Abdel Razzaq Takriti
Monsoon Revolution: Republicans, Sultans, and Empires in Oman 1965-1976, Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2013; 340 pp.: 9780199674435, 65 [pounds sterling] (hbk)
The recent explosion of mass protest movements in the Middle East has reminded the Western public that the Arab world harbours its own political projects. Abdel Razzak Takriti's book documents an earlier upsurge of revolutionary activity in this region, a historical episode that was sparingly reported in the West at the time, and that has been fictionalised since as a terrorist backdrop to SAS heroics.
The guerrilla struggle in Dhufar, a mountainous, remote region in the south-west of Oman on the Arabian peninsula, followed the defeat of British colonial control in North Yemen in 1962, and then in South Yemen, where an armed campaign forced Britain to pull out in November 1967. In Oman, British control fronted by the Sultan was largely confined to a few coastal enclaves, and the country's interior was under the control of the Imam, the paramount force astride a tribal system that exacted a surplus mainly through slavery and sharecropping. The first detailed research of the revolution that began sweeping through the Gulf states region from the early 1960s was carried out by Fawwaz Trabulsi and Fred Halliday. Out of this, Halliday published Arabia Without the Sultans in 1974, a book that stands apart from much of the subsequent literature in English by virtue of its sympathetic portrayal of the guerrilla movements. For an understanding of the contemporary Arabian peninsula, Takriti's analysis will now become the key reference. His analysis of the connections between the internal dynamics of the Dhufari revolution and the ideological and political cross-currents that defined anti-imperialist politics in the Arab world sets an example for how to examine political movements.
British officials, having overseen an ignominious retreat from Aden, knew that the Omani state had to demonstrate some economic development if it was to survive. The Sultan, Said bin Taimur, accustomed to the indulgence of his imperial masters, stonewalled development plans. Even as his coffers were swelling with the revenue from the oil concession to Shell, he clung to the conservative imperial vision that feared social change corroding the traditional bonds. In 1970, British officials engineered a palace coup, replacing him with his son, a similarly inept but more pliable character.