Reflections

For Oman's New Sultan, a 21st Century Challenge

Ryan Bohl
Middle East and North Africa Analyst, Stratfor
Jan 16, 2020 | 11:00 GMT
Omani army officers carry Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said during a funeral procession Jan. 11 in Muscat.

High-ranking Omani army officials carry the coffin of the late Omani leader Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said toward his burial place on Jan. 11. Qaboos, who was not married and had no heirs, named his cousin Haitham bin Tariq al Said as his successor.

(AFP via Getty Images)

Everything about the ascension of Oman's new ruler, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al Said, has screamed continuity -- including the sultan himself. "We will continue to follow in the same course the late sultan adopted," he said in his inaugural speech Jan. 11, a day after the death of his predecessor, Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, had been announced. So far, so stable. Regardless, Haitham will have trouble filling Qaboos' large shoes. During his nearly 50-year reign, Qaboos wrote a playbook of Omani geopolitics that toward the end of his life was running thin on tactics for the 21st century. But what a playbook it proved to be for his time. Few of the region's Gulf rulers had faced as many challenges, and fewer still lasted as long. Qaboos took a backward, crumbling empire and shoved it into the 20th century. For Haitham, however, the strategies of the past...

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