Oman’s Sultan Qaboos has died at the age of 79 after a long illness, marking an end to 50 years of rule.
The sultan oversaw the transformation of Oman from being an underdeveloped country with a history of civil conflict into a politically stable middle-income state.
Haitham bin Tariq, Oman’s 65 year old culture minister, has been appointed his successor.
Under Qaboos, political parties were banned and no opposition to his rule was tolerated. But despite this he remained a popular leader who had secured the welfare of Omanis by leading the nation through its modernisation.
The last years of Qaboos’s life were plagued by illness and led to long absences from the country for medical treatment in Germany. He was also frequently in Belgium for medical treatment, reportedly for colon cancer.
Qaboos married his cousin in 1976, but the marriage did not produce any children and ended in divorce in 1979. He never married again.
Qaboos was a stalwart ally of Washington and London, ever since he was installed by a British-backed coup against his father in 1970.
Oman’s Masirah Island became the staging post for U.S. president Jimmy Carter’s disastrous hostage rescue attempt following the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. The agreement was renewed in 1990, and Oman sent troops in the U.S.-led war against Iraq following Saddam Hussein’s attack on Kuwait.
After the attacks on America in September 2001, Oman was a major Nato logistics base during operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with cargo airlifted to Afghanistan on a daily basis.
But Qaboos maintained a delicate balancing act in his relations with the Iran, and in recent years developed strong diplomatic and economic ties with Tehran.
Oman even hosted bilateral talks between the U.S. and Iran from 2012 that produced the interim deal over Iran’s nuclear programme and the first signs of a rapprochement between Iran and the U.S. since the 1979 revolution.
But in 2018 he earned the ire of many in the Muslim world by hosting Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu in Muscat.