2 thoughts on “Oman: more on mediation and the succession”

  1. We are grateful to Robert Alston, Richard Muir and Stuart Laing, all former British ambassadors to Oman, for the following:
    Qaboos is nearly 77 years old, not 73, and has reigned for 47, not 44 years.
    The formal position is that succession is covered by the Basic Law which was issued by Royal Decree in November 1996. Among other points it set out for the first time the succession arrangement:
    “Article (6)
    The Royal Family Council shall, within three days of the throne falling vacant, determine the successor to the throne.
    If the Royal Family Council does not agree on a choice of a Sultan for the Country, the Defence Council together with the Chairman of Majlis Al Dawla, the Chairman of Majlis Al Shura, and the Chairman of the Supreme Court along with two of his most senior deputies, shall instate the person designated by His Majesty the Sultan in his letter to the Royal Family Council.”
    The addition of the Chairmen of the Majlis ad Dowla (appointed upper house) and Majlis Al Shura (lower house elected by universal franchise) and of the supreme Court Chairman and deputies was made in November 2011 as part of the first and so far only amendment to the Basic Law which spelt out in some detail the role of the two houses.
    The Sultan’s letter to the Royal Family Council is thought to be held securely by the Palace Office in Muscat and Salalah. In an interview with Judith Miller published in ‘Foreign Affairs’ in May 1997 the Sultan said “I have already written down two names in descending order and put them in sealed envelopes in two different regions”.
    Observers sometimes comment that Oman has no plan for the succession. This is obviously not the case. It is just that Oman’s system differs from that of other GCC states, who all have a Crown Prince. In Oman, there continues to be speculation about whom the Sultan has nominated, and whom the Succession Council will choose. So, although there is uncertainty as to the identity of the future Sultan, there is no uncertainty about the process for choosing him; and it can be assumed that the transfer of power will operate smoothly.

  2. Thank you for carrying the piece from the Carnegie Middle East Center. Most would agree with Carnegie’s judgement that Oman under Sultan Qaboos has played a careful role in balancing its interests with its GCC colleagues and those with its large and potentially powerful neighbour on the other side of the Gulf. No wonder: only about 50 km of the Straits of Hormuz separates Oman’s Musandam peninsula from the Iranian shore. The policy has been largely successful, involving only occasional awkward moments in its relations with the Saudis. Omani concern to fend off Persians and Saudis goes back a long way. Qaboos’s distant ancestor Ahmad bin Saʿid, founder of the Al Bu Saʿidi dynasty, expelled Persian invaders in the middle of the 18th century, and rulers in Muscat in the 19th century were anxious to protect their north-western border against Wahhabi incursions. Qaboos has himself been particularly diligent with his relations with Iran; he was reported to keep himself personally well-informed by listening to the Arabic language broadcasting from Tehran, and his policy initiatives as evidenced in the Carnegie article have been carefully calculated.
    Sultan Qaboos’s successor would be well advised to follow his example, although we cannot be sure who that will be or how he will take forward Omani policy in the Gulf and with Yemen. It is true, as Carnegie say, that prospects for the succession are important – but not so certain that Oman’s is one of the oldest written systems for the transfer of power. If memory serves, the basic law which sets out the system (for the Succession Council) was adopted in the 1990s. And while it is also true that Sultan Qaboos has close connections with Cambridge University (he has generously endowed Professorial Chairs in the Faculties of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and of Divinity, a Research Fellowship in Corpus Christi College, and research studies in Pembroke College), it is very unlikely that instructions for the succession are kept at Cambridge. According to a source very close to the Sultan, speaking in 2004, the name of his preferred candidate for the succession is written in sealed envelopes kept in Muscat and Salalah – and these are to be opened only if the Succession Council fails to make its own selection or chooses to know His Majesty’s preference.

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