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Oman: Balancing Interests & Principles

June 27, 2019

Oman: Balancing Interests & Principles

 

The Omani foreign minister, Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, met in Tehran with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in May, stating that “There is a danger that a war breaks out, hurting the whole world … Both parties, the American and the Iranian, are aware of the danger,” in an interview with an Arabic publication.While aware of the heightened security risks in the GCC region and strait of Hormuz, Oman remained steady in its approach to diplomacy and efforts to reduce tensions between Iran and the US. Despite being a US ally in the region for decades, Oman is steadfast on the principle that war on Iran is not the answer.

The Trump administration cited new intelligence that Iran or its proxies were preparing to attack US troops in Iraq and Syria and had used drones against Americans in an important waterway in Yemen. Four oil tankers (two belonging to Saudi Arabia, one to Norway and the fourth one to the United Arab Emirates) were damaged in attacks off the shores of Fujairah/UAE. Later more attacks on oil tankers were perpetrated in the strait of Hormuz, a crucial waterway through which a significant amount (approx. 25%) of world’s oil  production flows. American officials cast the blame on Iran for the damage suffered by the tankers, yet regional countries including UAE stated that no final conclusion may be drown as to the country responsible for the attacks. This important UAE statement bolstered Russia and Oman’s efforts in reducing US military threat. Perfecting the balance between being a US ally and crafting an autonomous foreign policy is one of Oman’s achievements in the last decade.

Aside from the threat of military action, the Iranian economy has been suffering immensely under the unilateral American sanctions. Iran’s oil revenues have declined precipitously to its lowest level in more than five years to 2.6 million barrels per day comparing with April 2013 figures. Equivalently, other economic indicators also reveal Iran’s vulnerability to outside pressure. The inflation has surged to 40% this year according to the IMF while Iran’s economy has shrunk by 3.9 percent. With more sanctions against Iran are being rolled out almost every month now, the pressure to force a JCPOA renegotiation is mounting. Oman is in favor of negotiations not just with the US but also between Iran and its neighbors.

Despite the regional tensions, Oman’s balanced and predictable diplomacy, internal stability, in addition  to the significant investment and regulatory reforms, are making an impact on the US business community. The Trump administration granted Omani citizens a 10 year visa to the US to reciprocate the significant accommodations offered to US tourists and US corporations in Oman.  Crafting a sustainable development policy and a steady diplomacy in a volatile region is indeed an exception, and one that will attract more investment and US business interest.

 

Vahid Yusecoy