Helion's The War in Northern Oman

Author/Artists: Peter Shergold


Helion  Publishing


$29.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 56 pages, softcover
ISBN 978-1-91-3336-33-2

Oman has, for a fair amount of its history, had tumultuous times. Muscat and the Sultan of Oman were often warring with various tribes in the region. None of this was helpful for a nation. Eventually national boundaries were established save for those in the west, which was the location of the 'empty quarter'. Frankly, the sultan had little interest in that part of the country and eventually, the nation was separated culturally into the areas around the coast that brought in wealth for the sultan, and the inner or more western section that provided fealty to an Imam. Despite clashes from time to time, this seemed to work out fairly well for the sultan.

Over the centuries, the sultan was influenced by the Portuguese, French, and finally the British. It was the British that stopped the cyclic internal conflicts and basically ran the country. The sultan had the British running his government and his military. Post WWII, this dependency increased as it became more important for the sultan to maintain control. This was brought to a head in the mid-1950s, when the northern part of what was now Oman decided to rise in opposition to the sultan.

This brought in a considerable force from the British which included troops and air power. The sultan's soldiers were not well trained and tended to flee at the first opportunity. However, British military might eventually brought the area under control, though at a considerable price to the insurgents and any locals who were unlucky enough to be under the British bombs. This led the sultan to start a program of taking over areas that were once loyal to the Imam. The discovery of oil in areas claimed by both Saudi Arabia and Oman did not help. It led to the Saudis arming and training insurgents using materials supplied by the US vs the Omanis using material supplied by the British.

What was the root cause of these internal conflicts was the rather backwards conditions of the population. There were few good roads, little to no education, electricity only in the big cities, and no medical facilities. It was basically a Medieval society and the sultan wanted to keep it that way. He felt that education was dangerous so while he spent his money on military infrastructure, the rest of the population was basically left as they were. It was only with the death of the sultan in 1970 that things really began to change, as the new sultan realized that it was important to care for the population.

However, that is getting a bit ahead of things. This book covers the period of the greatest insurrection in the northern part of the country that ran from about 1954 to 1962. The author has done a lot of research into the archives as well as the experiences of those British who were there during the time. The result is another great edition from Helion on a conflict the most of the world knows very little. It is an appropriate addition to the series and is a fascinating read regarding this conflict. As usual with Helion books, it is one that I can quite easily recommend to you.

September 2021

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