On 30 July 2019 www.aljazeera.net reported that in spite of the rising tensions in the Gulf, an Emirati military delegation visited Iran for the 2nd time in two weeks. These visits by delegations from the Emirati Coast Guard had to do with discussing “cooperation” on border issues between the two countries and cooperation concerning “unlawful entry into each other’s territories.” Of course, the only border the two countries share is that in the Arab/Persian Gulf, so these meetings obviously had to do with the security of international shipping through the Gulf. What I find interesting about this, is that these visits come on the heels of the Sultanate of Oman recently declaring that it and Iran are the ones best suited to provide security for
the shipping lanes through the Strait of Hormoz and nearby areas.
Since the Sultanate of Oman’s territories are not contiguous with the Strait of Hormuz, and since Iran and/or its proxies are the only culprits attacking civilian ships in the region, I find that doubly amusing–except that there might be something else going on especially when seen in light of the above-mentioned Emirati visits to Iran (especially since it is the UAE’s territory that is contiguous with the Strait. A little background on the Sultanate of Oman might explain why. The Sultanate of Oman is neither Sunni nor Shi’a. They follow a brand of Islam called ‘Abadi and claim that they broke off from the rest of the Muslims prior to the split between the Sunnis and Shi’a. Among the unique features of their religion, is the non-
belief in Jihad. As a result, throughout the Middle Ages they were persecuted by both the Sunnis and the Shi’a and were forced down into the remote southeast tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Insulated by the world’s largest continuous sand desert to the north, and rugged mountains to the west, they were able to survive into the 20th century. Due to their unique religion (and their relative geographic isolation) , they were able to always stay neutral during Sunni-Shi’a disputes, however, during the 20th century, while the pro-western Shah was ruling in Iran, they tended to be closer to Iran than to their fellow Arab (but Sunni) neighbors. Since the Iranian revolution in 1979 they distanced themselves from Iran somewhat, but
still maintained their strict traditional neutrality. Because of their unique position in the region, they have been offering their services as “intermediaries” during the current disputes between Iran on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia and its allies on the other. They have also tried to intercede vis-à-vis the U.S. and Iran on the nuclear deal after Trump pulled out of the Obama atrocity.
Thus, when the Omani Foreign Minister recently visited Iran and made the above- mentioned statement about sharing responsibility with Iran for the security of international shipping through the Strait of Hormuz and environs, I began to wonder if this was not some sort of “soft soap” operation to assuage Iran’s ego prior to (hopefully) getting it to agree to lessen tensions in the Gulf. The above-mentioned UAE security visits might be a part of that process.
Barry Webb has logged a 25-year career as an Arabist for the NSA, has two MA degrees
in related subject matter, and is currently a Senior Fellow with Americans for Intelligence
Reform www.intelreform.org. He is the author of Confessions of an (ex) NSA spy: Why
America and its Allies are Losing the War on Terror. His website is