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A Different Perspective On Oman

Al-Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, October 30

Although Oman is often cited as a state with limited power, the recent visit of an Israeli prime minister to the Sultanate is an important reminder of Muscat’s great geopolitical influence. Oman is the only Arab country that maintains good relations with a wide host of countries in the region, including Gulf States, Iran and Israel. This distinguishes the Sultanate from most other countries in the Middle East, which usually belong to one specific political camp. Oman, however, isn’t shy about maintaining ties with opposing parties. It seeks to build peaceful relations with whoever desires its friendship, while remaining beholden to no single power. Thanks to this fact, Muscat has played an important role in regional negotiations. It has been involved in mediating a ceasefire agreement in Yemen, took part in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, and even facilitated secret back-channel talks between the United States and Iran. The fact that an acting Israeli prime minister formally visited the country, therefore, raises interesting questions about the purpose of this visit and what Israeli and Omani interlocutors are planning behind closed doors. Is Israel trying to bring Muscat on board Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” between the Israelis and the Palestinians? Alternatively, is Netanyahu trying to avoid Trump’s peace plan by preempting it with an Arab plan of his own? My belief is that Oman is trying to re-brand itself as a vital political player in the region and on the international stage. To distinguish itself from other Gulf States that are busy fighting each other over internal disputes, Oman is marketing itself as a country that is unafraid of making bold moves. Indeed, it may maintain close relations with Iran, while inviting the Israeli prime minister for an official and highly-covered state visit. It can maintain close ties with Saudi Arabia, while conducting extensive trade relations with Qatar. Although it lacks the military strength that many of its neighbors have, Oman’s political and diplomatic strength is proving to be larger than we ever imagined. –Amal Abd al-Aziz al-Hazani

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