“Oman Reborn: Balancing Tradition and Modernization” Book Discussion

On December 8, 2015, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations and the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center hosted a book launch luncheon and discussion for Oman Reborn: Balancing Tradition and Modernization by Linda Pappas Funsch.

  

Oman Reborn traces the narrative of a little-known and relatively stable Arab country whose history of independence, legacy of interaction with diverse cultures, and enlightened modern leadership have transformed it in less than fifty years from an isolated potentate to a stable, dynamic, and largely optimistic country. At the heart of this fascinating story is Oman’s sultan, Qaboos bin Said, friend to both East and West, whose unique leadership style has resulted in both domestic and foreign policy achievements during his more than four decades in office.

The author, Linda Pappas Funsch, is a specialist in modern Middle East studies and Islamic history. She has studied, worked, and traveled extensively throughout the region. A freelance writer, consultant, and educator for more than forty years, she lectures frequently about Oman at scholarly symposia and institutions such as the World Bank, the World Affairs Council, and Georgetown University.

Funsch was re-introduced to the Sultanate through the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ Annual Malone Oman Cultural Immersion Program in 2006, 32 years after her first visit. After the National Council study visit she published a series of articles about Oman in the Frederick News-Post. Funsch has subsequently served as a scholarly escort as well as a lecturing specialist at pre-departure orientations for this annual Council cultural program in Oman.

  1. Watch the book discussion on YouTube

“Gulf Cooperation Council: Role in Regional Dynamics” – 24th Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference

Session on Gulf Cooperation Council: Role in Regional Dynamics with Dr. John Duke Anthony, Ambassador (Ret.) Dr. Richard J. Schmierer, Mr. Khaled Almaeena, Dr. Abdullah AlShayji, and Ms. Elizabeth Wossen from the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ 24th Annual Arab-US Policymakers’ Conference, “U.S.-Arab Relations at a Crossroads: What Paths Forward?,” on October 14, 2015, in Washington, DC.

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The GCC-U.S. Summit: An Opportunity for Strategic Reassurance?

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An unprecedented and extraordinary event is about to occur: a heads of state summit. These, by any standard, can be and often are extraordinary events. That’s what this one is. It is so because it gathers in the capital of the United States President Barack Obama with the representatives of the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The two-day summit is set for May 13-14, 2015.

GCC leaders are scheduled to meet with the president in Washington on day one and on day two gather with him in the more capacious and secluded confines of Camp David. The latter venue is a longtime private presidential meeting place in the Maryland foothills, which is conducive to wide-ranging and deeply probing discussions on matters of common, timely, and varying degrees of urgent interest to the president, his advisers, his guests, and their advisers. The focus of this essay is the issues, challenges, and opportunities that will focus the principals’ attention while there.

The Summit’s Participants in Context

That the summit is occurring at this time is no mere coincidence. In terms of the GCC-U.S. relationship, it brings to the forefront the chief representative of the world’s most militarily, economically, and technologically advanced nation. Joining him will be the leaders of six neighboring Arab Gulf countries from what is arguably the world’s most strategically vital region that are little known and even less well understood by the American people as a whole.

What needs to be better comprehended by the American public regarding these countries are the roots and nature of their multifaceted strategic importance not just to their peoples and immediate region, but also the United States and the world in general. To begin with, the six GCC countries possess thirty per cent of the planet’s proven reserves of oil, the vital strategic commodity that drives the world’s economies. Collectively, they are also the holders of the developing world’s largest reservoir of financial assets, as measured in the trillions of dollars.

Crude Oil 2014 Proved Reserves.

In addition, the GCC countries have no rivals in their combined positive impact on the American aerospace and defense industries. In the past half-decade, their purchases of U.S.-manufactured defense and security structures, systems, technology, weaponry, ammunition, training, maintenance, and operational assistance have massively impacted and continue to impact the American economy.

The dynamism and mutuality of benefits in the U.S.-GCC relationship are envied by virtually every country that wishes it could accomplish anything remotely similar.

The purchases of American export goods and services by these countries have provided jobs essential to the material wellbeing of millions of Americans. They have extended production lines of products that would otherwise no longer be available. As a consequence, they have lowered the cost per unit of many American manufactured goods. In so doing, they have thereby enhanced the competitiveness of this component of the American economy to a degree envied by virtually every government or corporation in other countries that would wish they could accomplish anything remotely similar.

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The Consolidation of a New Arab Political Order

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Operation Decisive Storm Coalition Forces' spokesman Saudi Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri provides a briefing on developments in the campaign.

Operation Decisive Storm Coalition Forces’ spokesman Saudi Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri provides a briefing on developments in the campaign. Photo: Saudi Press Agency.

While the Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm against the Yemeni Houthis and their allies continues and its long-term results are so far unknown, it is not pre-mature to project that a new Arab political order is being consolidated. Its elements include a firm and sustainable commitment to fight extremism and sectarianism, bring order and stability to the heart of the Arab world – namely, Syria and Iraq – and design, chart, and lead an independent course for the protection of pan-Arab national interests.

Such an order has a leader in the collective energies and capabilities of the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, with Saudi Arabia as a first among equals, and essential assistance from such countries as Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco. Indeed, to assure its collective interests, arrive at a hoped-for peaceful stability, and sustain much needed political, economic, and social development, the Arab world must coalesce around a strong political order that can utilize its capacities and permissible international conditions to achieve what it needs and deserves. Importantly, the consolidated new Arab political order appears to emphasize essential principles that require astute judgment, committed resources, and continuous vigilance.

