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Trump asks Oman to help counter Iran’s ‘destabilizing’ activities

Qaboos bin Said Al Said is the Sultan of Oman (L) and US President Donald Trump.

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump raised the issue of Iran’s interference in regional states during a phone call held Tuesday with Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman, according to the White House.
A brief readout of the call said that “the two leaders discussed ways to resolve regional conflicts and President Trump emphasized the need to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region.”
Analysts and former government officials interviewed by Arab News confirmed that this is the first time that the two leaders have spoken directly.
Some observers suggested that US-Oman relations under the Trump administration might have had a slow start. A scheduled meeting between Trump and Oman’s Deputy Prime Minister Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud Al-Said on the sidelines of the Riyadh Summit in April was abruptly canceled.
There appears, however, to be a broad consensus among observers that Oman has played an important mediating role in the region due to a foreign policy based on the principle of neutrality and non-interference.
Oman has managed to maintain strong relations with its neighbors in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) while taking a softer approach on Iran, with which it shares the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Oman played a major role in brokering the agreement between Iran, the US and five other nations over Tehran’s controversial nuclear energy development program.
Previously, it also played a role in trying to push forward the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.
Speaking to Arab News about the call between Trump and Sultan Qaboos, a former senior US diplomat in the region said that the Trump administration “appeared to be slow to understand Oman’s very special role in the region — (with) a ruler that can speak to all sides (and) does not get involved in regional spats.”
The former diplomat pointed to the fact that Oman allows US forces to be based on Masirah Island, as well as its historical role in helping in negotiations to win freedom for US hostages held in Iran and Yemen, and Oman’s hosting of secret US-Iranian talks.
“The sultan has always been there when the US is in extreme need,” the former diplomat said.
Echoing some of those sentiments, Sigurd Neubauer, a non-resident fellow with the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, told Arab News: “While Trump did not meet with Oman’s deputy prime minister…during the Riyadh Summit in May, the US president dispatched the CIA director shortly thereafter to Muscat to discuss Iran, among other issues. Oman is the only GCC country to enjoy friendly relations with all of its neighbors, including Iran, and it is possible that Qaboos is once again serving as an intermediary between Washington and Tehran.”

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