The history of relationships

The current land of Oman either had many economic and cultural connections with Iran or was placed under the control of Iranian dynasties in various periods. Variables such as the expansion of the presence of Baloch and Iranian-descended groups in Oman, political-military connections, and resistance to Iranian hegemony, along with very close cultural and economic relations with Iran, have been indicators of relations in the past centuries.

In the 20th century, the political relations between Iran and the land of Oman were accompanied by ups and downs. After the establishment of the Sultanate of Oman in the 1970s, the establishment of political relations between the two countries began in 1971.[1]

With the agreement of Iran’s military assistance to Oman, in the war against the Dhofar rebels in the fall of 1972, Iran suppressed the opposition of the government.

Iran’s criticism of Arab countries, speculation about Iran’s support for the Muscat opposition, Oman’s cooperation with the US, and so on reduced the level of relations between the two countries until 1985. Then, gradually, the relations between the two countries appeased the existent tensions[2] and were promoted to the ambassador level.

Despite some disagreements between Muscat and Tehran, there have been stable relations in the past decade. Apart from Oman’s successful mediation in the release of 15 British sailors in 2007,[3] and the exchange of Iranian prisoners with the United States in 2011, Oman’s most prominent role was trying to get Iran to reach the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement.

Recent relationships and relationship opportunities

After the 2022 visit of the President of Iran to Oman, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al-Sayed, Sultan of Oman, visited Iran in May 2023. In the joint statement of Oman and Iran in May 2023, [4]satisfaction with the high level of bilateral relations, and desire to further expand relations in the future, joint committees, and exchange of visits in various fields are highlighted.

Bilateral geopolitical and security cooperation:

Oman is close to Iran through the water borders and Musandam Peninsula in the northern part of the country. The Strait of Hormuz is located between the two countries. The “neighborhood policy” [5]initiative of the foreign policy of Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi, has given a lot of importance to Oman. Therefore, Oman, following the “Good neighbor”[6] principle, has a pragmatic approach and maintains good relations with Iran.

The process of increasing the role of the other party in foreign policy has played an important role in geopolitical and regional balance, following the requirements of national security, stability, and national unity for both countries.

One of the key pillars of Oman’s foreign policy has been balancing with its Western neighbors and allies on the one hand and Iran on the other. By balancing its relations with regional actors, Oman should use Iran as a factor to create balance with other actors.

It is also important to continue the efforts, coordination, and consultation between the two countries in various regional and international forums for long-term, common, and diplomatic interests in some regional crises, especially in the Middle East.

Apart from the numerous memorandums of military cooperation since September 2013, [7]naval maneuvers and joint patrols, the maintenance and continuity of military relations, security cooperation, and the fight against terrorism and extremism, the common interests of the two countries in the Strait of Hormuz, etc., have an important role in strengthening and expanding security and defense relations between the two countries.

Reducing tension and diplomatic dialogues and cooperation:

As of January 2020, Haitham bin Tariq al-Saeed, as the new Sultan of Oman, emphasized following up Qaboos’ foreign policy which is the continuation of the country’s past path based on peaceful coexistence between nations and good neighborliness.

Iran considers Oman’s balanced and influential role and regional and international efforts to deepen positive bilateral relations and establish peace and stability in the region as wise and constructive, and Oman[8] appreciates the good neighborly policy of the 13th government of Iran.

Oman still does not consider Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to the security of the region and can play an important role in the complete resolution of the nuclear agreement.

Apart from Oman’s previous role as the protector of Iran’s interests in some Western countries, Oman represents a valuable regional actor mediating between Iran and the West. Muscat’s good relationship with Iran and Europe, while being an ally of the US and maintaining the independence of Oman’s foreign policy is while the West and Tehran trust Oman as a reliable and effective channel in solving crises such as the exchange of prisoners. Muscat is also worried about violent incidents in the Strait of Hormuz or near Oman. Therefore, it always supports diplomatic dialogue and interaction intending to reduce tension and promote greater stability in the Middle East. Iran and Oman continue to exchange views on several regional and international issues of mutual interest. From the point of view of many in Tehran, Oman seeks to play a positive role in regional equations, reduce the gaps, and create peace.

