Oman’s decision to join Saudi-led military alliance strengthens Gulf unity

Several analysts and political commentators have welcomed Oman’s decision to join a Saudi-led military alliance. (AFP)

Several analysts and political commentators have welcomed Oman’s decision to join a Saudi-led military alliance.

Oman’s defense minister sent a letter to Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, second deputy premier and minister of defense announcing the decision to join the 40-nation Islamic Military Alliance Against Terrorism, the Saudi Press Agency said. The letter was handed over by Omani Ambassador to the Kingdom.

Prince Mohammed expressed his appreciation for the leadership of Oman to support the efforts of Saudi Arabia in the coalition to fight terrorism. Prince Mohammed will go to Oman in the coming weeks to pave the way for a visit by King Salman, according to well-informed sources.

The King’s trip would help re-establish security, military and economic cooperation, the source said on condition of anonymity. Although not explicitly aimed at countering Iran, the coalition includes neither Tehran nor its allied government in Iraq.

The Sultanate, which sits on the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow waterway between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula through which flows 40 percent of the world’s seaborne crude oil, has a history of constructive relations with Tehran, and sees itself as a mediator in a turbulent region.

“From a political standpoint it’s a Saudi win bringing in Oman back to the GCC fold,” said Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of London-based consulting firm Cornerstone Global Associates. “It will give Saudi greater regional influence and greater geological leverage.” Another source said Oman had changed its direction in the region after it realized the “lack of seriousness and of benefits” of cooperation with the Iranians.

Far-reaching ramifications

Noted media consultant Ibrahim bin Saad al-Majed said Oman’s joining the alliance is a crucial step that would have far-reaching ramifications in the region. Moreover, this will further strengthen the potential of GCC in influencing the world politically and economically.

“The news of Oman’s joining the alliance to combat the scourge of terror gave immense joy to all people in the GCC states, while it saddened the enemies of the unity of Gulf and its people. It also reinforces the concept that the GCC stands united,” he said.

He drew attention to the fact that Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman is the last remaining founders of the GCC. Sultan Qaboos is well known for his wisdom and far-sightedness. The people of Oman never stayed away from their Gulf brethren. Al-Majed also lauded Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for playing a remarkable role in bringing closer of the viewpoints of the GCC states and that culminated in Oman’s joining of the broad alliance of ISIS against terrorism.

Oman’s Foreign Minister Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, in an interview with Egypt’s Al Akhbar newspaper published this week, said his country “has common interests with everybody, but each country has its own ways of achieving these interests and goals.”

This is excerpt from an article first published on the Saudi Gazette on Dec. 30, 2016.

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