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Oman is a small state playing an important role in the Middle East crisis.

Israel and the U.S. don’t have any direct, official diplomatic lines of communication with Iran. But over the past few months, Oman has served as an unofficial go-between, meeting with delegations from Tehran and various Western governments and, reportedly, passing along messages.

As Rice University Persian Gulf specialist Kristian Coates Ulrichsen explains, this isn’t the first time Omani officials have acted as diplomatic facilitators. They performed a similar role during the secret negotiations between Washington and Tehran ahead of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and they have also hosted Saudi and Houthi delegations during the Yemeni civil war.

Keeping open channels of communication in this way is crucial, Coates Ulrichsen writes. It helps minimize “the possibility of any accidental escalation on the Iranian side” and complements “U.S. and European dialogue with Israeli leaders” in a bid to find a resolution to the standoff.

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Matt Williams

Senior International Editor

Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, meets his Omani counterpart, Sayyid Badr Albusaidi, in Tehran on July 17, 2023. Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images

Oman serves as a crucial back channel between Iran and the US as tensions flare in the Middle East

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Rice University

The small Gulf state has hosted high-level Western and Iranian delegations, passing messages between them.


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