Dubai: As the finer details about the purposes of the unexpected visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Oman last week remain deeply shrouded in mystery, analysts are increasingly inclined to tie it to Iran, rather than to Palestine.
The Palestine connection was made because a few days earlier, Sultan Qaboos received Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and a Palestinian delegation in Muscat.
It was tempting for observers and media to deduce that Oman, a country that has built a reputation for mediating in complex situations, was working on a mediation between Palestinians and Israelis.
However, one day after the visit and amid a flurry of denunciations and cheers, Oman’s Foreign Minister Yousuf Bin Alawi told the Manama Dialogue in Bahrain that his country was not acting as mediator and was offering ideas to help Israel and the Palestine to come together for negotiations.
Moemen Basri, a Gulf analyst, said that improving relations between Israel and Palestine would mean a trip to Egypt, not to Oman.
He said that he believed that Oman was rather working on improving the situation between the US and Iran, just like it did in 2013, and that at that Israel was a crucial factor for the success of such an enterprise.
“I see it the announcement of the visit as a bold step by Oman to find a way out of crises that are plaguing or threatening the region,” he said.
“There is of course a strong inclination to help put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by giving a new chance to the parties involved to come together, but Muscat also wants to ensure there is no conflict with Iran as the screws are being tightened around it with the serious US-imposed sanctions looming larger,” he said.
Writing for Al Sharq Al Awsat, Abdul Rahman Al Rashed argued that “what has been said about the Omani mediation between the Palestinians and the Israelis is unlikely, given that Egypt is taking over the task.”
“Is it related to the Iranian-Israeli issue? Maybe, given that Oman has the confidence of the two sides as an honest broker,” he said.
“Iran is living its worst days on two fronts. It has been struck in Syria and the US sanctions, which will culminate in depriving it of its oil exports and of dealing in dollars, are one week away. The most important development is the growing role of Israel in the region because of the Syrian civil war and the arrival of Iran and its militias into areas considered by Israel as its security belt.”
Al Rashed said that Israel has played a critical role in decimating growing Iranian influence in Syria and thus played roles that Arab countries failed to do. “Israel has imposed itself at the very heart of the regional camps. Without its intervention, it would not have been possible to prevent the expansion of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which had taken advantage of the emergence of the Russian military and political presence,” he wrote.
“Will Iran increase its understanding with Israel and reassure it through mediators or does Israel want to deliver its messages to Tehran, considering that Israel is influencing the US decision to boycott Iran and to strangle it economically?”
Al Rashed predicted that such important changes in the region would not stop the activities of the Israeli leaders in Muscat.
“They are the beginning of a political division based on conflicts in Syria, Yemen and other areas.”
For columnist Khairallah Khairallah, Iran has seemingly realised the seriousness of the US and asked Oman to mediate again.
Oman had played a role in the beginning of the negotiations that led to the Iranian nuclear deal in 2015 and which the US left in 2018.
“There is, for the first time, an administration in Washington that knows exactly where the problem with Iran lies. This problem is not in the Iranian nuclear issue, which was a trick used by Tehran to cover up its regional behaviour,” Khairallah said.
“The problem is in Iranian behaviour. This behaviour is not limited to repression within Iran itself, but also includes the oppression of Arab peoples as well. What is Iran doing in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq?”