One of the books I bought from this year’s Riyadh Book Fair is “Four important letters exchanged between Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid I and Oman’s Imam Ahmed bin Saeed” by Saudi historian Mohammed al-Zalfa. The book was published by Dar Belad AlArab.
After explaining why he copied these documents from the Ottoman archive, al-Zalfa said: “Oman was powerful during the reign of its powerful ruler Ahmed bin Saeed, who died in 1783. His biggest role was maintaining the Gulf’s Arabism and his strong confrontation of Persian attempts – and they were many – to harm the Gulf’s Arabism.” (Page 9)
Persia was greedy and had its eye on Omani land and water long before Ahmed bin Saeed, the grandfather of the current al-Busaidi family, reigned, as when the Yaruba dynasty ruled, Persia interfered in Oman’s internal affairsMashari Althaydi
The Persian interference in Oman
Persia was greedy and had its eye on Omani land and water long before Ahmed bin Saeed, the grandfather of the current al-Busaidi family, reigned, as when the Yaruba dynasty ruled, Persia interfered in Oman’s internal affairs. Al-Zalfa notes: “Nader Shah, who died in 1747, was well-known for his hostile tendencies and expansive policies.
He found a way to interfere in Oman when a power struggle emerged within the Omani Yaruba family. Unfortunately, this power struggle led Persia to militarily interfere and side with one of the parties involved in the conflict. In his book Clear Conquest, Omani historian Ibn Zurayq described the brutality of the Persian occupation soldiers and which Omani people suffered from.”
When Nader Shah’s reign came to an end, and following some chaos, Karim Khan Zand, who died in 1779, reigned and decided to resume invading Arab territories. Thus came the siege or destruction of the famous Basra. Karim Khan Zand said he wanted Basra to be a land route towards Oman as he and his predecessors from the Safavid dynasty rulers could not battle the famous Omani fleet.
The Oman resistance
This Persian aggression against Basra, which was an Ottoman vilayet (administrative district), angered Othman Sultan Abdul Hamid I who died in 1789. Oman’s Imam Ahmed bin Saeed thus rushed to help using a massive fleet led by his son Hilal. This is the reason behind the letters exchanged between Oman’s imam and the Othman sultan in 1779.
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Explaining to Abdul Hamid I why he decided to militarily aid the Othman sultan against the Persian army which controlled besieged Basra, Ahmed bin Saeed said: “Basra and Oman have the same enemy and will suffer the same fate in the case of corruption or good conditions.”
Commenting on Karim Khan Zand’s claim that he wants to invade Oman via land routes beginning from Basra, Ahmed bin Saeed said: “It’s impossible for them to do so in deserts which even skilled guides get lost in. Their attempts and tricks (to invade us) by sea have failed. Haven’t they been such tyrants but (the decree of Allah) came upon them from where they had not expected and Allah has made them fall back (into error and disbelief) for what they earned.”
The question now is: Have the Shahs Abbas, Nader and Karim’s ambitions changed towards Arab territories and waters?
This article is also available in Arabic.
Saudi journalist Mshari Al Thaydi @MAlthaydy presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Al Thaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists.
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