“Manama Dialogue” Foreign Minister highlights regional priorities

Manama, (BNA) — Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohamed Al Khalifa participated in a plenary session on “Strategic Priorities for the Middle East”, held as part of the 10th IISS Regional Security Summit -the “Manama Dialogue”.The Foreign Minister delivered the following speech:“Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,“It is a great pleasure to join my Good friends

Manama, (BNA) — Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohamed Al Khalifa participated in a plenary session on “Strategic Priorities for the Middle East”, held as part of the 10th IISS Regional Security Summit -the “Manama Dialogue”.


The Foreign Minister delivered the following speech:

“Your Excellencies, 
Distinguished Guests,

“It is a great pleasure to join my Good friends and Colleagues His Excellency Sameh Shoukry, and His Excellency Philip Hammond in this Plenary Session. This year, we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Manama Dialogue, cementing its place as the marquee security forum in the Middle East, an achievement that would certainly not have been possible without the support and commitment of my dear friends Dr. John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive; Professor François Heisbourg, Chairman; and the rest of the IISS team. 

“This morning, I do not intend to give a rundown of all the problems we face in the region, nor am I going to attempt to provide solutions for all the regions problems. Instead, I am going to talk about two challenges which I think deserve the most attention in this present time, and what I think ought to be the regional priorities. 


“In the preceding year, terrorist groups that were once transnational entities with scattered cells have evolved into organizations that control vast territories, significant financial resources, and possess advanced weapons. 

“However, terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and Daesh are not the only terrorist threat we face, State-sponsored terrorism is also a problem. The prime example of this is Hezbollah, a terrorist organization that receives significant state backing and has recently expanded into Syria; another example is the creation of what amounts to a parallel standing army to that of the Syrian regime by Iran. We must not also forget that states themselves may directly be involved in terrorist activities. We see this most clearly with the terrible barrel bombing that has resulted in the deaths of literally hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. 

“Given the proliferation of these groups, we recognize that there is no easy solutions, and we know that it will take years to achieve the desired results, but we have no choice but to confront this problem as best we can.

“As we are all aware by now, military action cannot be the sole line of effort in combatting these groups. Equally important is cutting off the financial lifeline that allows these groups to take advantage of physical expansion by selling oil on black markets, organizing extortion rackets, looting historical artefacts and imposing heavy taxation. That is why Bahrain hosted a meeting of experts from over 30 countries on the 9th of November to put together an action plan to combat the financing of terrorism. The meeting produced the Manama Declaration on Combatting Terrorist Financing that provides the blueprint for an effective response to the financing of terrorism.

“However, this still does not address the most important aspect of the fight against these groups. The terrorist groups I have mentioned rely on theocrats who distort religion to justify their crimes. Therefore, discrediting the ideology that these groups depend on and erasing their ideological appeal in the minds of our youth is the central challenge that we face. It is important to recognize that this can only be done by the countries of the region. Only the scholars and thinkers of our region have the necessary legitimacy and influence in the eyes of our people to delegitimize these theocrats and their wicked distortions of religion. 

“We need to approach the ideological problem in three ways. The first is De radicalization: There is never an excuse to allow radical and violent ideas to proliferate; we need to counter radicalization at every turn. Our problem is that we are not as enthusiastic about spreading the truth as the radicals are on spreading their falsehoods. That needs to change. 

“The second is to combat the sectarian division in the Middle East. We have all witnessed an increasingly disturbing trend where neighborhoods and cities are being quite literally divided based on sectarian lines. We have to seek to put a halt to this development by promoting coexistence and between different sects and different religions within countries at the local, and provincial as well as the national level.

“The third is education. We have to make sure that our education system are free of ideas that may promote intolerance towards other sects and religious groups. We need an education system that promotes critical thinking and true Islamic values. We are in need of thinkers that will bring forth the true Islamic heritage that gave rise to political, social and scientific advances and has contributed directly, or indirectly to the building of great civilizations around the world, we need to rekindle that heritage and use it once again to build our future.


“The other major challenge that we face as regional countries is the distrust that exists between regional actors, this distrust often acts as a barrier to meaningful and mutually beneficial cooperation that would otherwise be common sense. There are several reasons for this 

“The most important of which is that some regional states harbour ambitions to dominate the entire region or as much of it as they can, seeking to cooperate with other states only when cooperation helps them achieve their hegemonic aims. This leads to distrust and a lack of cooperation and information sharing between regional states, which then creates an information vacuum, inevitably leading to the spread of misinformation and distrust. 

