Qaboos helped in the Iran hostage crisis and the Gulf War and was a voice for moderation in the region.
Few Americans have heard of Qaboos bin Said al-Said, the sultan of Oman. But when he died Friday at 79, the U.S. lost an invaluable interlocutor. In nearly 50 years on the throne, Qaboos time and again helped presidents navigate delicate diplomatic and military challenges.
The sultan kept such a low profile that the adjective “reclusive” was almost obligatory in articles about him. But when President Obama’s efforts to restrict Iran’s nuclear-weapons program stalled in 2012, the interview I had long requested was suddenly and mysteriously granted. Within days, I was seeing him for a second time—the first was in 1997—at Hisn Al Shomoukh palace, some 90 miles from Muscat, the capital.
Not one for small talk, he came straight to the point: Iran was seeking a way out of its isolation and wanted to be free of sanctions. “No one can live on his own in today’s world,” he told me in fluent, slightly British-accented English. “They know they are mistrusted and must convince the world of their peaceful intentions.”
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