Oman, also known as the Sultanate of Oman, is an absolute Islamic monarchy located on the south east coast of the Arabian Peninsula in southwest Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by the UAE; Saudi Arabia to the west; and Yemen to the south west. Oman's coast abuts the Arabian Sea to the south and east and the Gulf of Oman to the northeast. Since 1990, Oman has been a member of the Gulf States Union.
The history of modern day Oman can be traced back several thousand years to Arab tribes who journeyed from the Uman region of Yemen and settled down to fish, herd or breed livestock. Beginning in the 12th Century, Oman was ruled by a series of royal dynasties, the last being the Al Said clan who rose to power in the 1740s and still rule to this day. In 1515, the capital city of Muscat was seized and held by the Portuguese for over a century before the Omanis were able to drive them out. Oman subsequently took control over Portugal's former colonies in East Africa and by the early 1800s, had emerged as a major regional commercial power. This ended when Great Britain outlawed slavery, resulting in a collapse of the economy and the shrinking of the population. By 1850, Oman was a poor nation, all its colonies having been seized by England. The next century would see Omani rulers consolidate power, but at the same time come under the influence and control of Britain through a series of treaties until 1970, when Britain formerly granted independence. The same year saw the arch-conservative sultan overthrown in a coup, which placed his son, Qaboos ibn Said Al Said, on the throne. He reversed his father's harsh laws, consolidated power, quelled the insurgency, and upgraded the military. He created a modern government structure, built a modern infrastructure, upgraded education and health facilities; and began to develop natural resources.
Oman was not directly impacted as a result of Doomsday. It was about 4:50 AM on September 26, 1983, when news first reached Oman as to the outbreak of war. Sultan Qaboos was awakened at his palace and informed of reports which were being received via telex, television, and radio, including the BBC, that the USSR had apparently launched an attack against the West. Not knowing what to expect, the Sultan immediately declared a state of emergency, ordered the military to full alert, and instituted an immediate curfew calling on Omanis to stay in their homes. By 5:25 AM, all lines of communication with the US, Europe, Russia, Japan, and China had fallen silent. As dawn broke over Oman, it quickly became apparent no attacks had been directed against them. Communication with fellow GCC nations confirmed no strikes either with the exception of the Saudis who had managed to shoot down an ICBM with the help of USAF AWAC planes.
Over the remainder of the day, the Sultan and people worked out of the Defense Ministry, sifting through fragmentary reports in order to form a partial picture. He learned of the attacks in South Yemen, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Syria, and elsewhere. He met with the US and British ambassadors who could only admit being as much in the dark given they had lost contact as well soon after the first reports. At 8:00 PM, Sultan Qaboos took to the radio and television airwaves to speak to his people. "My fellow subjects, early this morning a great tragedy befell the entire world. As of this hours, millions, likely billions of people are dead or dying across the Earth, from the United States to Europe, the Soviet Union to China, South Yemen to Turkey. Although by the grace of Allah we and many of our fellow nations were protected, many in the Middle East were not. May Allah watch over the souls of all those who passed on to the next life, believer and non-believer, and may he guide us all through the darkness which has descended upon us ..."
After gaining independence in 1970, the Omani economy bore witness to rapid and unstructured expansion which saw traditional exports overtaken and surpassed by the production and export of petroleum and natural gas. In particular, agriculture, which had constituted 75% of the GDP, had dropped to almost 3% by 1983. It should be noted, the oil industry came late to Oman as compared to the other Gulf nations. The first oil field was discovered in 1962 and it was not until 1967 that export began. None the less, by the advent of Doomsday petroleum production had come to occupy a significant portion of the economy. By 1983 in fact, it represented 43% of the overall GDP; accounted for 82% of government revenues; and constituted 98% of exports. However, the oil industry had already begun to slow down by this time in large part due to the glut of oil on the international market which was reducing demand and revenue. Oman had already begun to recognize that they had to diversify their economy given their oil reserves would eventually be used up and were beginning to make a slow transition to a more diversified economy.
Although other Middle East nations constituted Oman's largest trading partners in both exports and imports, countries such as the US, Japan, Britain, Germany, and France were vital as well. For example the US alone accounted for nearly $5 billion in exports and $3 billion in imports. The loss of these nations had a powerful effect on the nations which would take a long time from which to recover. This, along with the collapse of the oil market, the loss of overseas investments, and the failure of economic sectors such as banking, finance, and tourism had a devastating effect on the GDP and led to tens of thousands being laid off or fired.
