"Prior to the wave of Middle East unrest that began in 2011, the United States had consistently praised the Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Sa'id Al Said, for gradually opening the political process without evident public pressure to do so. The liberalization has, to date, allowed Omanis a measure of representation but has not significantly limited Qaboos' role as paramount decisionmaker. The modest reforms apparently did not satisfy some Omani civil society leaders, youths, and others, because protests broke out in several Omani cities for much of 2011. The domestic popularity of Qaboos, some additional economic and political reform measures, and repression of protest actions, caused the unrest to subside by early 2012. High turnout in the October 15, 2011, elections for the lower house of Oman's legislative body suggested that unrest--and the accelerated reforms launched in response--were producing a new public sense of activism, although with public recognition that reform will continue to be gradual. The first-ever municipal elections in Oman on December 22, 2012 furthered the sense of political empowerment among the electorate. Perhaps because of Oman's long-time commitment to an alliance with the United States, the Obama Administration did not alter policy toward Oman even though some of the 2011-2012 protests were suppressed and activists were arrested. Oman was the first Persian Gulf state to formally allow the U.S. military to use its military facilities, despite the sensitivities in Oman about a visible U.S. military presence there."
CRS Report for Congress, RS21534