Perhaps the visit had a new purpose: for Netanyahu to fully apprise Sultan Qaboos of the continuing Iranian threat, and its possible consequences for Oman itself. Having been unable to persuade Sultan Qaboos to cut ties with either Iran or Qatar, the Crown Prince might have decided that the Israeli prime minister could help persuade Sultan Qaboos of Iran’s menace. Netanyahu could have brought with him information gathered by the Israelis — the head of Mossad came with him to Oman, about secret weapons factories in Lebanon, and Iran’s progress — far beyond what it had publicly declared — in its nuclear project, based on the 50,000 documents Israeli agents whisked out of their hiding place in Tehran this past summer.
He might have been able to convey to the Sultan the continuing Iranian threat, and have been received with better grace than the Crown Prince, for several reasons. First, the Omanis resent the pressure that the Saudis have put on them over the last few years, first about Oman’s refusal to cut ties with Iran, and then, over Oman’s refusal to join the anti-Qatar coalition led by Saudi Arabia. The Omanis don’t like the feeling of being bullied by the behemoth of the Gulf. The Crown Prince can be off-puttingly peremptory. Prime Minister Netanyahu, while impassioned on the subject of Iran, is no bully, and may have a better chance than did the Crown Prince to persuade Sultan Qaboos of the full menace posed by Iran.
Second, Netanyahu might be persuasive — where the Saudis might be seen as engaging in special pleading — in discussing the consequences of a possible Iranian victory in Yemen. Would the Iranians place bases there, as they are now trying to do in Syria? What would be the consequences of having Yemen as an outpost for the Iranian military, just to the southwest of Oman, for Oman itself? He might remind Sultan Qaboos that Iran has repeatedly threatened to block all oil traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, which if it were to be accomplished, or even just attempted, could lead to a larger conflagration in Oman’s vicinity. And the Omanis don’t like trouble; their whole policy has been to remain above the fray. But what if the fray comes to their neighborhood?