Gulf Sources Say Oman Has Joined Saudi-Led Islamic Alliance

According to a Reuters report in Yahoo News,  Oman, traditionally resistant to joining the Gulf Arab states to close ranks against Iran, has now joined a Saudi-led coalition of Muslim countries to fight terrorism, Saudi and Gulf sources said on Wednesday.

In a letter to Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister, Mohammed bin Salman, the sultanate indicated its willingness to take part in the 40-country alliance.

The Sultanate has worried that a regional confrontation would threaten its own stability, but and it seeks to play the conciliator.

“Oman has always in the past taken positions and policies that are contrary to the Gulf positions regarding the region. This now shows the return of Oman to the Gulf consensus against Iran and its political positions,” one of the sources said.

Oman’s move was a geopolitical shift in the region because “it is known that Oman has been close to Iran, the traditional enemy of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries.” according to sources.

In preparation for a visit by King Salman, Prince Mohammed is expected to travel to Muscat in coming weeks, sources said, adding

that Oman had changed its direction in the region after it realized the “lack of seriousness and of benefits” of cooperation with the Iranians.

In a move welcomed by Washington, who has been urging greater involvement against Islamic State militants, Saudi Arabia announced the alliance in December 2015.

While Oman watched with concern the rivalry between Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran has spread. Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), of which Oman is a member, think that Tehran is interfering in Arab countries and build its own sphere of Middle East influence.

Although most of the GCC has chosen to close ranks against Tehran, Oman has sought to distance itself from that effort.  The Sultanate sits on the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow waterway between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula, through which flows 40 percent of the world’s seaborne crude oil, and it has a history of constructive relations with Tehran. Oman sees itself as a mediator in a turbulent region.

Islamic State has mounted a series of attacks on Shi’ite Muslim mosques and security forces in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and has also pledged to overthrow the monarchies of the Gulf.