But Iran’s message to Oman, which is a strategic state sitting at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, is that Tehran seeks closer ties, and that the two countries have common interests. This is important because the recent tensions between Iran and the US, as well as Iran and other countries in the region, has spilled over into the Gulf of Oman. This includes the sabotage of four tankers on May 12, the attack on two more on June 13, and the downing of a US drone in June. The US has blamed Iran for the recent sabotage and attacks on tankers, but the US has not put forward a viable plan to stop Iran’s harassment of shipping.
Rouhani’s statements about the UK in the presence of the Omanis sends a signal about Iran’s overall desire to control the Straits of Hormuz and claim that the entire area is a key to Iran’s “security.” Iran has previously threatened to do as it pleases in the straits, and angered by US sanctions, has shown that it can threaten ships using a variety of means, including missiles, drones and speed boats.
“The presence of foreign forces does not only contribute to the security of the region, it is also the main cause of tensions,” Rouhani said, according to Mehr News.
Oman and Iran are discussing bilateral relations, according to both Iranian media and Omani media. Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said of Oman conveyed his greetings to the Iranian leader via the foreign minister. While both countries want to ensure the security of the region, they differ in their approach. Oman hosted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year for a visit, and has generally appeared open to regional discussions with Israel, even as it also wants closer bilateral relations with Iran. Oman is thus a kind of bridge between tensions in the Middle East.
Iran’s foreign policy in this regard is to strengthen its alliance with Syria, its work with groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and various parties in Iraq, as well as the Houthis in Yemen. Oman is a key now because it borders Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and guards the opening of the Persian Gulf. It can play a positive role in mediation, and also serve as a conduit for Iran to send messages to other countries.