Remembering Qaboos bin Said, the Sultan of Oman

Remembering Qaboos bin Said, the Sultan of Oman

( – When we think about unelected leaders in the Middle East, we often picture tyrannical regimes that exploit their subjects. However, that isn’t always the case.

In January 2020, Oman lost its leader of nearly five decades, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, to cancer. Having served in the British military as a young man, Qaboos seized power from his father through a bloodless coup in 1970, with the backing of the UK.

He ruled Oman from then until his death. Despite never shouldering true accountability for his leadership in the form of an open vote, Qaboos ran his country well. He’s credited with ending Oman’s international isolation, abolishing slavery, and improving general living standards in the country.

Qaboos had no children, which meant there was no obvious successor to Oman’s leadership when he died. A family council eventually selected Haitham bin Tariq al-Said (a cousin of Qaboos) as the new sultan. Analysts expect Haitham to continue with Qaboos’ neutral foreign policy approach, a key requirement for the peace and relative prosperity that exists in Oman today.

As Americans, we’ve almost come to take democracy, and its accompanying checks and balances, for granted. This is undoubtedly a good thing. However, as Qaboos bin Said showed, not every dictator is a despot.

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