Can Oman’s New Leader Uphold Sultan Qaboos’s Peaceful Legacy?

A Flagging Economy Threatens the Sultanate’s Role as a Trusted Mediator

Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said gives a speech in Muscat, January 2020 Sultan Al Hasani / Reuters

After 49 years under Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Oman has a new ruler. The Arab world’s longest-serving leader died on January 10, ending nearly five decades of transformational rule during which he remade his war-torn nation into an oasis of stability and gained a reputation as a trusted mediator between rival powers. Qaboos had no children and therefore no heir apparent. But shortly after his death, Oman’s Royal Family and Defense Councils expedited the country’s formal succession process, inviting state television to broadcast the opening of a sealed envelope Qaboos had left behind naming his preferred successor: former Minister of Heritage and Culture Haitham bin Tariq al-Said.  

Long floated as a potential successor, Haitham is a cousin of Qaboos. He is described by those who have met him as quiet, steady, and a good listener. The 65-year-old University of Oxford graduate spent more than a decade in the Foreign

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