We are honored to write this editorial jointly for this special edition of Unipath that focuses on border and coastal defense. Defense requires a watchful eye to maintain security and vigilance while facing national, regional, and global security threats and risks. Many conventional and nonconventional security threats require cooperation and partnership to counter them and ensure security and stability.
The deep strategic relationship between the Sultanate of Oman and the United States reflects a close partnership. In 1833, Oman signed a treaty of Amity and Commerce with the U.S. that was ratified by the Congress in 1834. Six years later, the Omani vessel Sultana arrived at New York, sent by the ruler of Oman at that time, Said bin Sultan. On board was the Sultan’s envoy, Ahmad bin Na’aman Al Ka’abi, who became the first Arab diplomat accredited to the U.S. Thus began an enduring military, political, economic and cultural partnership.
This kind of strategic relationship is based on constants and principles familiar to both nations. Among those relationships is the close military relationship between the Sultanate of Oman and the United States, particularly between the Sultan’s Armed Forces and U.S. Central Command.
The Sultanate of Oman is located on the far southeast of the Arabian Peninsula and its coastline stretches from north of the Strait of Hormuz to the Yemeni border in the south, overlooking three major bodies of water: the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea and Sea of Oman. As a seafaring nation with deep-rooted maritime history, Omani merchants and scholars traveled between multiple cultures, interacting and engaging with them. As a result, Omanis developed relations with many cultures and civilizations and continue to do so. Maritime activity occupies the most important sphere in this era of globalization, and Oman has sought to continue the spirit of free exchange and partnership that prevailed in the first era of globalization. These activities continue to provide a climate that increases cultural, commercial and scientific cooperation, as well as enriching coexistence, peace, harmony and mutual respect, so that fair winds may blow into the everyone’s sails.
Given Oman’s strategic location, Omani ports are easily accessible to and from the western Indian Ocean, the previously mentioned bodies of water and the Strait of Hormuz. The signing of the Strategic Port Agreement between the Sultanate of Oman and the United States confirmed both nations’ commitment to strengthening common security goals.
The Strait of Hormuz is considered one the main international oil and gas passageways, through which 60,000 vessels transverse every year, handling 17 million barrels of oil per day accounting for 30% of oil transferred by sea. In addition to oil, liquified natural gas is also transferred through this waterway, representing 30% of trade in this valuable commodity. Oman’s naval force, in coordination with U.S. Central Command and regional navies, plays a pivotal role as a central guardian of such a crucial chokepoint. Its naval units and forces ensure the safety and security of the shipping lanes of the Strait of Hormuz that fall within Omani territorial waters.
This role was reinforced and strengthened through the Maritime Security Center. This command post manages and directs security operations in the Omani maritime area; provides necessary protection for maritime ports, facilities and the coastline; and combats maritime security threats, in coordination with the Sultanate’s maritime security authorities. To guarantee the safety of shipping, the center also collects, analyzes and exchanges information with various operational centers in countries concerned about maritime security threats. Oman has signed agreements with allied and friendly nations to reinforce maritime security and to exchange information.
In observing changes in the maritime security environment, we have noticed an increase in maritime risks and threats, especially linked to maritime piracy, armed robbery, infiltration and smuggling, obstruction of international shipping lanes, maritime terrorism, transnational organized crime and illicit trade such as human and weapons trafficking.
In 2019, Gulf Cooperation Council member states began to conduct intensive security patrols in regional waters. According to a statement by the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet of U.S. Central Command, “the Council’s states have strengthened communication and coordination with each other, in order to support regional maritime cooperation, and maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf.”
The statement clarified that “Gulf Cooperation Council vessels, including those belonging to the Navy and Coast Guard, work in close coordination with each other, as well as the U.S Navy.” The 5th Fleet’s area of operations covers almost 2.5 million square miles, including the Arabian Gulf, Sea of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The area consists of 21 countries and three critical junctures: the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Bab el-Mandeb strait.
Recently, the 5th Fleet launched a new initiative to counter emerging threats. This initiative was represented by Task Force 59, a new force of aerial, surface and underwater unmanned drones. The launching of this force aims to quickly integrate unmanned systems and artificial intelligence with maritime operations.
This force undoubtedly relies heavily on regional partnerships and alliances. We are stronger through our unity and partnerships.
Vice Adm. Abdullah bin Khamis Al Raisi, Chief of Staff of the Sultan’s Armed Forces, and Vice Adm. James Malloy, then-Deputy Commander, United States Central Command
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