Oman and the World: The Emergence of an Independent Foreign Policy

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Oman and the World: The Emergence of an Independent Foreign Policy

Joseph Kechichian, RAND Corporation, 1995, 400 pp. List: $24.95, AET: $18.

Reviewed by Shawn L. Twing

Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time researching the Middle East knows how difficult it is to find objective, yet thorough, information without relying on overly detailed, specialized publications. This is particularly true for the countries in and around the Arabian peninsula. Given the concentration of some 70 percent of the world's proven petroleum reserves in the region and the dramatic events that followed the Aug. 2, 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the vast majority of publications related to this part of the Middle East focus on two narrow topics: oil production and the 1991 Gulf war. Although both subjects are of great importance, they can be better understood if they are put into a broader context. An attempt to accomplish this for one Arabian Gulf country, Oman, is Joseph Kechichian's recently released Oman and the World: The Emergence of an Independent Foreign Policy.

While the title suggests that the focus will be on foreign relations, Kechichian actually covers the centuries of history leading up to the creation of the modern Omani state, Oman's remarkable and unparalleled development since Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said ascended the throne in 1970, and case by case comparative studies of Oman's contemporary foreign relations with its Arab and Persian neighbors, the Western world, Asia, countries of the greater Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Africa and the emerging Central Asian republics. For the generalist, the scope of the book is sufficient to provide an in-depth understanding of Oman well beyond its foreign policy concerns. For the foreign policy specialist, Kechichian's position as a RAND scholar is evident in his thorough analysis of policy questions as well as the impetus beyond geostrategic decisionmaking. The RAND Corporation is noted for the quality of its policy-related research and Oman and the World is no exception. …