Oman’s ailing Sultan Qaboos bin Said, one of the longest serving rulers in the Middle East who retained the neutrality of the nation in regional struggles, died on Friday and the high military council of the Gulf State began the process of choosing his successor.
For the West-backed Qaboos bin Said, 79, who had ruled after taking over in a bloodless coup in 1970 with the support of former colonial power Britain, three days of official mourning have been announced with flags flying half-mast for 40 days.
State news agency ONA did not give reason for death but Qaboos bin Said had been unwell for years and spent a week in early December in Belgium seeking medical treatment. Qaboos had no kids, and had not named a successor in public. A 1996 statute says a successor will be selected by the ruling family within three days after the throne becomes vacant.
High Military Council to Select New Ruler
In a report carried on state media on Saturday, the High Military Council called on the ruling family council of Oman to convene to select a new ruler. If the council fails to agree, the person whose name has been secretly written by the sultan in a sealed letter will be put into power by a council of military and security officials, supreme court chiefs and heads of the two consultative assemblies.
The transition has been widely speculated as domestic problems. They are looming large, from strained state finances to unemployment in the relatively small oil producer. At a time of rising tensions between Iran and the U.S. and Saudi Arabia’s ally. Oman observers say the three cousins of the sultan–Bashar, Shihab, and Haitham bin Tariq al-Said–are in the best position.
“I imagine that the succession itself will be a smooth process within Oman,” Kristian Coates Ulrichsen of the Texas-based Rice University’s Baker Institute told Reuters.
“But the wildcard is whether any of Oman’s neighbours might try to pressure the new sultan as he settles into power – just as the Saudis and Emiratis tried to pressure Emir Tamim in the weeks and months after he assumed power in Qatar in 2013.”
Condolences Pour for Qaboos Bin Said
Condolences for the White-bearded Qaboos began to pour in. In a statement former U.S. President George W. Bush said Qaboos was a powerful power in the Middle East. In a Twitter post from Dubai ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum spoke aout Sultan. He described him as the sultan of honour, love and wisdom.
Also, Oman has long been what impartial Switzerland. Further, it is to global diplomacy in the Middle East. it is juggling relations between two large neighbors. Also, it locks in a regional battle, Saudi Arabia to the west and Iran to the north. Hence, Oman maintains friendly ties to Washington and Tehran, and helped mediate secret U.S.-Iran talks in 2013 that led two years later to the 2018 Washington quit international nuclear pact.
So, Muscat did not take sides in a Gulf conflict that saw Riyadh. Also, allies place a boycott on Qatar in mid-2017. So, it didn’t join a Saudi-led military coalition against Iran-aligned Houthi movement that intervened in Yemen. Thus, the political centrality of Oman has been a factor in the personality of Qaboos. Simon Henderson, director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Bernstein Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Politics states.
“It is hard to see how Oman can involve itself in the Yemen, Iran and Qatar issues. This is until a new leader has established himself. Which means for the foreseeable future.”
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