He was responsible for helping the previous Sultan of Oman, Said bin Taimur Al Bu Said(the current Sultan's father), defeat the Saudi-backed armed rebellion of Ghalib bin Ali, the former Imam of Nizwa, and Talib bin Ali, Ghalib's brother, in the late 1950s centred in Nizwa and Jebel Akhdar.
Col. Smiley played a key role in making Oman the modern unified and peaceful nation state that it remains today. If it wsn't for him, Oman would likely be a very different place today.
He published an account of his experiences in Oman and Yemen in his book, ‘Arabian Assignment’ in 1975. You can also read an interesting short account of the Jebel Akhdar war here.
A wonderfully detailed warts-and-all account of the 'Green Mountain' war can be found here. This report also provides a fascinating overview of Omani political and cultural background. I encourage my younger Omani readers to look at it. (I'm not sure how much of this stuff is actually taught in the schools here. I suspect not at all).
Here is a key quote from the latter review of the rebellion that highlights how crucial Smiley's leadership and victory was to making Oman what it is today:
... Oman later faced a much more serious threat in the late
1960's and early 70's than the minor tribal rebellion of the
1950's. In the 1960's the Dhofar Rebellion, heavily
supported by the Soviet Union and the Peoples' Republic of
China, came close to toppling the regime. Had the Dhofar
rebels been successful, a peoples' democracy would have been
established within Oman. A Yemeni style peoples' republic in
control of the Strait of Hormuz would be an incalculable
complication on the international scene today.
The victorious resolution of the Jebel Akhdar War
insured that the Sultan of Oman could concentrate his forces
and efforts against the enemy in the Dhofar Province without
concern for a rebellion in central Oman. The necessity of
actively prosecuting a war in Dhofar while being required to
isolate rebels in central Oman would have seriously
jeopardized the successful resolution of the more serious
threat in Dhofar. Therefore, Oman's victory in the Jebel
Akhdar was an important ingredient in the successful
conclusion of the Dhofar Rebellion and a stable, progressive
government remains firmly in place in this important
At ease, Colonel Smiley. Rest in peace.
Photo: Colonel David Smiley in Yemen, 1963 (front, 3rd from right)
Daily Telegraph Obituary
Colonel David Smiley
Special forces and intelligence officer renowned for cloak-and-dagger operations behind enemy lines on many fronts.
09 Jan 2009
Colonel David Smiley, who died on Thursday aged 92, was one of the most celebrated cloak-and-dagger agents of the Second World War, serving behind enemy lines in Albania, Greece, Abyssinia and Japanese-controlled eastern Thailand.
After the war he organised secret operations against the Russians and their allies in Albania and Poland, among other places. Later, as Britain's era of domination in the Arabian peninsula drew to a close, he commanded the Sultan of Oman's armed forces in a highly successful counter-insurgency. After his assignment in Oman, he organised – with the British intelligence service, MI6 – royalist guerrilla resistance against a Soviet-backed Nasserite regime in Yemen. Smiley's efforts helped force the eventual withdrawal of the Egyptians and their Soviet mentors, paved the way for the emergence of a less anti-Western Yemeni government, and confirmed his reputation as one of Britain's leading post-war military Arabists.
...But the pinnacle of Smiley's post-war career was his three-year tenure as commander of the Sultan of Muscat and Oman's armed forces during a civil war which threatened to bring down one of Britain's more reactionary allies in the Gulf.
By now in his early forties, Smiley ran a gruelling counter-insurgency which gradually drove the guerrillas back from the scorching plains into their mountain retreat, the 10,000ft high Jebel Akhdar, which had never been successfully assaulted. With two squadrons of the SAS under his command, Smiley planned and led a classic dawn attack on the mountain fastness, finally crushing the enemy.