Oman’s Smooth Transition Doesn’t Mean Its Neighbors Won’t Stir Up Trouble

Many observers have commended the smooth and transparent process by which Haitham bin Tariq was designated sultan of Oman, following the death of Sultan Qaboos, which was announced on Jan. 10. Because Qaboos had not publicly named a successor, the ruling family opted to open a sealed envelope containing the name of the individual Qaboos preferred, rather than selecting the new sultan themselves.

Qaboos’s selection of his cousin Haitham, with his background in the foreign ministry and most recently as the minister of heritage and culture, over Haitham’s brothers Asad and Shihab—both military men—appears to signal his desire to perpetuate Oman’s role as a facilitator of regional diplomacy.

Yet Oman remains vulnerable to both foreign and domestic sources of instability as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates seek to expand their regional influence. Potential causes of domestic unrest—including high unemployment, budget deficits, and dwindling oil reserves—lack clear-cut solutions. Sultan Haitham faces multiple challenges even without the threat of foreign meddling, yet Oman’s neighbors may view the death of Qaboos as a unique opportunity to advance their own expansionist agendas.

Read the rest of the argument here on Foreign Policy

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