Energy and Transit Cooperation

The signing of an agreement between Iran and Oman on their joint study of the Hengam oil and gas field in the Strait of Hormuz[9] can help increase the oil and gas production of the two countries.

Iran’s plans, Oman’s 2040 vision, new and expanding ports, the potential of logistics and transportation cooperation in the North-South corridor, and the implementation of the quadrilateral agreement between Iran, Oman, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have highlighted the role of transit in cooperation.

Expansion of commercial and economic relations

In the last few years, the establishment of a joint committee for strategic consultations, where memorandums, and cooperation agreements in sectors such as energy, transportation, are discussed, are facilitating the issuance of visas for Iranian and Omani nationals, and the expansion of private sector cooperation. Overall, they have increased the range of economic relations between Iran and Oman.

The joint statement of Oman and Iran in May 2023[10] emphasized the active role of the private sector and welcomed the signing of agreements and memorandums of understanding.

The positive effects of exempting the citizens of both countries from travel visa conditions on facilitating tourism and increasing the number of flights and 41% growth[11] in trade volume in the first eight months of 2023 are evident. After holding the recent 20th Joint Economic Commission of Tehran and Muscat, the two countries pay attention to the possibility of signing more customs and economic agreements,[12] along with the necessity of financial transfer to achieve mutual investment and cooperation.

Challenges and prospects

Although there are differences in political and geopolitical opinions, such as Oman’s view of Israel, along with the challenges in the expansion of Iran-Oman relations in the past few decades, in the development of trade relations, there is still a long way to reach the desired point, and sanctions and banking issues are one of the main obstacles to the development of trade relations between the two countries.

However, in 2023,[13] the President of Iran and the Sultan of Oman asked the government officials to take the necessary measures to prepare a strategic cooperation document in various fields and sign it to consolidate cooperation and mutual benefits.

In December 2023,[14] Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian pointed out the good progress in relations between Iran and Oman and the follow-up of agreements.

Apart from Oman’s role in the dialogue between Iran and Egypt in 1991, Oman’s mediation between Egypt and Iran is still relevant.

Also, the intensification of the talks between Tehran and Muscat regarding the immediate action of the international community to stop the Gaza war, reduce the tension in the Red Sea, solve the Yemen crisis, and continue the positive relations between Riyadh and Tehran, etc., is still desired by both sides.

The supply of natural gas from Iran to Oman, Oman’s investment participation in energy and gas projects and joint petrochemical projects, the plan to transfer Caspian gas resources through Iran to Oman, etc. are still discussed. If the two countries revive the gas pipeline project, it will create new cooperation avenues.

Activating maritime affairs agreements, connecting ports and strengthening air traffic, and integration between Oman and Iran ports to support investment and import and export activities, and connecting the two countries with more transportation lines, can play an important role in the form of multilateral cooperation in the regional economy.

Opening various channels for new economic partnerships, creating e-commerce, re-exporting goods,[15] and importing Iran through Oman, facilitating trade and investment between the two countries can increase the range of economic relations.

Iran and Oman are considering signing a preferential trade[16] agreement and using national currencies in economic cooperation soon.

The economic potential between the two countries is high and there is a full implementation of past agreements and even an increase in the value of trade to 5 billion dollars. Additionally, it is also possible to get the strategic cooperation document signed this year.

Therefore, despite the existence of various challenges, the prospects for the development of political, diplomatic, and even strategic cooperation between the two countries are still very clear.


Disclaimer. The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MEPEI. Any content provided by our authors is of their opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.


















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About the author:

Farzad Ramezani Bonesh

Farzad Ramezani Bonesh is a writer, senior researcher, and analyst focusing on the Middle East and South Asia. He has written research articles, short analyses, and journalistic pieces in both Persian and English. He has also appeared on international outlets such as Al-Jazeera, RT, and Al-Araby among many others.

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