US concerns with Oman over financial ties to Iran

Pompeo

The “real concerns” for US authorities over Oman are the country’s financial ties with Iran, including entities that were under US sanctions prior to the 2015 nuclear deal, according to a new report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington DC-based policy institute.

Oman has historically been referred to as the “Switzerland of the Middle East,” having maintained a commitment to diplomacy throughout the late Sultan Qaboos’s reign, with a friendly relationship with Iran and an alliance with the US as a trademark of its role in the region, the report explained. This position may no longer be tenable, however, as US policy towards Iran adjusts during the Donald Trump presidency, it added.

“American policymakers should be sympathetic as Oman adjusts to the diametrically opposing policies of the Trump and Obama administrations. However, Washington should also demand that Muscat shift back to a truly neutral position on Iran, both politically and economically,” the report said.

According to a 2018 US Senate report, Omani banks assisted Iran in gaining access to its foreign reserves while the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was still in effect. This raises “troubling questions” over Oman’s efforts to financial assist Iran, the report said.

US policymakers should push Oman to take a genuinely neutral position that no longer advocates for dialogue with Iran, the report said. “Omani officials continue to insist that sanctions are the wrong policy and that engagement with Iran is the best way forward. This is not a neutral position. If anything, this is a policy that advocates for Iran’s interests,” it said.