February 22, 2010
Oman-Iran Foreign Relations
Oman and Iran share close diplomatic, economic, and military ties. According to Kenneth Katzman of the Congressional Research Service, “Oman has a tradition of cooperation with Iran dating back to the Shah of Iran’s regime and Oman has always been less alarmed by the perceived threat from Iran than have the other Gulf states.” Unlike the majority of its Gulf neighbors, Oman managed to uphold diplomatic relations with both sides during the Iran-Iraq war from 1980-1988 and strongly supported UN Security Council resolutions to end the conflict. Secret cease-fire talks between the two adversaries were held in Muscat during the war, and although an agreement was never reached during these talks, they did reduce distrust on both sides. Moreover, after the war, Oman mediated talks to restore diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia and Iran and the United Kingdom.
During the Persian Gulf War, Iran-Oman relations were damaged after Iran began running attacks on tanker movements in the Persian Gulf and placed anti-ship missile launchers along the Strait of Hormuz. The Gulf neighbors have since restored their ties and have conducted joint military exercises as recently as February 2011. Oman’s leader Sultan Qaboos traveled to Iran in 2009 for the first time since Iran’s 1979 revolution. Though on two occasions the U.S. has dispatched high-level officials to discuss Iran with Oman, the fact that Oman has avoided publicly expressing any concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program is likely a reason why the two states have managed to maintain strong ties.
In addition to strong diplomatic and political ties, Iran and Oman cooperate economically on several fronts, including energy. Most recently, the Gulf neighbors signed an initial agreement to begin supplying large quantities of natural gas from Iran to Oman, a project that was earlier reported to be worth between $7-12 billion. In addition to these major economic projects, the two countries have opened a joint bank to facilitate their mutual financial dealings, agreed to develop the Kish and Hengam gas fields in the Gulf, and signed a memorandum of understanding for a potential joint petrochemical project valued at $800 million.
July 20, 2011: As of this date, according to its English language website, the Omani Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ official position on Iran’s nuclear program is as follows: “The sultanate hopes Washington will engage in a ‘direct dialogue’ with Teheran [sic] to resolve the crisis over the Iranian nuclear program. The sultanate has no reason not to believe Iran’s assurances that its program has purely civilian purposes. This region, no doubt, does not want to see any military confrontation or any tension.”
January 15, 2011: Official representatives from Oman were among a touring group that visited Iran’s nuclear facilities. According to its foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran arranged the visit to show that it “has nothing to hide.”
October 13, 2010: Speaking to a reporter, Omani foreign minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdallah ruled out war with Iran and stated that he believes blocking the Strait of Hormuz to be an impossible task in which Iran would only “stifle itself.” When asked about Oman’s role in mediating the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program he added, “We realize how the problem is deep between Iran and the West as a whole, and we understand its dimensions and difficulties. Some of these dimensions are difficult to overcome because they concern strategic policies. But when there is an opportunity that can be used for mediation, we do not hesitate…. Our aim is to help them reach some kind of understanding.”
April 27, 2009: U.S. Special Adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia Dennis Ross visited Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar to discuss diplomatic efforts to engage Iran on its nuclear program.
March 19, 2008: U.S. Vice President Richard Cheney visited Oman to discuss cooperation over Iran’s nuclear program.
July 11, 2011: Iran’s deputy oil minister announced that his country will start pumping natural gas to Oman through an undersea pipeline by March 2012. He added that Iran and Oman signed the initial contract but the final contract will not be signed until the end of the Iranian calendar year (March 20, 2012).
January 31, 2010: Iranian Ambassador to Oman Hossein Noushabadi announced that Iran and Oman will launch a joint bank in an effort to increase financial transactions between the two countries. Noushabadi said that the bank is essential for strengthening financial movement between the two states. In addition, he added that increased financial ties through a joint Oman-Iran bank would benefit the existing branches of Iran’s Bank Melli and Bank Saderat in Oman. The U.S. has sanctioned Bank Melli and Bank Saderat for their involvement in facilitating Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, for providing services to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Qods Force, and for transferring funds to terrorist organizations.
January 16, 2010: Iran announced that its second overseas trade center in Oman by the end of the month. Hamid Zadboum, an official with the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran, added that upwards of 60 Iranian companies are expected to operate from the center in Oman. Iran’s state media reported the government had set aside $1 billion to launch 20 overseas trade centers across the globe.
November 25, 2009: Iranian Oil Minister Masoud Mir Kazemi and Omani Oil Minister Mohammed Al-Ramahi met in Tehran to discuss bilateral investments in the gas sector and joint development of the Kish and Hengam gas fields in the Persian Gulf.
