Oman’s Brand New sultan Softly makes his mark challenges loom

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — After Oman’s ruler of a half-century expired with no heir apparent, short fears of chaos ended with the rapid announcement of a brand new sultan within this country on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula.

But rather than the army rulers whose arrivals arrive with martial arts and whose endings frequently accompany times of difficulty from the Mideast, Oman ended up with all the culture ministry.

This Oman followed its distinctive, rare path after the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said represents possibly the best testament to his rule over a country he brought from this isolationist obscurity imposed by his dad and updated with its oil riches.

The external world and inner struggles, but are planning to come crashing in.

Oman faces tens of thousands in looming loan obligations, such as from China, which also requires more cash as its young population wants occupations and its authorities can’t manage the cradle-to-grave advantages given in other Gulf Arab states. Ratcheted-up tensions between Iran and the U.S. — with Donald Trump still from the White House or a brand new Joe Biden government — might see Oman brought to the center of a scenario that almost ignited a war at the start of the year.

Then there is the little matter of serving as sultan following a guy celebrated annually since the architect of Oman’s renaissance.

“The national financial landscape is his to win his to lose. I mean I believe there’s not any place for him to play with it. The situation is quite dire.”

He intends to meet with areas throughout his state of 11 governorates that are a bit more compact than the U.S. state of Kansas.

Sultan Qaboos won the war and finally encouraged Dhofari rebels to his administration, clearly the long-time Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi.

Sultan Haitham’s attempts also expanded to a silent government effort encouraging many dissidents to go back to the kingdom, as long as they give their social networking presence and finish their activism, said author Nabhan Alhanshi, that directs the Omani Center for Human Rights from exile in the UK.

Sultan Qaboos’ dad and the late sultan himself retained Al Said in exile from the U.K., fearful of any danger to their own rule, however minor.

As a ruler, Sultan Haitham has deviated from his predecessor by naming foreign and finance ministers, rather than wielding the names himself.

However, Sultan Haitham stays the predominant principle of a country where criticism of the sultan remains a criminal offense punishable by up to seven years. Meanwhile, the Sultan Haitham has made a brand new Cyber Defense Center which Alhanshi anxieties will further place activists in danger for speaking out.

Sultan Haitham’s decision to place his family into authorities’ roles, in addition to focusing on fiscal issues instead of democratic reforms,” worries Alhanshi.

“Throughout the protests of 2011… they said we have some financial difficulty, we must solve that, and then we’ll go through the governmental reform. However, what happened there wasn’t any governmental reform,” Alhanshi explained. “The new government today is stating exactly the very same, just how do we trust them”

The sultanate’s finances remain an issue, however. Rating agencies warn that the Omani authorities are on pace to operate within a 10 billion financial deficit in 2020 alone. That is as global energy costs stay low, cutting into earnings for a country that generates just under 1 million barrels of petroleum every day. Dealers have placed Omani bonds to”junk” status — meaning that greater danger of default.

Finding money to pay for the debts stays crucial. Hunting more cash there, in the West or fellow countries from the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council can make Oman more beholden to them, something Sultan Haitham would like to prevent, stated Cinzia Bianco, a fellow in the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“This makes it more significant for Sultan Haitham to attempt to maintain Omanis near one another and near him since there’s another vulnerability,” Bianco said.

Then there is Iran. The beginning of 2020 almost saw the U.S. and Iran input a war. Beneath Sultan Qaboos, Oman had supplied a covert backchannel into Tehran during discussions that resulted in the 2015 atomic bargain with world forces. Before he died, Sultan Qaboos also signed deals permitting the U.S. and British navies accessibility into the Omani port of Duqm, enlarging the longtime accessibility both countries enjoy there. India also has access because of their own navy.

While Trump’s withdrawal in the Iran nuclear bargain lit the fuse of present worries, Oman once more might be an interlocutor — or might already be functioning as one today.

“As Yusuf bin Alawi once explained, the Gulf wants an open window Iran and when nobody else will take action, Oman will take action,” stated Marc J. Sievers, a former U.S. ambassador to Oman. “It was not only for the West but also because of its Gulf itself the Omanis needed to keep this involvement. I think that will last.”