Omani Sultan Enabled Fruitful US Diplomacy with Iran

by Jasmin Ramsey

The Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said’s history of serving as an interlocutor between the US and Iran has mostly been told in whispers and pieces, but now we have a straight-talking Wall Street Journal chronicle of his role:

Tehran and Washington have used Oman to relay messages after diplomatic relations broke down following the 1979 Islamic revolution in Tehran.

Aides to Sultan Qaboos said the British-educated monarch views himself as a mediator between competing sides in the Middle East’s conflicts. He hosted then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1994 in a bid to forge economic and diplomatic ties.

“He is an idealist in that to a significant extent his policy-making is driven by ethical considerations,” said a senior Arab diplomat who has worked closely with Sultan Qaboos.

The Obama administration heightened Oman’s role as an intermediary in late 2011, in part because of the help it provided in bringing home the three American hikers, said senior U.S. officials.

In December of that year, Secretary of State John Kerry, then the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, held secret talks with Sultan Qaboos and requested that higher-level meetings between Tehran and Washington be held in Muscat. Oman’s proximity to Iran, less than 200 miles across the Persian Gulf, made it a strategic—and out-of-the-way—site.

In July 2012, the first high-level meetings between Iranians and Americans took place during Mr. Obama’s tenure, said senior U.S. and Iranian officials.

Photo Credit: ISNA/Ruhollah Vahdati

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.



  1. I visited Oman in the 1980s and can recommend it as a fascinating place to visit – starkly beautiful, with lovely architecture and friendly, hospitable people. Nice beaches, too!

  2. Welcome report, in WSJ. Oman seeks pipeline connection to Iranian gas. Good thing, if deal with P5+1 goes through.

  3. Short and sweet. Always helps to have an inside avenue to approach these matters. Perhaps I’m looking at this in all the wrong ways, but if rapprochement with the U.S. comes to fruition, then the attention should be directed @ Israel to disarm its WMD’s and become a productive member of the M.E. instead of running around like Chicken Little screaming the boogieman is coming, as they are today with Iran. Of course, I wonder what the percentage of those in Israel are beyond change?

  4. If the above report is true that John Kerry had approached Sultan Qaboos and “requested that higher-level meetings between Tehran and Washington be held in Muscat”, then the claim that Iran is ‘surrounding’ to the US out of fear of being attacked is a misleading interpretation.

    The American antagonistic policies, having proxy wars even directly joining Saddam and attacking Iran, along with years of unlawful sanctions and containment policies, then being followed with the American ‘request’ to meet/be heard by Iran clearly indicate the failure of the American policy of forcing independent nations to surrender to America’s waning cultural Imperialism backed by its vast economic and military power.

    Hence, Iran’s acceptance of joining the negotiation table, out of concern for the economic situation/deteriorating human condition in Iran (mainly caused by the unjustified sanctions) cannot be interpreted as Iran’s surrendering to the US, but the opposite; in fact the US attitude has been like a spoiled, arrogant, reproachful child who having failed to get whatever he desires by crying/shouting or smashing his toys is eventually compelled to attend the dining table and have whatever his parents have cooked for him – he could have swallowed his pride and unreasonable demands, shown respect for his elders without causing so much suffering. The maturity of the American-Iranian conflict is in fact an undeniable aspect of the clash of civilization, it is indeed the ‘conflict of consciousnesses’ as Hegel had brilliantly analyzed nearly 200 years ago.

    America has realized that it cannot survive the situation by waging war to destroy Iran; hence, from now on the rules are set for what will be regarded as the mutual understanding/acknowledgement/respect, it took America more than three decades to learn to respect the truth of an Independent Consciousness!

    Had American not learned this bitter lesson in 1975 when fleeing Vietnam from rooftops, after leaving millions of Vietnamese dead?!

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