Monday, January 21, 2013

Cameron Wilson shares a paper entitled Oman and its Unusual Stability

Editor's Note --- Junior Cameron Wilson shares a Dec. 2012 paper entitled "Oman and its unusual stability", written for a Stanford class entitled "Decoding the Arab Spring".  Below is an excerpt from the paper --- Click here to read the entire 7-page paper which sheds light on a part of the world few Americans know anything about.
Oman is a small country located on the southeastern corner of the Arabian peninsula. It shares borders with Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Its small population, weak military, and generally pacifist tendencies ensure that it receives little coverage in the western media. Oman’s government, based in the capital city of Muscat, has been remarkably stable over the last several decades, with Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said coming to power in 1970 --when he seized power from his father-- and ruling as a dictator ever since. The stability he has created is even more impressive given the recent Arab Spring uprisings in countries such as Egypt and Libya and the fact that al Said holds almost complete power over Oman. This paper will analyze the strategies that the Sultan has used to create stability and avoid the fate, thus far at least, of other dictators in the Arab world. Through these strategic moves, he has successfully maintained relations with western powers such as the United States, while keeping cordial relations with his neighboring countries, among the most powerful in the Middle East. In contrast to other dictators of the region, Al Said has earned the respect and loyalty of his people by improving quality of life and expanding human rights. This has resulted in al Said easily maintaining, in some cases even consolidating, his power throughout the course of the Arab Spring.
            The roots of Oman’s friendly relations with the United States were cultivated nearly 200 years ago. In 1841, Oman was the first country in the Middle East to recognize the newly formed United States as a sovereign nation. From this beginning the two countries have forged a successful record of diplomatic cooperation. Since al Said came to power in 1970 Oman has supported US initiatives in the Middle East. Most notably, Oman was the only country in the region to support Egypt in ratifying the Camp David Accords in 1978. At the time, other nations in the Arab League were pushing to expel Egypt for this act of diplomacy which they saw as a betrayal of Arab principles. Oman supported Egypt in signing the accords while arguing for their continued inclusion in the Arab League. Al Said also allows the United States the use of an air base in southwest Oman. The base in Thumrait has become a hub for reconnaissance aircraft that are used to monitor activities in nearby Iran. 
           In recent years, Oman has been influential in securing the release of western travelers from complex judicial systems in other Middle Eastern nations. In late 2009, three American hikers mistakenly crossed from Iraq into Iran. They were arrested and two were later sentenced to eight years in Iranian prison on counts of espionage. In the fall of 2011, Omani officials brokered their release and flew the hikers from Iran to Muscat before ultimately returning them to the United States.[1] President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both issued statements in which they thanked the Sultan for his country’s role in securing the safe release of the American hikers. A similar situation arose in November of 2011 when three French aid workers were taken into custody by a Yemeni affiliate of al-Qaeda. Omani officials were able to negotiate with a Yemeni businessman so that he could pay the ransom demanded to recover the aid workers.[2] Upon their release, they were driven to Muscat before taking flights to France. Then president of France Nicolas Sarkozy quickly issued a statement thanking Oman for its role in the aid workers’ safe recovery. Through these acts of diplomacy, Oman has been able to maintain strong alliances with several western powers.

[1] U.S. Hikers Released From Iranian Prison, Arrive in Oman. Fox News
[2] Friedman, Uri. Oman: The World’s hostage negotiator.

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