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Oman Appoints New Sultan, Following Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said Succumbing to Illness At 79

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Oman Appoints New Sultan, Following Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said Succumbing to Illness At 79

Newly appointed Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al-Said. Click to see full-size image

On January 11th, Oman’s monarch Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said, has passed away at the age of 79 after a lengthy battle with illness, according to Omani state media.

This leaves a significant power void in the country, since no heir was officially named, as well as Oman a significant mediator between the US and Iran in the Middle East.

According to some reports, Sultan Qaboos left an envelope with a choice of heir, but that was only in the case if the council failed to come up with a successor. The choice is of massive significance, since if it is not a leader who is as neutral as the late Sultan was, this would mean a possible shift in the balance in the Middle East.

Under Sultan Qaboos’ rule, Oman was the only country who didn’t join the Saudi-led coalition in its intervention in Yemen.

In November 2019, Oman reportedly brokered indirect talks between Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s Houthi movement, in an attempt to help resolve the five-year long conflict that’s led to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Sultan Qaboos has led the country since 1970, when a bloodless overthrow of his father, Sultan Said bin Taimur took place, with assistance from the UK.

Before he took the throne, Oman had fewer than 10 kilometers of paved road, one hospital and no secondary schools. By 1980, ten years into Qaboos’ rule, the country had some 12,000 kilometers of asphalt roadways, 363 schools and 28 hospitals, according to anthropologist Mandana Limbert.

Qaboos had no children and never appointed a successor publicly, leaving some question about the line of succession. A statute passed in 1996, however, tasks the royal family with appointing the next sultan within three days after the throne becomes vacant. Apart from that, the only reported successor was in the envelope, mentioned above.

Later on January 11th, Haitham bin Tariq Al-Said, Sultan Qaboos’ cousin and Cultural Minister was sworn in as the new Sultan.

Dozens of armored vehicles and soldiers were seen in the streets of Muscat following the death of the Sultan, and an alert status was declared by Oman’s high military council.

State television said authorities had opened the aforementioned letter by Sultan Qaboos naming his successor, without elaborating, before announcing Haitham bin Tariq as the new ruler.

“Haitham bin Tariq was sworn in as the new sultan of the country … after a meeting of the family which decided to appoint the one who was chosen by the sultan,” the government said in a Twitter post.

The sultan must be a member of the royal family as well as “Muslim, mature, rational and the legitimate son of Omani Muslim parents”.

Al Jazeera cited Mahjoob Zweiri, a professor at Qatar University’s Gulf Studies Centre, who said that maintaining Oman as a “mature state” would be an important task the country would be faced under the rule of the new Sultan.

“In regional matters … the role Oman has played so far is significant. It confirmed the importance of Oman regionally and internationally,” he said. “I think this is likely to continue”.

Zweiri said that, when it came to Oman’s mediating role, the new Sultan was “very close” to the decision-making process and that he was aware what needed to continue happening.

“I don’t expect really any major shift in all of that,” he said.

“I think Oman will continue to play that positive role, cooling down a lot of conflicts, because they seek stability and security for the region.”

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