On January 10, Oman’s Sultan Qaboos had his death announced immediately triggering talk of a successor. This was because the Sultan had no children, and thus no direct heirs. For that reason, the royal family had to open a sealed envelope containing the name of the late sultan’s designated successor. In the envelope, the name of Haitham bin Tariq, the cousin of Qaboos was found. According to Foreign Policy, the selection of Haitham “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.” The smooth choice of the successor does not mean Oman will not face any challenges in the near future.
For decades, Qaboos cultivated a reputation of Oman being a neutral country within Middle Eastern politics in refusing to take sides between regional rivals. For that reason, “Oman’s reputation for neutrality and history of facilitating negotiations caused the Obama administration to seek Qaboos’s assistance in arranging secret meetings with Iran in 2012-2013 that eventually led to the Iran nuclear deal”. Additionally, the US sent low ranking officials to honors Sultan Qaboos while both the prime minister and the crown prince of the United Kingdom came.
Oman has also been concerned about the increasing power play of its neighbors such as the United Arab Emirates when one of its internal security service members was arrested. Qaboos received visits from leaders on the opposite sides of conflicts including the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of Iran. According to Al Jazeera English, “ But, for now, it is likely the vast majority of Omanis are behind the new leader, largely due to the legitimacy bestowed on him by the fact that he was selected by Qaboos, who many Omanis see as a father figure beyond reproach.”