The defense of Oman encompasses (2010) 43,000 men enlisted and is organized into 3 brigades, 13 fighters, 64 fighter aircraft and the Royal Guard Brigade. Semi-military security forces amount to 4,000 men. The material is modern and of Western origin. To see related acronyms about this country, please check ABBREVIATIONFINDER where you can see that OMN stands for Oman.
Defense costs fell from 20.8% to 8.5% of GDP in 1985-2008. The United Kingdom has a versatile force of 80 men stationed in Oman.
Military service is voluntary in Oman. The total force figures for Oman’s armed forces are 42,600 active personnel (2018, IISS). In addition, there are 4400 semi-military forces.
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The army has a workforce of 25,000 active personnel. Material comprising 117 tanks (79 M60 and 38 Challenger 2), 37 light tanks of a scorpion, 137 reconnaissance vehicles, two armored vehicles, 200 armored personnel carriers, eight armored fighters and 24 self-propelled artillery. In addition, the army has heavy artillery, short range air defense missiles and light air defense artillery.
The Air Force has a workforce of 5,000 active personnel. Materials include 35 fighter jets (23 F-16 and 12 Typhoon), four martime patrol aircraft, 20 transport aircraft, 44 training aircraft (of which 16 Hawk and 12 PC-9 which can also be used as light fighter and attack aircraft), and 12 PC-9 which can used as light attack aircraft), and about 41 helicopters. In addition, the Air Force has medium range air defense missiles (NASAMS).
The Navy has a workforce of 4200 active personnel. The fleet includes three frigates, two corvettes, 10 patrol vessels, six landings, and eight logistics and auxiliary vessels.
Oman’s foreign policy
Under Sultan Qaboos, Oman became an open country with wide international contact, and in foreign policy the country has pursued a more neutral policy than many other Arab states – partly because of fears of two extreme directions, communism (as a result of the Dhofar uprising) and Islamism (after September 11, 2001).
The goal of Oman’s foreign policy is twofold: to prevent foreign interference in the country’s internal affairs, and to contribute to stability in the region. One of the main means is to participate in international organizations, and from 1971 Oman has joined several such, such as the UN and Arab League, and in 1981 the country was among the founders of the Gulf Council (GCC). Another means is through political pragmatism to seek a neutral line in regional conflicts, and possibly to help find diplomatic solutions. Oman has invested heavily in national security, with a strong national defense.
With its location on the Strait of Hormuz, and thus the entrance to the Gulf of Persia, Oman is of great strategic importance. The country maintained relations with Iran after the 1979 revolution, and remained neutral in the first Gulf War between Iran and Iraq (1980–1988) – and continued relations with Iran after the war, with the signing of an economic cooperation agreement in 1989. Oman has historical and cultural relations with Iran, but also sees the country as an important political and economic ally, and a regional player too powerful to overlook or embark on. Oman is thus one of the few countries that have good relations with both Iran and the United States. This helped Oman play a key role in diplomacy leading to the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in 2015.
Relationship with the West
Oman has good relations with both the United Kingdom and the United States, and allowed Western forces to use its military bases after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, after first arguing that the conflict should be resolved without the use of military force. Oman also quietly tried to mediate, but as this failed to lead, the country participated in a regiment in Operation Desert Storm – the liberation of Kuwait – in 1991. However, Oman did not break diplomatic relations with Iraq. Military bases in Oman were also made available to US forces in the 2001 attacks on Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom. After the Second Gulf War, Oman has adopted an active security policy, and has expanded its cooperation with the United States and the United Kingdom. Oman also played a diplomatic role in trying to resolve the Bahrain- Qatar conflict in 1986, and during the Yemen civil war in 1994. Oman did not support the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, but allowed US forces to base users in Oman during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Oman did not participate in the boycott of Egypt after the peace agreement with Israel in 1979, and supported Jordan’s conclusion of a peace agreement in 1994. The country did not recognize the Palestinian leadership until 1988. Oman was the first Gulf state to establish relations with Israel from 1993. In 1994, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin visited Oman to discuss the Oslo Accords. The following year, a mutual trade office was established, which was later closed in 2000 as a result of the Palestinian intifada, after first being frozen in 1997 due to the new Israeli government’s settlement policy. Prime Minister Shimon Peres was on official visit to Oman in 1996; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited in 2018. For several years, there has been secret contact between the two countries. Oman is also in contact with Israeli opponents, Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas – both supported by Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit in November 2018 came the day after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited.
The countries of the region
Oman chose to maintain relations with Syria, with other countries in the region supporting various groups seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad during the war in Syria. Oman has supported attempts at dialogue between warring parties in Syria, Libya and Yemen.
Borders between Oman and neighboring countries (Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, FAE) were entered into during the 1990s; a final agreement with the FAE was first ratified in 2002. Diplomatic relations with Tanzania, of which Oman’s former possession Zanzibar is a part, were first established in 2005, mostly as a result of opposition to ‘African socialism’.
Oman has stayed out of the war in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia in 2015 initiated a multinational military action. For example, fears that radical Islamists would enter Oman have led to the establishment of a border fence against Yemen.