Iran’s high-level visit to Oman raises eyebrows - analysis

Hossein Amirabdollahian will also visit China in the coming days, according to reports. So why is Oman the first stop on an important journey?

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi gives a speech during a ceremony to mark the second anniversary of the killing of senior Iranian military commander General Qassem Soleimani in a US attack, in Tehran, Iran, January 3, 2022. (photo credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)
Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi gives a speech during a ceremony to mark the second anniversary of the killing of senior Iranian military commander General Qassem Soleimani in a US attack, in Tehran, Iran, January 3, 2022.
(photo credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)

Iran is sending its foreign minister to Oman. The move has raised eyebrows in Iran and the Gulf.

Oman has often positioned itself as a kind of intermediary or neutral country in the region’s squabbles. It is not involved in the various conflicts in the neighborhood. As such, it is courted by Iran, Gulf states and other countries. It even hosted then prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018.

According to media reports, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has already left Tehran for Muscat in Oman. He also intends to visit China in the coming days, the reports said.

So why is Oman the first stop on an important journey? Reports in Iran are short on information and only say he is meeting Omani officials.

“The main focus of the talks during this trip will be to explore ways to expand mutual relations in various political, economic and cultural fields, as well as to discuss important issues in the region,” an Iranian media report said. He is said to be accompanied by a large delegation.

A general view of the Al Hajar mountains near Ibri, Oman, November 27, 2019. (credit: REUTERS/CHRISTOPHER PIKE)A general view of the Al Hajar mountains near Ibri, Oman, November 27, 2019. (credit: REUTERS/CHRISTOPHER PIKE)

Iran’s media hinted at “important issues.” This could include talks about Yemen. Iran recently evacuated its ambassador to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The rebels have been attacking Saudi Arabia.

Iran’s talks in Oman may also be aimed at repairing relations with other Gulf states or focusing on naval and marine issues in the Gulf of Oman, where there have been tensions between Iran and other countries.

The Iranian reports did not mention these sensitive issues, but they did mention the volume of trade between Iran and Oman. Trade is around $1 billion, which is not a tremendous amount.

“Tehran says that the level of exchange can be raised to $5 billion,” an Iranian report said. Iran has also said Oman released “nearly $2 billion in Iranian funds frozen due to US sanctions.”

A large delegation from the Iranian Foreign Ministry will likely be there to discuss more than just trade.