The sultanate of Oman is taking a kicking

FEW leaders are as ubiquitous as Sultan Qaboos of Oman. His ageless portrait hangs as per regulation from every shop wall. Every six months or so, between bouts of cancer treatment, he also appears on television to prove he is still alive. At his last appearance in May, his fist seemedclenched in pain. He wore a similar white-cut tunic to the one his father used to wear before his son intervened to unseat him, stave off bankruptcy and pack him into exile in Delhi.

Forty-seven years on, Oman is again in need of a strong leader to mend its finances. Lavish welfare (and an iron grip) keep an oft-rebellious people, now numbering 4m, quiescent. The Sultan calmed protests during the Arab Spring of 2011 by hiking public expenditure by 70% over the three years that followed. But since the oil price crashed in 2014 he can no longer afford that. To make matters worse, Oman’s Arab neighbours are withholding aid; they are vexed by its friendship with Iran, neutrality in Yemen and...

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