January 10, 2020, at the age of a full 79 years, Sultan of Oman Qaboos bin Said Al Said, who led the state for almost half a century, passed away.
This sad event was expected because after the sultan was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2014, a discussion about his heir began. Qaboos didn’t very often appear in public, as he underwent treatment in Germany and later had an examination in Belgium. However, an inexorable illness took his life.
On the night of January 11, armored vehicles appeared on the streets of Muscat, the capital, and this was not a coup, but a preventive measure in a situation of a power vacuum.
The Sultan did not have direct heirs because he was not married. He also had no brothers. Accordingly, in accordance with the procedure developed by Qaboos himself (prescribed in Article 6 of the Basic Law), after his death three-day mourning is declared and during this period the throne remains vacant. During these days, within the framework of the council of the ruling family, Al-Said should choose a successor from among the candidates whose names are kept secret and determined by the Sultan himself.
But the clans in Oman decided not to hesitate for a long time and immediately agreed on the candidacy of a new ruler.
According to the will of the deceased Qaboos bin Said, Haitham bin Tariq Al Said became the new Sultan of Oman.
Haitham bin Tariq Al Said is 65 years old, he is the cousin of the Sultan, the half-brother of the influential Asaad bin Tariq, who led the majority of government delegations abroad instead of Sultan. He was a minister of heritage and culture, an avid fan of football (he was the first president of the Omani Football Association). He is also an Oxford graduate.
Haitham bin Tariq Al Said took the oath of office in the Council of Oman (bicameral parliamentary-type deliberative body). The new sultan promised to continue the political course of Qaboos. The new head said he would continue adhering to the principles of peaceful coexistence, international cooperation, and non-interference. He added that he would maintain friendly relations with all countries.
A peaceful and swift transfer of power could not do without the current chairman of the Palace Office (Maktab al-Qasr) and the head of the Internal Security Service (ISS), Sultan bin Mohammed al Numani. He is not only the curator of the entire power block but also the main mediator in relations between the countries of the West and Iran.
Returning to the legacy of Sultan Qaboos, he gained power through a bloodless coup in 1970, during which his father Said bin Taimur was eliminated. The latter was known for its conservative views and in fact, retained a medieval way of life in the country.
But his son turned out to be a reformer, and the country was rapidly modernized over the years of the reign of Qaboos. He has conducted the final unification of the Sultanate of Muscat and the Imamate of Oman into the only country that left the British protectorate December 2, 1971. The Sultan carried out fundamental administrative (new administrative division, centralization of the state) and military reforms (the purchase of the latest weapons and increasing salaries for the military). The new army was able to suppress the separatist uprising in the Dhofar region in 1976, where the Left-wing Dhofar Liberation Front operated. His fighters were trained in the Soviet Union on the territory of Crimea.
Qaboos has created a system of first-class highways, an international airport, a seaport, implemented a reform of education (the country's first university was created) and rebuilt the healthcare system. With the filing of Sultan Qaboos, Oman received the first-ever constitutional act in 1996 – the Basic Law, which introduced the Advisory Council and the mechanism of succession to the throne.
In economic terms, the country receives the main income from the sale of oil, although significant funds (tens of billions of US dollars) go into the hands of the sultan himself. However, he didn’t spend the money received on buying assets in foreign countries, but invested in his country, creating almost the best living conditions in the Middle East for the population – free education and medical care, state support for housing loans. Oman had significant authority among the entire Arab world and was considered a mediating country in the conflict between Shiite and Sunni forces in the region. Oman has a significant influence on the political elites of South Yemen, and stability in the areas of Aden and Hadramaut depends on the situation in this part of the country.