Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, the sultan of Oman, recently paid an official visit to Iran on May 28-29 following Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi’s trip to Oman last year.
Haitham bin Tariq Al Said traveled to Tehran in 2017 to attend President Hassan Rouhani's second term inauguration ceremony. Sultan Qaboos, was still alive, and it appeared that someone in the Islamic Republic misjudged Haitham’s potential political future.
At the ceremony, he was seated far from the first row. Oman expressed its protest to the Islamic Republic, but Tehran's authorities failed to rectify their behavior. The Islamic Republic sent then-Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the funeral of Sultan Qaboos and the succession ceremony of Sultan Haitham, instead of the president.
Oman has played a crucial role in resolving significant foreign crises through mediation and has been instrumental in the release of foreign prisoners held by Iran. Omani authorities have attached a great importance to this mediation role.
During Raisi's visit to Oman in May 2022, which coincided with the growing international isolation of the Islamic Republic, Sultan Haitham organized a grand ceremony for the Iranian president. At that time, Qatar had taken over Oman's traditional mediation role between Iran and the West.
During this period, Qatar played a mediating role in attempts to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers. Qatar also mediated for the release of Iranian-American citizens held by the Islamic Republic and even hosted discussions between Iranian and US officials, although these efforts failed to yield the desired outcomes. Oman previously facilitated talks between Iran and the United States.
Oman laid the groundwork for the recent release and exchange of a Belgian citizen imprisoned in Iran with Asadullah Asadi, an Iranian diplomat sentenced to 20 years in prison on terrorism charges. But the swap was facilitated by a prisoner swap agreement between Tehran and Brussels.
Given Oman's importance to the Islamic Republic, it was expected that Iranian authorities would make amends for past shortcomings by organizing an elaborate ceremonial reception for Sultan Haitham. However, Raisi did not go to the airport to welcome the monarch, instead waiting for his guest at Tehran's Saadabad Palace where an official reception was held.
Raisi and Sultan Haitham did not hold a joint press conference after their meeting. However, the foreign ministers of Iran and Oman answered a few questions about the two countries’ bilateral relations.
Ahead of the official dinner ceremony in honor of Sultan Haitham, the monarch and Raisi visited an exhibition of Iranian luxury goods in Saadabad Palace, including hand-woven carpets and jewelry.
An Omani media outlet reported that during his trip to Iran in 2013, Sultan Qaboos purchased hand-woven carpets worth $15 million.
On the second day of his visit, Sultan Haitham held talks with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the primary purpose of his trip.
Khamenei's website indirectly addressed the matter and stated that the ruler of Iran has no objection to the re-establishment of relations between Iran and Egypt, which were severed after Egypt recognized Israel.
Following his meeting with Khamenei, Sultan Haitham went to Tehran’s Mehrabad airport, accompanied only by Raisi's first deputy. In the joint statement issued at the end of the visit, Raisi and Sultan Haitham made little mention of the trip's intended purpose, which was Oman’s potential mediation between Tehran and Cairo.
For Sultan Haitham, the goal of the visit was to maintain Oman's position as a mediator in global affairs. For Khamenei and the government of the Islamic Republic, hosting the Omani monarch at a time when their domestic and international credibility has dramatically diminished served as an opportunity to bolster their image.