August 7, 2009: Iran and Oman inked a memorandum of understanding agreeing to construct a petrochemical unit in Iran’s South Pars region, a project totaling roughly $800 million. According to Iranian Oil Minister Gholam-Hossein Nozari, the Omani delegation requested “some 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas from Iran to feed its LNG production units.”
August 5, 2009: Iran and Oman reopened negotiations on exporting Iran’s gas to Oman. Building on the deal signed by Iran and Oman in April 2009, which did not specify a timeline for the $7-$12 billion project, the countries renegotiated the amount of Oman’s investment in the development of the 124 mile underwater pipeline which would transport gas to Oman at a rate of one billion cubic feet per day.
May 26, 2009: Iran and Oman opened their first joint company for foreign investment. Managing Director of Iran's Foreign Investments Company Mehdi Razavi noted that “formation of this company facilitates implementation of Iran's needed projects by the Omani private sector and also the Iranian private sector can use the facilities of the company to perform different projects in Oman.”
January 31, 2009: Oman hosted an Iranian trade exhibition. According to Iranian ambassador to Oman Murtadha Rahimi, “the trade exchanges between the two countries as well as the mutual visits by the businessmen from the two countries increased during the last two years.”
September 5, 2008: Iran and Oman began talks on a deal that would allow Iran to use Omani facilities to process its crude natural gas into liquefied natural gas (LNG) for transportation to consumer countries around the world. The two also finalized an agreement to develop Iran’s Kish Island gas reserves together.
[More information about Oman’s business activity with Iran.]
May 5, 2011: Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi met with Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said and other Omani officials to discuss enhancing ties.
December 5, 2010: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said to discuss regional issues, including Iran.
October 11, 2010: Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki participated in the Iran-Oman Joint Economic Cooperation Commission in Muscat. Iran’s delegation was present to discuss further expansion of cooperation between the two states.
January 13, 2010: Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki met with his Omani counterpart to discuss enhancing economic ties. President Ahmadinejad responded to the meeting by saying that the two countries enjoy bilateral relations based on their common views on different regional and international issues, and added that “the Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to boost its relations and cooperation with Oman in all fields.” Furthermore, Ahmadinejad and Bin Alawi suggested that Yemen should turn to dialogue to end a conflict with Shi’ite rebels that has complicated efforts to combat al Qaeda in the troubled Arabian Peninsula country.
August 3, 2009: Sultan Qaboos bin Saeed visited Tehran to discuss bilateral cooperation with Iran. During the visit – which had been delayed due to the June and July political unrest in Iran – the Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki and his Omani counterpart, Yousuf bin Alawi Abdullah, signed a security pact between the two countries. Iran and Oman also agreed on seven memoranda of understanding on several different issues, including political, economic and cultural cooperation.
April 14, 2009: Iran and Oman began drafting a security agreement. Omani Crown Prince Malik bin Suleiman al Moammari stated that “the Omani government and nation are willing to further expand ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran in all fields” and announced that the pact would be finalized soon.
June 27, 2011: According to an analysis by U.S.-based defense consultants Frost & Sullivan, the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, including Oman, are set to spend upwards of $122 billion collectively on defensive and offensive weapons systems over the next ten years to counter the surging Iranian threat.
March 16, 2011: Two Iranian warships docked at an Omani report on a return trip from the Mediterranean Sea. Members of the Iranian navy also met with Omani governmental and military officials and foreign diplomats.
February 9, 2011: Iran and Oman held joint war games in the Sea of Oman. The war game’s goal was to “increase the level of regional cooperation between the two countries and share experience.”
February 7, 2011: The Iran-Oman joint military committee held talks. After the meeting the two states emphasized the need to develop close military cooperation. In this meeting Iranian Brigadier General Mostafa Salami [Assistant Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces for Operations Affairs] stated that “decisions were made regarding the meeting with Omani joint chiefs of staff, minister of defense, commander of the army tri service [sic] and police and customs commander." He added, "it is expected that the second joint exercise on naval relief and rescue is performed on 9 February in Oman territorial waters in presence of the naval and aerial forces of two countries.”
August 4, 2010: Iran and Oman agreed to provide security for the Strait of Hormuz after a meeting between their respective defense ministers. The announcement came after a militant group claimed responsibility for an attack on a Japanese super tanker moving through the Strait of Hormuz.
August 22, 2008: Iranian ambassador to Oman Morteza Rahimi announced that the seventh annual Iran-Oman joint military committee was set to take place in Muscat the following week.