Oman’s plan to build a $1bln natural-gas pipeline from Iran is the latest sign that Saudi Arabia is failing to bind its smaller Persian Gulf neighbors into a tighter bloc united in hostility towards Tehran, media reports said.
The accord was signed during Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Oman last month, and marks the first such deal between Iran and a Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC) state in more than a decade, Iran Focus reported. Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves and population exceed the combined total of the PGCC’s other five members, yet it has struggled to impose policy on its smaller neighbors. Some are uncomfortable with Saudi opposition to changes in the region including the US-Iranian thaw and the rise of political Islam.
Oman faces Iran across the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important trade route for crude shipments.
Oman is well placed to benefit from Iran’s reintegration into the global economy, which would only strengthen the two nations’ historic ties.
Oman isn’t the only PGCC country that hasn’t adopted Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy. Qatar has refused to toe the Saudi line on another regional issue, supporting political Islamists including the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt after the 2011 revolts.Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh told reporters on the sidelines of the signing ceremony that the contract followed long talks and meetings held with his Omani counterpart in Tehran.
Zanganeh said that during a visit to Tehran by Oman’s Sultan Qaboos seven months ago, the two sides drafted an agreement to export Iran’s gas to Oman.
In relevant remarks, Zanganeh was asked if Iran has come into terms with Oman for entering the gas retail market of the Arab country. “Some agreements have been held in this regard and we will reach good results during this trip (to Masqat)."
Iran sits atop the world’s largest gas reserves. Iran is currently producing more than 700 mcm/d of sour gas which is fed into petrochemical plants, power plants, domestic industries, oil wells and households. A portion of this production is exported.
Iranian officials have repeatedly underlined that they attach great importance to the consolidation of Tehran's relations with the Middle-East countries, specially with the Persian Gulf littoral states, in order to protect and promote peace and security in the region.