Fighting Extremism and Sectarianism

The status quo states of the new Arab order are cognizant of the threats represented by the plethora of extremist groups operating at the heart of the Arab world. In Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has staked a claim in Hadramawt Province abutting the Saudi Arabian border after it lost its bases in Shabwa and Abyan to the west. In Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State group has erased the borders between the two countries in a mission to re-establish an imagined and borderless Islamic Caliphate while al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front controls strategic areas of Syria. Both organizations are serious threats to Lebanon and its pluralist political society.

In Libya, the Islamic State group, al-Qaeda affiliated Ansar ash-Shari’a, and a sundry of militias have settled, and promise to both keep the country unstable and use it as a base to spread chaos and mayhem elsewhere. In Tunisia and Egypt, jihadist extremists are waging a war of attrition against state security institutions. The actors of the consolidating Arab political order must know full well that they alone can address this threat in a fashion that combines a sense of shared responsibility for common interests and an attempt at forging an independent course that serves such interests.

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Nineteenth Annual Oman Cultural Immersion Program — February 18 – March 4, 2015

Applications Now Being Accepted for the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’

Nineteenth Annual
Oman Cultural Immersion Program

February 18 – March 4, 2015

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations is pleased to offer, through its Joseph J. Malone Fellowship in Arab and Islamic Studies Program, the Nineteenth Annual Oman Cultural Immersion study visit to the Sultanate of Oman February 20 – March 4, 2015. Fellows are required to participate in and complete a pre-departure orientation in Washington, D.C. to be held on February 18-19. This unique opportunity will provide a privileged first hand exposure to one of the Arab world’s most demographically, geographically, and socially diverse countries.

The National Council is currently accepting applications to participate in this study visit. APPLY NOW!

American professionals in academia, government, the military, non-governmental organizations, business, religious institutions, the media, civic associations, as well as the fine arts, humanities, and the social sciences are invited to apply.

The Nineteenth Annual Oman Cultural Immersion study visit will provide participants an educational experience that few Westerners and even fewer Americans have had. The program is choreographed to provide Malone Fellows an unparalleled diverse exposure to Oman — one of the most historically and culturally rich of all Arab and Islamic societies. Until relatively recent times, the Sultanate languished in its status as one of the most forgotten corners of all Arabia. Anyone in doubt about the extraordinary opportunity that being able to visit Oman in this manner presents need only consult any of the several National Geographic Magazine features on the country in the past two decades.

 

End Pictures: inlaid Islamic niches at the Grand Mosque in Oman's Capital Territory; Middle Pictures: Bedouin Omani girls in the Sharqiyyah Sands.

End Pictures: inlaid Islamic niches at the Grand Mosque in Oman’s Capital Territory; Middle Pictures: Bedouin Omani girls in the Sharqiyyah Sands.

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Intensive Arabic Language Programs at the Center for International Learning in Oman

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations is pleased to offer students a partial scholarship opportunity for intensive Arabic language study with our partner organization in Muscat, Oman, the Center for International Learning (CIL). Partial scholarships are available for intensive Arabic or study abroad, and thus can be used at virtually any time of the year. Scholarships are issued on a rolling basis throughout the calendar year.

Center for International Learning in Oman

CIL will host you to study in the Sultanate of Oman, an Italy-sized nation on the Arabian Sea. For years students have found this an ideal setting for their international study, a nation of warm and welcoming people who practice a form of Islam — Ibadhism — that practices tolerance and acceptance of others. CIL provides students with the learning experiences needed to become world citizens.

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Eighteenth Annual Oman Cultural Immersion Program — February 19 – March 5, 2014

Applications Now Being Accepted for the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’

Eighteenth Annual
Oman Cultural Immersion Program

February 19 – March 5, 2014

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations is pleased to offer, through its Joseph J. Malone Fellowship in Arab and Islamic Studies Program, the Eighteenth Annual Oman Cultural Immersion study visit to the Sultanate of Oman February 21 – March 5, 2014. Fellows are required to participate in and complete a pre-departure orientation in Washington, D.C. to be held on February 19-20. This unique opportunity will provide a privileged first hand exposure to one of the Arab world’s most demographically, geographically, and socially diverse countries.

The National Council is currently accepting applications to participate in this study visit. APPLY NOW!

American professionals in academia, government, the military, non-governmental organizations, business, religious institutions, the media, civic associations, as well as the fine arts, humanities, and the social sciences are invited to apply.

The Eighteenth Annual Oman Cultural Immersion study visit will provide participants an educational experience that few Westerners and even fewer Americans have had. The program is choreographed to provide Malone Fellows an unparalleled diverse exposure to Oman — one of the most historically and culturally rich of all Arab and Islamic societies. Until relatively recent times, the Sultanate languished in its status as one of the most forgotten corners of all Arabia. Anyone in doubt about the extraordinary opportunity that being able to visit Oman in this manner presents need only consult any of the several National Geographic Magazine features on the country in the past two decades.

 

End Pictures: inlaid Islamic niches at the Grand Mosque in Oman's Capital Territory; Middle Pictures: Bedouin Omani girls in the Sharqiyyah Sands.

End Pictures: inlaid Islamic niches at the Grand Mosque in Oman’s Capital Territory; Middle Pictures: Bedouin Omani girls in the Sharqiyyah Sands.

Continue reading »