87. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs and South Asian (Sisco) to Secretary of State Rogers 1

SUBJECT

  • New Sultan in Muscat and Oman—Information Memorandum

Qabus bin Taymour, longstanding heir apparent, seized control of the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman on July 24 by leading a palace revolution against his father. The United Kingdom apparently knew of Qabus’ plans in advance but disclaims any responsibility.2 We learned of the coup through wire service reports on July 26.3 The deposed Sultan has been flown by the RAF to exile in London. British reports indicate that Qabus has taken over firmly, his action has been welcomed by the populace, and that the situation in the Sultanate is quiet. The USG will probably soon receive a request for recognition of the new regime and we will most likely recommend that this be accorded promptly.4

Political Situation

Through a policy of political and economic repression, the deposed Sultan, Sa’id bin Taymour, kept his country totally undeveloped and isolated from the outside world. His policies could not cope with the increasingly active rebellion in Dhofar Province which was supported from South Yemen with some Chinese Communist involvement. The old Sultan had also failed to end the rebellion in Oman Province.5 He [Page 276]had made virtually no effort to use the new oil wealth (some $95 million in 1969) for the benefit of his people.

New Era Promised

The new Sultan is in his late twenties and was educated at Oxford and Sandhurst. Since his return, however, his father had kept him under virtual house arrest and allowed him no part in governing the Sultanate. Qabus promised in his July 26 statement to move promptly to establish a modern, effective government. He must deal with two separate rebellions: the Dhofari and the Omani. Qabus may lack sufficient toughness to rule but this problem could be overcome if his uncle, Tariq, should return from exile to join his nephew in running the Sultanate.

Efforts to Broaden Foreign Relations Likely

Qabus’ accession to power may lead to closer cooperation with the Trucial States and Saudi Arabia. In particular, it might open the way to a dialogue with King Faisal to resolve the long-standing Buraimi Oasis dispute. Qabus has announced that he will take “necessary constitutional steps” to obtain recognition from countries with which the Sultanate has relations—i.e., the UK, India and the U.S.

British Reaction

Current British interest in Muscat and Oman centers on oil, the strategic airfield and radar facilities on Masirah Island, and the desire to preserve Muscat and Oman as a buffer between the emerging Gulf states and the radical regime of South Yemen. We expect that Qabus will not harm these British interests and will retain the 100 British officers now with the Sultanate’s armed forces. Whitehall believes that Qabus has effective control over the Sultanate. UK recognition was extended July 29.

U.S. Interests

USG contacts with Muscat and Oman date back to 1833, but our relations in recent years have been minimal. Our official contact with the Sultanate has consisted of occasional calls by the Commander, Middle East Force, and semi-annual visits by our Consul General from Dhahran. We expect that Qabus will proceed to consolidate his position and will soon submit a formal request for USG recognition of his regime. We expect that he will honor the Sultanate’s international obligations; these are, to be sure, few in number but include a Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights in effect with us since 1960. Barring unforseen developments, we will recommend that the request for recognition, when made, be granted.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 15–1 OMAN. Confidential. Drafted by Wrampelmeier and cleared by Atherton, Murphy, Greenwald (L/NEA), and Aldrich (L). Sisco added a handwritten note under the subject line: “A hopeful development.” The memorandum was forwarded to Kissinger under a July 30 covering memorandum from Eliot. (Ibid., POL 23–9 MUSCAT & OMAN)
  2. According to telegram 117656 to London, July 22, a variety of sources available to the Embassy had indicated that “something must be done” to get rid of Sultan Said. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram 5924 from London, July 27, and telegram 824 from Dhahran, July 28, contained full accounts of the coup’s events. (Ibid., POL 23–9 MUSCAT–OMAN)
  4. In an undated memorandum to Nixon, based largely on this memorandum, Kissinger recommended that the United States recognize Qabus’s government. Kissinger then initialed approval for Nixon. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, White House Confidential Files, Box 8, [CF] CO 105 Muscat & Oman)
  5. Telegram 666 from Kuwait, July 21, transmitted an analysis of the various opposition groups in Oman. (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 620, Country Files, Middle East, Kuwait, Vol. I)