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Oman is an absolute monarchy in which the Sultan of Oman acts as both the head of state and the government. This includes the posts of prime minister, defense minister, finance minister, foreign minister, foreign affairs minister, and the chair of the central bank. A hereditary title, the throne has continually been held by a member of the Al Said family since the mid 18th Century, the most recent being Qaboos Bin Said, who ascended in 1970 after his father was forced to abdicate following a coup.
Oman has a bicameral assembly consisting of the Council of State with 41 members, and the Consultative Assembly with 83. Council members are appointed by the Sultan to four year terms and among their duties, they are charged with studying issues of national importance given to them by the Sultan, carrying out studies and making recommendations related to such areas as development of government. Created in 1991 by the Sultan to replace the State Consultative Council, the Consultative Assembly handles only consultative duties and acts as a link between the people and the government ministries. They can review drafts of economic and social legislation prepared by ministers and provide recommendations. Each of Oman’s districts hold caucuses to each nominate three candidates who are then forwarded to a cabinet committee for review. The names are then forwarded to the Sultan who makes the final selections. Actions of either political body can be overruled by the Sultan.
The nation is divided into 59 districts presided over by governors who settle local disputes, collect taxes and maintain order. Currently no politicians are allowed. Due to a growing call by citizens for greater representation, universal suffrage was enacted in 1991 granting voting rights to all those over the age of 21.
The main mission of the Omani military is to protect the monarchy, defend the nation, and maintain internal security. In the post Doomsday world, it still continues to carry out these functions but has widened it scope to participate in security operations with other Gulf State Union members. Much of Oman’s military equipment was acquired from western nations and as such, the nation has not been able to update it much since 1983. The current goal is to begin phasing out older equipment as newer models are manufactured by GSU armament factories. As of 2010, the total armed forces: army, navy, and air force, stands at approximately 42,000 personnel.
The army, also known as the Royal Armed Forces (RAF), is the largest part of the Omani military and numbers about 29,500, including paramilitary units, and 3700 foreign personnel. It includes two armored regiments composed of three tank squadrons; one armored reconnaissance regiment composed of three armored car squadrons; eight infantry regiments; four artillery regiments; one air defense regiment of two batteries; one infantry reconnaissance regiment composed of three reconnaissance companies; two independent reconnaissance companies; one airborne regiment; and one field engineering regiment of three squadrons. The tank squadrons use mainly British Chieftains and the armored car squadrons are outfitted with British Scorpion light tanks and French VBC-90s.
The Royal Oman Air Force (ROAF) numbers 3500 with its principal air bases located at Thamarit in the south and on Masirah. It consists of two fighter-ground attack squadrons of modern Jaguars, a ground attack and reconnaissance squadron of older Hunters, and a squadron of Strikemasters and Defenders for counterinsurgency, maritime reconnaissance, and training purposes. The ROAF is equipped with three transport squadrons and two squadrons of helicopters for troop transport and medical transport. The Skyvan aircraft is fitted with radar and special navigational gear to conduct maritime reconnaissance and antipollution.
The Royal Oman Navy (RON) current stands at approximately 3000 people, headquartered in As Sib. The main base of operation for the RON is the Said ibn Sultan Naval Base at Wudham Alwa, which was under construction at the time of Doomsday and did not open until 1988. As of 1983, the RON was in the process of upgrading it forces with four Province-class missile boats armed with Exocet anti-ship missiles and 76mm guns. At the time of Doomsday, only two of these vessels had been delivered. The navy also includes four Brook Marine fast-attack craft with 76mm guns, four inshore patrol craft, and the 10,000 ton landing ship Fuk al Salamah, constructed and launched in 1990 with the assistance of the GSU.
Since Doomsday, Omani military forces have been involved in several actions, some still ongoing. In 1989 they were part of a GCC military force which helped protect Kuwait from Iraq and in the 1990s played a role in peacekeeping operations in Iraq following that nation's collapse during a violent civil war. The Omani Navy is also involved in active patrol operations against pirates along with other countries.
In 1990, Oman officially joined the Gulf States Union (GSU) and is now an active member. Since the creation of the League of Nations in 2008, Oman has been represented in the body through its association with the GSU. With the early 1990s, Omani representatives, heralding back to their early vibrant maritime history, began to travel by ship throughout the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean to establish both political and economic relations on behalf of the GSU. This included contact with some of their former colonies such as Zanzibar and Pakistan. As of 2010, as a direct result of their efforts, relations have been established by both Oman and the GSU with east African nations, India, Sri Lanka, and Australia and New Zealand.