Imagine a conflict-free route for transport of oil and commercial goods from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. Infrastructure of ports, rails, and pipelines is underway in the central port city of Duqm, Oman. Duqm, once an obscure coastal village in the middle of coastal Oman, provides Western nations the opportunity to bypass conflict in both the Gulf of Aden and the Strait of Hormuz, the most contentious choke point in the world. .
The GCC, including Oman and Saudi Arabia, is wary of Iran. Both are at opposite ends of the Syrian conflict, and OPEC policy. Duqm, a new regional hub for fuel transport must be considered. As the U.S. develops its domestic fuel exports, most notably, natural gas, its national security and foreign policy will be affected. It will be necessary for regions like the GCC to enter a new chapter in terms of trade and defense initiative.
Fortunately, for the GCC, relatively reliable supporters of the U.S., there are alternatives. India and the ASEAN are growing at exponential rates. Demands for natural gas and oil are rising in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. Geopolitically, great opportunity is possible for the GCC, the U.S. and the rest of the world. Infrastructure at Duqm can help make bring positive outcome in this transition.
There is, however, one snag. To keep peace in its hostile region, Oman, a member of the GCC maintains a “friendship” of moderation with both Iran and Saudi Arabia. This, however, is not preventing Oman from developing pipelines and rails with the rest of the GCC while assisting as the U.S.’ mediator to Iran.
Viewing current geo-politics, it is hard to blame Oman for seeking balance in the region. Iran’s recent treatment of countries in the Persian Gulf has mirrored that of China in the South China Seas. Historically, Saudi Arabia and Oman have had conflict over regional hegemony.
Some entities have found loopholes for investment in Iranian oil. This is folly. Further violation with regard to nukes on the part of Iran could result in these companies being boycotted, incurring major loss. Investment in Iran presents poor future value, as does lessening relations with the GCC while “pivoting” to Asia.
Duqm should be wetting the appetite of the U.S. and Western powers. Imagine a Middle Eastern port that is friendly to U.S. and Western trade, with access to the Indian Ocean, far from conflict in the Persian Gulf. Oman presents a positive investment and geopolitical alternative to Iran.
Although Western involvement in Duqm poses potential limits, its benefits outweigh its setbacks. Oman is a comparatively moderate Islamic country that gets along well with its neighbors. It has a long coastline, providing convenient shipping to India, the ASEAN, and Africa.
It is important in the future that moderate Islamic countries like Oman have a prominent voice in foreign policy and trade. There are fundamentalist Islamic regimes who endorse global terrorism and tyranny. Islam as a result, suffers an insurmountable blow, causing moderate voices to stay silent. In the U.S., the Middle East and neighboring lands are viewed as impediments to global trade. Global transport of oil and other commercial goods, however, makes bypassing the Middle East impossible.
It is time that through trade and foreign policy, moderate Islamic nations in the Middle East who are friendly with the west are given a voice through the promotion of trade. Globally, there will always be bad actors. Terrorism will never be completely stopped. However, economic power exalts the proud voice of prosperity. Investment in Duqm, Oman is an important step in this process.