GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Oman's Foreign Policy: A Gulf Outlier
Paper Proposal Text :
The proposed paper will attempt to explain the historic factors that have contributed to Oman’s unique foreign policy decisions vis-à-vis other Gulf states. The sultanate’s independent and balancing foreign policy behaviour is not a recent development brought on by the challenges of the regional upheaval. It is the product of complex historical and domestic factors that inform the sultanate’s perception of its strategic interests and regional posture. The process that Oman underwent to become a modern Arab state is unmatched in the Gulf and the Middle East. Oman’s imperial history, the reign of the ultra-traditional and conservative Sultan Said bin Taimur and the over a decade long rebellion in Dhofar are among a few factors that define how the sultanate manages its relations with neighbours and outside powers. Despite the fact that Oman is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), it has often opted for foreign policy decisions that contradict those of other member states. For example, in the past, the country has pursued diplomatic relations with Iraq, Iran and even Israel, in spite of other Gulf states’ hostile attitudes towards them. The events of the past few years highlighted Oman’s unique foreign policy behaviour; while tensions grew high between Iran and other Gulf states against the backdrop of the Arab uprisings, Oman maintained its special relationship with Iran, even playing a mediating role between the Washington and Tehran. In order to adequately explain Oman’s foreign policy behaviour, the proposed paper will seek to use a combined approach of historical sociology and constructivism. Realist and Neorealist theories neglect the role of history, identity and domestic factors in analysing foreign policy decisions. Therefore, this study will first study the processes of state formation in Oman through the lens of historical sociology. It will then move on to adopt a constructivist approach to explain how these processes have led to creating a set of norms and values that are unique to the sultanate. It will finally analyse how these norms and values influence Oman’s foreign policy decisions.