(Ir+Om)an

18 05 2009

My algebra’s a bit rusty. However I think this works. It equates to Iran + Oman.

And that’s what’s going on. Oman and Iran are pretty much becoming an item!

There are many news articles on this appearing. Mostly low-key. As if the authorities are saying  we’ve got ‘a good thing going, but lets not make much noise about it’.

Iran is, and has been, since the 1979 revolution, a very predominantly Islamic state with the letter of the shari’a followed in word and spirit. While this is not something very unique in the Islamic world, Iran is the only country in the world where the followers of the Shiite sect of Islam are in absolute majority in the population (as much as 98%) and in the government. This marks Iran to be very different from the rest of Muslim world. The only country that comes even close is Iraq, with 58% of its population being Shiite, but this majority had been opressed and prosecuted under the rule of Saddam. Also currently, with the power-sharing schemes and %age-wise representation schemes being discussed for governance in Iraq, Shiites have a shot at being in and around the corridors of the government there too. As a side note, Iraq and Iran are traditional pilgrimage centers of the Shiite sect by virtue of being home to the shrine of the Im’ams or Leaders of the Shiite sect. Out of 12 Leaders of the Shiites, 1 has his shrine in Iran in the city of Mashhad, 6 shrines are in Iraq (Baghdad, Kadhimiya, Samarra, Najaf and Kerbala) and 5 are in Saudi Arabia (in the area known as Jannat-ul-Baqi)

Oman is a low-key, predominantly Sunni Ibadhi country at the north of the south of the Middle East. Oman is a stone’s throw from Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen by land; and Pakistan and Iran by sea. Oman is predominantly lived-in by Sunni Ibadhi-muslims who are a mixture of the alongwith Orthodox Sunni, Shiites, miniority Wahhabi and Kharji groups. Oman’s claim to fame have been the ancient seafarers from the country’s generous coastline. This made this area a thoroughfare for ancient pilgrims to Mecca from overseas, a landing/rest area for people involved in the booming trade routes between India and Africa and a safe niche for people, mostly refugees, from the Persian, Roman and MidEastern conflicts and wars.

Oman and Iran, both, have had a ressurection in the late 1970s. In Iran this was manifested in the form of the Islamic revolution. In Oman, this was the emergence of a new ruler from the sands of the desert that blew across and obscured the non-national activities going on in the Dhofar region. Where Iran took the agressive role of taking upon the world, holding (and shaking, kicking and screaming) the bull by its horns (in the form of the American Embassy thingy and its national stance), Oman slowly and steadily built shop, arranging the shelves and laying the carpet and decorating the walls; removing the shroud, one step at a time.

Fast forward to the 21st century. Like a kid running blindly over stones and uneven ground, Iran has emerged from the past 30 years way ahead, up on top of the hill, well on the way to progress and being considered a regional power. But this kid is panting and heaving, his clothes are in tatters, he has bruised and injured his knees from when he fell over in the Gulf War. His knees are recovering, but he is still running in the same careless way as before.

Oman, like the proverbial tortoise (or maybe the green turtle of R’as al Hadd), walked along the same path at a slow and stately pace. In the way, Oman took time to find a sturdy walking stick, whittle and shape it properly. It acquired proper walking shoes, selected the clearest path, managed to avoid getting his robes soiled, generally remained unscathed and has just started climbing the hill.

Now, the kid at the top of the hill’s knees are giving way. He needs shoes, a shirt, but he is at the top. He can see for miles around. He can feel the breeze. The kid at the bottom cannot see much around, but he has the walking stick and clean robes. The two are reaching out to one another. “Find me a stick like that, I’ll tell you what I can see”. “Let me have some walking shoes and I can warn you of the terrain here”, and so on a so forth.

And that, dears, is what is going on.

Even More (google)

Oman navigates between Iran and Arab Nations (NYTimes)

Iranian FM in Oman (BiW – 14/5)

Public Authority for Craft Industries visits Iran (today, 18/5)

Oman seen close to Iran (KT, April 09)

Oman-Iran discuss ways to strengthen ties (March, 09)

Iranian Naval Drills in Gulf of Oman (dec 08)

I’m not done with this yet….!!

-FK