Political Science Professor Sees Oman’s Significance to U.S. Foreign Policy During Middle East Fact-Finding Trip

Hollins University Professor of Political Science Ed Lynch recently traveled with seven other American academics to the Middle East nation of Oman as part of a trip sponsored by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations (NCUSAR).

Lynch, who was selected as an Oman Alwaleed Fellow by NCUSAR in July, journeyed to the Omani cities of Muscat, Nizwa, and Salalah, August 13 – 23.

Lynch said the trip highlighted the importance of Oman to U.S. foreign policy, especially in the wake of the proposed nuclear deal with Iran. “The first contacts between the Obama Administration and the government of Iran occurred because the Omani government was able to talk to both sides and get them together,” Lynch said. “This is a part of the story that the U.S. media is not telling.”

Oman’s foreign policy is based on the principle of “friend to all, enemy to none.” Its leadership has been particularly friendly to the U.S. government. Lynch was told by one U.S. official, “There isn’t much that we ask of the Omanis that they don’t provide.” Lynch added that Oman’s actions were instrumental in all but destroying the threat of piracy from Somalia.

Lynch emphasized that Oman’s friendship is crucial to American consumers: 60 percent of the world’s oil flows through its territorial waters. “Any serious upheaval in Oman could result in the return of $4 or $5 gas in the U.S.,” he explained.

The trip also made it clear to Lynch that this U.S. ally will potentially be in great trouble in the near future. The long-time Sultan is elderly and in ill health. He has no children or brothers and has not named a successor.

At the same time, Oman finds itself in a difficult position in between mortal enemies Saudi Arabia and Iran. A civil war in Yemen threatens Oman’s southern province. While spared the violence and upheaval of the Arab Spring so far, Lynch said Oman’s future is far from clear.

Founded in 1983 and based in Washington, D.C., NCUSAR  is an American non-profit, non-governmental, educational organization dedicated to improving American knowledge and understanding of the Arab world. Hollins will continue its relationship with the organization this fall when the university hosts the Appalachian Region Model Arab League, November 6 – 8.

Photo caption: Professor of Political Science Ed Lynch meets with  H.E. Mohamed Al Hassan, Chief of Minister’s Office, Oman Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Political Science Professor Selected as Oman Alwaleed Fellow

Hollins University Professor of Political Science Ed Lynch has been named an Oman Alwaleed Fellow for 2015-16 by the National Council on U.S. – Arab Relations (NCUSAR).

The fellowship includes a study visit to the Middle Eastern nation of Oman in August.

The fellowship is highly competitive; only eight college professors are selected each year nationwide. After visiting Oman, fellows will spend the year implementing a variety of programs, events, and outreach efforts in their home communities. These programs will permit Alwaleed Fellows to share their knowledge of Oman and familiarize Americans with this strategically important country.

“The nation of Oman lies directly across the Strait of Hormuz from Iran, and most oil tankers that enter and exit that waterway do so through Omani territory,” Lynch said. “Given Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the volatility of the world oil market, knowing more about the role of the Gulf States, and Oman in particular, is vitally important.

“Most Omanis are fairly knowledgeable about the United States, but most Americans know almost nothing about Oman. I hope my efforts will address that imbalance.”

Lynch expressed his optimism that his fellowship is the start of an ongoing relationship with NCUSAR’s student programs, which include dozens of Model Arab League conferences around the country. Hollins will host the 2015 Appalachia Regional Model Arab League Conference in November.

“We are proud of Ed’s fellowship, and happy that Model Arab League will be coming to Hollins,” said Hollins President Nancy Gray, noting that Hollins students have been active participants in Model United Nations for years.

Lynch chairs the political science department at Hollins, and is a former Academic Fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He has previously traveled to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Chile, Denmark, Israel, and the People’s Republic of China as part of official delegations.


Hollins Professor Has Dialogue with Kurdistan PM, Libyan Ambassador at ASMEA Conference

lynch_kurdistanDr. Edward Lynch, (left),  John P. Wheeler Professor of Political Science at Hollins University, met with the leader of Kurdistan and Libya’s Ambassador to the United States during the Fourth Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA), held November 3 – 4 in Arlington, Virginia.

Lynch talked with Barham Salih, Prime Minister of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, following His Excellency’s remarks at a luncheon on Friday, November 4. “He spoke of the remarkable economic, political and social progress of the region since the end of the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003,” Lynch said. “Foreign investment is flowing into the region, and roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects are being built.”

During his meeting with Salih, Lynch received an invitation to visit Kurdistan.

Lynch queried Ali Suleiman Aujali, Ambassador of Libya to the United States, at the conference’s opening reception.

“He gave a soothing description of what he called ‘the new Libya,’ and told us not to worry about radical Islam, weapons of mass destruction, or links to terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda,” Lynch recalled. “I asked the Ambassador what sort of relationship the ‘new Libya’ would have with the state of Israel. Clearly taken aback by the question, he responded that Libya is a member of the Arab League. The League has stated that if Israel withdraws from the ‘occupied territories,’ its members will consider normal relations. He also called upon ASMEA members to persuade U.S. representatives to put pressure on Israel to bring about the withdrawal.”

Lynch added, “My question caused quite a stir, and I was told it and the Ambassador’s non-committal answer will be featured among the conference highlights on ASMEA’s web page.”

Lynch is an Academic Fellow of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, which is affiliated with ASMEA. He also presented a paper on U.S. relations with Uganda at the conference.