Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 28 Issue 7
Author: Silvia Boltuc
Following the allegations of Iran being involved in the Ukrainian conflict by delivering weapons to Russia, Tehran has been under severe international pressure and sanctions. In this context, given its good relationship with Iran and its neutral foreign policy, Oman might emerge as a strategic regional mediator and help resolve critical issues such as the revival of the Iranian nuclear deal and the dispute between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
- In the context of the Ukraine conflict, considering Kyiv’s allegation against Tehran of military supporting Moscow, Oman might mediate between the parties to avoid deteriorating relations between Iran and Ukraine.
- Among mistrust from Gulf monarchies, Oman has become a strategic partner for Iran, which might help revive the JCPOA and lift sanctions on Iran, as Muscat defined Tehran as a ‘reliable partner’ in nuclear talks.
- Reviving a new nuclear deal might avoid a direct military confrontation between the U.S./Israel and Iran.
- Given its LNG capacity, Omani ports have been connected to Iranian ones and might become a hub for the distribution of Iranian gas.
According to several Arab media outlets, the Omani capital, Muscat, witnessed three dialogue sessions between the Iranian and Ukrainian sides to discuss Tehran’s alleged support for Moscow in the Russian-Ukrainian war.
In October 2022, Ukraine accused Iran of violating a U.N. Security Council ban on the transfer of drones and invited U.N. experts to inspect what it said were Iranian-origin drones being used by Russia against civilian targets.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has emphasised its opposition to the conflict in Ukraine since its inception, despite not voting against Moscow in the United Nations resolution that Tehran called ‘anti-Russia’. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, in response to the Ukrainian allegations, said that Tehran and Moscow cooperate in the defence sector, including exchanging some weapons. Still, Iran has never sent weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine. Therefore, drones used in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict were exported to Moscow months before it started, without the Iranian side knowing any details about the Kremlin’s intentions. He further added that Tehran had agreed with the Ukrainian foreign minister to receive documents proving the use of such drones.
On January 28th, 2023, a coordinated drone attack damaged an Iranian government weapons factory in the central city of Isfahan. On January 29th, 2023, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, twitted, “war logic is inexorable and murderous. It bills the authors and accomplices strictly. Ukraine warns you”. The Iranian Foreign Ministry has summoned the Ukrainian charge d’affaires in the country over comments made by the top presidential adviser to explain the Twitter post.
Why does it matter?
Since the beginning of the so-called Russian Special Military Operation in Ukraine, Iran has underlined its opposition to the conflict. Indeed, Tehran does not recognise the annexation of four regions in Ukraine to Russia. Nevertheless, Tehran didn’t vote against Moscow in the United Nations resolution.
The isolation the United States and European countries imposed on Russia due to the war in Ukraine prompted Moscow to enhance ties with Tehran. The relationship between Iran and Russia has strengthened unprecedentedly in the economic and military fields. In this regard, for example, on February 13th, 2023, Iran ended the domestic process on its permanent membership to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) defence body, which was found not to be against Sharia and the Constitution. In addition, on February 18th, 2023, talks were held between Russian and Iranian representatives to complete the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).
In this context, Oman has become particularly important, as the country earned the role of regional mediator. Muscat hosted talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which are involved in a proxy war in Yemen and the Persian Gulf, favoured Iranian nuclear talks, and recently hosted meetings between Iranian and Ukrainian representatives.
Despite other Gulf countries, Oman chose a foreign policy based on neutrality. Relations between Iran and Oman are strategic as the two countries own leading regional port infrastructures, both part of international trade and energy corridors.
Iran has vast gas reservoirs but lacks distribution infrastructures. Oman has a valuable LNG capacity; according to Oman LNG, its production capacity is around 11.4 million tonnes annually.
In this light, the revival of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the lifting of sanctions from Iran would be significant for Muscat and Tehran, as Oman might become a distribution hub for Iranian gas and goods transit.
Moreover, Israel and the U.S. have recently been preparing for a military confrontation with Iran. With the restoration of the JCPOA, engagement might be avoided, although U.S. President Joe Biden, under Israeli pressure, stated the deal to be death.
Muscat’s mediation goes back to facilitating secret Iran-United States contacts before the 2015 deal. As the United States Department of State spokesman, Ned Price, underlined, “Oman has played a constructive role across the Middle East and across regions in the past. It has been a bridge-builder between countries that don’t always see eye-to-eye”. For Gulf countries, stabilising the Middle East and the Persian Gulf is necessary for domestic security and to favour regional trade and growth.
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 EDITH M. LEDERER (2022) Ukraine accuses Iran of violating UN ban on drone transfers, AP News. Link: https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-iran-europe-france-middle-east-a743a81f29fe23502ace9d112af0f782.
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