The Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said’s history of serving as an interlocutor between the US and Iran has mostly been told in whispers and pieces, but now we have a straight-talking Wall Street Journal chronicle of his role:
Tehran and Washington have used Oman to relay messages after diplomatic relations broke down following the 1979 Islamic revolution in Tehran.
Aides to Sultan Qaboos said the British-educated monarch views himself as a mediator between competing sides in the Middle East’s conflicts. He hosted then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1994 in a bid to forge economic and diplomatic ties.
“He is an idealist in that to a significant extent his policy-making is driven by ethical considerations,” said a senior Arab diplomat who has worked closely with Sultan Qaboos.
The Obama administration heightened Oman’s role as an intermediary in late 2011, in part because of the help it provided in bringing home the three American hikers, said senior U.S. officials.
In December of that year, Secretary of State John Kerry, then the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, held secret talks with Sultan Qaboos and requested that higher-level meetings between Tehran and Washington be held in Muscat. Oman’s proximity to Iran, less than 200 miles across the Persian Gulf, made it a strategic-and out-of-the-way-site.
In July 2012, the first high-level meetings between Iranians and Americans took place during Mr. Obama’s tenure, said senior U.S. and Iranian officials.