.”
Oman under Qaboos
In July 1970, when Qaboos ascended the throne, he changed the name of the state to Oman, with Muscat as the capital.
He has been credited with shaping modern-day Oman through the implementation of development projects such as the construction of roads, hospitals, and schools that collectively improved the people’s standard of living.
Qaboos also worked towards expanding the country’s economic base, so it wouldn’t have to depend on oil as its main source of revenue.
He also played a role in ending the civil conflict in Dhofar in December 1975, and brought Oman closer to the rest of the world by following a foreign policy based on the principles of peaceful coexistence, cooperation, and reciprocity.
In 1996, he introduced the country’s first written Constitution called the “Basic Statutes of the States”, as per which rights were guaranteed to citizens in line with Quranic and customary laws. Since then the constitution has been amended only once — in 2011.
Even so, Qaboos was an absolute monarch, which meant that any criticism of his government was rarely tolerated.
After the death
Oman is one of the six countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The other members include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and Bahrain.
Typically, Oman has played the role of a mediator in regional conflicts, and tends to stay away from GCC members’ military interventions.
The country joined the US-led coalition against the Islamic State, but did not send its forces in support; neither did it support those groups that were fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s regime, thereby maintaining ties with Syria.
In June 2017, Oman opposed the Saudi- and UAE-led isolation of Qatar, and did not join the Saudi-led “counterterrorism coalition” until late 2016.
Significantly, under Qaboos, due to Oman’s ties with Iran, it was able to broker some agreements between the US and Iran. In fact, Oman had a significant role to play in the US-Iran direct talks that ultimately led to the 2015 nuclear accord or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
It remains to be seen how, in the context escalating tensions between the US and Iran, the relationship between Muscat and Washington plays out under Taymur.
Don’t miss from Explained | In accidental Iranian downing of Ukrainian plane, shades of a US mistake 30 years ago