Jan 14, 2020

Oman begins first political transition in 50 years

Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said (R) helps carry the coffin of Sultan Qaboos. Photo: AFP via Getty

Oman's first political transition in half a century has been marked by visits from world leaders and tributes to Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who died on Friday.

Why it matters: Qaboos' cousin and successor, Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, has said he'll maintain the foreign policy neutrality that's made Oman a key mediator, including between the U.S. and Iran.

  • Qaboos, the Middle East's longest-serving ruler, named Haitham as his successor in a letter opened after his death.
  • The choice signaled that Qaboos' priority was economic development and diversification, Neil Quilliam of Chatham House told Al Jazeera.
  • Qaboos, a charismatic absolute ruler, was viewed as a father figure by many in Oman. His blessing for Haitham should allow for a stable transition.

Flashback: "At the age of 29, with British support, [Qaboos] overthrew his father, Said bin Taimur, a reclusive and ultra-conservative ruler who banned a range of things, including listening to the radio or wearing sunglasses, and decided who could get married, be educated or leave the country," per the BBC.

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Exclusive: Netanyahu rejected an Omani proposal for Israel-Iran talks in 2013

Netanyahu attends a meeting with the Sultan of Oman in Muscat, Oman, Oct. 26, 2018. Photo: Israeli Prime Ministry Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

In mid-2013, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a proposal from the Sultanate of Oman to mediate a back channel between Israel and Iran, believing it would legitimize the secret U.S.-Iran talks that ultimately led to the 2015 nuclear deal, according to four former Israeli officials involved in the negotiations.

Why it matters: Knowledge of the dramatic Omani initiative had until now been restricted to a small group of Israeli officials. When he came into office in 2009, Netanyahu banned the Israeli Mossad from engaging in any direct or indirect talks with the Iranians without his clear approval, Israeli officials told me. Such an order doesn’t exist for any other country in the world.

Go deeperArrowFeb 2, 2020 - World

Scoop: Israel and UAE discuss anti-Iran cooperation at secret White House meeting

Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed at the White House in May. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The White House hosted a secret trilateral meeting in December between the U.S., Israel and the UAE on coordination against Iran, Israeli and U.S. officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: The meeting, which took place on Dec. 17, is one in a series of steps from the Trump administration to facilitate closer ties between Israel and the Arab states. It included discussion of a UAE-Israel nonaggression pact — an interim step on the way to diplomatic normalization.

Go deeperArrowFeb 4, 2020 - World

White House confirms operation that killed al-Qaeda leader Qassim al-Rimi

President Trump. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The White House confirmed in a statement on Thursday that an operation in Yemen killed Qassim al-Rimi, co-founder and leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Why it matters: Reports of Rimi's death via an airstrike circulated last weekend, but President Trump did not directly confirm the event. Al-Rimi had been a U.S. target for years, per the Washington Post, and was a deputy to standing al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Go deeperArrowFeb 7, 2020 - World