Sultan Qaboos of Oman dies

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Qaboos bin Said in 2010.
Image: Helene C. Stikkel.

On Friday, Qaboos bin Said, the long-serving Sultan of Oman, died aged 79. He had recently had health problems, reportedly colon cancer. Tributes were paid by world leaders including the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The government of Oman announced three days of mourning. Before Qaboos's burial at a family cemetery, his successor, Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, attended funeral prayers at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat.

Qaboos became Sultan in 1970 after overthrowing his father, Sultan Said bin Taimur. By the time of his death, Qaboos's reign was the longest in the Arab world. He was known for pursuing a neutral foreign policy and mediating in several Middle Eastern disputes as a "friend to all and enemy to none". Most notably, he helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal that was signed in 2015.

Recently there had been growing concerns over his health. Following a week-long stay in a Belgian hospital, he returned to Oman in the middle of December, although there was no official information on what treatment he had received.

Qaboos was born 1940 and received his education in India and the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in the United Kingdom, followed by a cultural tour of the world. Arriving back home in 1964, he turned to the study of Islamic law and Omani history.

Qaboos's 1970 overthrew of his father was a bloodless British-backed coup. He began a programme of reform which changed his poorly-developed country into a relatively prosperous nation.

Qaboos did not have children, so Omani law allowed three days for a royal council to select a successor. If they could not do so, the council and other leaders would open a sealed letter from Qaboos naming his preferred successor.

When the royal council met, they chose to open the letter and acknowledged Qaboos's cousin, Haitham, as the new Sultan. After the funeral, Haitham said he would continue Qaboos's policies including a neutral approach to foreign affairs.


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