Reappraisal: Oman By John Beasant Essay, Research Paper

Caught in the shadowsOman: The True-life Drama and Intrigue of an Arab Stateby John Beasant224pp, MainstreamOman was one time described as & # 8220 ; a topographic point in the Sun for fly-by-night people & # 8221 ; and this is a outstanding, if non prevailing, subject of this absorbing book. For the history of this close, cryptic, oil-rich Gulf province with a population of merely 1.6 million is dominated by narratives of Arabian machination, escapade and trickery: a British-inspired putsch to throw out the grand Turk and replace him with his ain boy ; SAS operatives contending off Rebels while feigning to be & # 8220 ; developing advisers & # 8221 ; ; Omani oil happening its manner to Rhodesia and South Africa during countenances ; the purchasing of expensive arms which made instant millionaires of former British military and intelligence officers, and the ill-famed building contract awarded to Cementation after Mrs Thatcher lobbied the grand Turk while her boy Mark was on the company payroll.Such contention has made the Omani government notoriously censorial and allergic to any inauspicious remark. It is illegal to knock Sultan Qaboos, and Robin Allen, the Financial Times & # 8217 ; s extremely respected Gulf letter writer, was banned from the state simply for describing a World Bank survey which concluded that Oman was heading for & # 8220 ; major economic turbulence & # 8221 ; because of & # 8220 ; exceptionally high degrees of defense mechanism and national security outgo & # 8221 ; .So when John Beasant, a well-connected journalist who had worked in Oman for many old ages, wrote this book, the government & # 8217 ; s reaction was typically inhibitory. He was offered a significant payoff non to print and when he refused, he was escorted to the airdrome and expelled from the state. Since publication this book has been officially banned.This surprisingly awkward public-relations scheme is all the more counter-productive because the book is far from a hatchet occupation on the current government. Beasant concludes that Sultan Qaboos & # 8220 ; has an enviable record of rather extraordinary acheivement, originating from his personal and sustained bravery & # 8221 ; in modernizing Oman, and believes he will & # 8220 ; emerge as one of the first constitutional sovereign of the Arabian Peninsula & # 8221 ; .Oman & # 8217 ; s unstable economic province, Beasant argues, is due alternatively to a & # 8220 ; cabal & # 8221 ; of exile British military and intelligence officers who took advantage of the grand Turk & # 8217 ; s good will and generousness and exploited the state & # 8217 ; s resources. Their influence is virtually impossible to overrate, he claims: & # 8220 ; A clique of Britishers who, since the outgrowth of the state as an oil-producing state, have, via the trust afforded them by Sultan Qaboos, regarded Oman as really much a private preserve. & # 8221 ; With the illicit blessing of the Foreign Office ( dying to continue RAF set downing rights in Oman, a strategic presence and entree to the moneymaking oil Fieldss ) , this bantam group of advisers to the grand Turk secured British involvements and so & # 8220 ; enriched themselves & # 8221 ; during the 1970s and 80s.Beasant names Brigadier Tim Landon, a cryptic military intelligence officer who, harmonizing to consecutive & # 8220 ; rich lists & # 8221 ; , is now deserving? 300m. & # 8220 ; The beginning and go oning basic supply of his personal luck undeniably originates in Oman, & # 8221 ; state

s the author.Known as the “White Sultan”, Landon had unfettered influence with the sultan. This friendship originated in 1960 when they shared a study at Sandhurst. After the coup in 1970, in which the desert intelligence officer played a pivotal role, the Sultan made him his military counsellor, in charge of equipping the armed forces.Oman then embarked on large-scale spending on defence – in 1980 alone, this amounted to ?400m. In 1974 the country nearly went bankrupt after buying an integrated air-defence missile system from British Aerospace. And later that year the Treasury told the sultan bluntly that the proposed purchase of the Jaguar fighter aircraft could not be funded by the public purse. “This was equipment we did not really need and most certainly could not afford,” was the view expressed by one Omani military commander.Beasant also claims that massive commissions were made by selling Omani oil to Rhodesia and South Africa despite the sanctions of the 1970s. “It was a high-risk venture for the country even though it was a purely private enterprise,” a former Omani minister is quoted as saying. “The oil shipped to southern Africa left Oman by sea, with bills of lading made out for Japan, but these were changed several times on the high seas. The financial returns were enormous.”By the early 1990s the greed and waste of the oil revenues, Beasant argues, resulted in public resentment. In 1994 some 200 rebel officers conspired to assassinate Sultan Qaboos and his closest associates. This was suppressed and most of the plotters were imprisoned.But today Oman is far from prosperous. While education and social services have been improved dramatically, unemployment is high, the oil reserves are almost exhausted and the sultan has been forced to borrow to keep the economy afloat.Beasant, who clearly cares passionately about Oman and its people, blames “the shadowy cabal” of British advisors. He quotes numerous prominent Omanis who, while not hostile to Britain’s involvement in their country, deeply resented what one called the “private enterprise nature” of the “small scheming group”. He also quotes eminent diplomats such as Sir Anthony Parsons who expressed “disquiet” about their role.Along with his researchers Christopher Ling and Ian Cummins, who also worked in Oman, Beasant makes a compelling case. While his book would have benefited from some judicious editing (he tends to use 10 words when five would suffice), it is revealing and well-informed. However, there are some notable gaps in the story: the role of the Thatcher family business during the Cementation contract affair and the relationship between British prime ministers and Oman is absent.Even today, Britain’s covert foreign policy in Oman and its privatised commercial consequences remains classified. Despite the 30-year rule, the Public Record Office still refuses to release some files on Oman. So there is still a story to be told. But, for now, Beasant’s account is more than adequate for those interested in this enigmatic Gulf state and Britain’s involvement with it.· Mark Hollingsworth is co-author of Thatcher’s Gold: The Life and Times of Mark Thatcher (Simon and Schuster)


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