New Delhi: Oman's ailing Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, known as one of the Middle East's longest serving rulers who maintained the country's neutrality in regional struggles, died on Friday. The Gulf state's high military council to began the process to choose his successor.Three days of official mourning have been declared with flags flown at half-mast for 40 days, for the Western-backed Sultan Qaboos, 79, who had ruled since taking over from 1970 with the help of former colonial power Britain.
State news agency ONA did not reveal the cause of death, Sultan Qaboos had been sick for years and had also spent a week in Belgium where he was undergoing medical treatment in December.
Sultan Qaboos had no children and had not publicly appointed a successor. As, a 1996 statute says that the ruling family will choose a successor within three days of the throne becoming vacant. In a statement carried on state media on Saturday, The high military council called on Oman's ruling family council to held a meeting to choose a new ruler.
If the council fails to agree, then a council of military and security officials, supreme court chiefs and heads of the two consultative assemblies will put in power the person whose name has been secretly written by the sultan in a sealed letter.
There has been a wide conjecture over the succession as domestic challenges is really threatening, from strained state finances to high unemployment in the relatively small oil producer, and at the time of heightened tension between Iran and the United States and U.S. ally Saudi Arabia.
Oman observers the sultan's three cousins - Assad, Shihab and Haitham bin Tariq al-Said, stand the best chance.
Kristian Coates Ulrichsen of the Texas-based Rice University's Baker Institute told Reuters that "I imagine that the succession itself will be a smooth process within Oman."
He also stated that, "But the wildcard is whether any of Oman's neighbours might try to pressure the new sultan as he settles into power - just as the Saudis and Emiratis tried to pressure Emir Tamim in the weeks and months after he assumed power in Qatar in 2013."
Former U.S. President, George W. Bush said in a statement that Qaboos had been a stable force in the Middle East. Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum in a Twitter post described him as the sultan of honour, affection and wisdom.
Oman maintains friendly ties with Washington and Tehran and helped mediate secret U.S.-Iran talks in 2013 that led two years later to the international nuclear pact which Washington quit in 2018.
Muscat did not take sides in a Gulf dispute that saw Riyadh and its allies impose a boycott on Qatar in mid-2017 and did not join a Saudi-led military coalition that intervened in Yemen against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.
Simon Henderson, director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said, Oman's diplomatic centrality has been a factor of Qaboos' personality.
He added, "It is hard to see how Oman can involve itself in the Yemen, Iran and Qatar issues until a new leader has established himself - which means for the foreseeable future."