However states such as Saudi Arabia may try and seize the opportunity to influence a new ruler and consolidate their regional power.
• Further, the death or stepping-down of Qaboos, who is acknowledged in Omani Law as “the symbol of national unity and the guardian of the preservation and the protection” could also afford an opening for sectarian groups to infiltrate and reshape the state.
Outside of the succession matter, Oman faces a number of other potentially destabilising threats. Ibadi islam, the Omani majority is under siege in the Middle East. In Libya, a fatwa has been issued labelling the Ibadi minority there as “infidels without dignity”. There are fears that this sectarianism could spread to neighbouring countries in Oman, such as Yemen and Tunisia, and from there across the borders into Oman.
Finally, Oman has historical ties to Iran, and while under Sultan Qaboos bin Said, there is resistance to Tehran’s influence and extreme religious leadership. There is international concern that Oman’s Shiite elite may favour Iran/Shiite influence in Oman. This would likely see an opposing Suuni insurgency.
While Sultan Qaboos bin Said has been given much of the credit for Oman’s ability to remain largely free from sectarianism and religiously motivated violence, I suggest that Qaboos bin Said reinforced ideals that already existed in Oman. A study of Oman’s history, in comparison to other Gulf states reveals what I call ‘the trade route to mitigating sectarianism’. I argue that Oman’s seafaring and open trade history has facilitated a moderate and tolerant society. By trading openly with a variety of religious and ethnic groups Omani’s have been more exposed to diversity, as opposed to their isolationist neighbouring states.
Where Sultan Qaboos bin Said has been important, is in being a respected and strong ruler, responsible for promoting and enforcing these ideals of diversity and tolerance. Moving forward, if Oman’s next or future ruler is not as strong a leader, there is opportinuty for Oman to fall into the violent sectarian mire that afflicts many middle eastern states.