“Given these challenges, what should be the main regional priorities? 

“The most pressing regional priority in my opinion is that states of the region must step up and take a leadership role in ensuring regional security. It is time that we acknowledge that only the countries of the region in partnership with our allies, can achieve lasting regional security. 


“One of the main reasons I say this is that a regional security framework built around the leadership of regional states provides the best option for a long lasting and sustainable security architecture. Every now and again, one hears questions or rumblings regarding the commitment of one major state or other to the security of the middle east, as if the security of the region hinges solely on whether one great power or another will act as its security guarantor. This type of speculation often results in adverse effects on regional calculations and even economic indicators such as oil prices. Yet the reality is that regional security depends primarily on the regional states themselves, and their decisions regarding cooperation and conflict with one another. It is time our regional security architecture reflected this reality. 

“Moreover, as regional states take the leading role in security operations, it will encourage states to work towards a common goal regardless of any differences they may have with one another. We see this clearly in the GCC. Yes, differences arise from time to time but we never allow those differences to interfere with the strategic objective of cooperating for joint security. In addition, through cooperation with one another, states of the region will get an opportunity to learn more about one another, about each other’s capabilities and intentions. This will reduce the chances of misperception and distrust between neighbors. 

“So how do we go about doing this?

“We need to increase regional state participation in international efforts: A perfect example of this is the current coalition against Daesh; participating Gulf States have clearly demonstrated their capabilities and are learning to adopt new responsibilities every day. This kind of experience is crucial to developing our operational capacity. I believe that the GCC has shown itself in the clearest terms, as an essential pillar of regional security. Further, regional participation in international security and peacekeeping missions should not be limited to the Middle East, but should also include sharing the burden with our international partners in other areas of the world as necessary. 

“I would like to take this opportunity to stress the importance of stability in Egypt. Egypt is, and has always been an indispensable pillar of regional security and we must all come together to support the capable government of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi at this crucial time. 

“Now when I say regional states, do I mean all regional states?

“Yes

“Why should it be inconceivable that all regional countries including Iran cooperate to ensure the common benefit of all? In fact, this ought to be the long-term goal of every regional country however serious the current disagreements are. I have always said that it is a pity that there are not Iranian ships along with Bahraini, Saudi, Emirati British, American and international coalition partner ships in the gulf aiding the rest of its neighbors and the international community in securing this strategic and vital waterway which benefits us all. An effort, which just received a significant boost yesterday as the Kingdom of Bahrain and the United Kingdom, concluded a Naval Services Facility Arrangement, which allows for greater cooperation between UK and regional navies. Indeed, a locally led regional security framework could not be possible without the cooperation of all. 

“However, differences between the GCC and Iran remain, and they are not limited to the nuclear file. We continue to have serious differences regarding Iran’s blatant interference in the domestic affairs of regional states. We continue to hear statements emanating from Iran claiming to have taken control of this capital or another, or claiming to revive the revolution in one country or another. A regional security architecture that includes all regional states will never succeed as long as Iran remains on its current path. 

“Instead, those states that are willing and able to take a leading role in regional security efforts should do so while working to solve regional differences with the view to including all states within the regional security framework. 

“The other regional priority is dealing with what I will call the crisis of identity in the region. For approximately a hundred years, the people of the Middle East have not yet come to an understanding as to what the future of the region should be, and which ideas should inform how we build our societies.

“We have seen ideologies rise to dominance only to be discredited and fade away, whether Arab nationalism or Political Islam, the ebb and flow of these ideologies is symptomatic of a region still in flux, a region that is coming to terms with the new realities thrust upon it a hundred years ago.

“This has a direct implication on regional security because it creates the space for radical ideologies and violent groups to emerge. It has also resulted in the growing sectarian divide in the region, as people of the region struggle to redefine their identities, state and non-state actors have promoted an increasingly sectarian vision which people either have accepted willingly, or had no choice but to accept. 

“I will not suggest solutions to this problem today, as this is a multigenerational problem, but I will say; only the sons and daughters of the Middle East can solve this problem for themselves. Only through education, reflection, dialogue can our region regain balance and find its way to prosperity. 

“Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Guests,

“The problems that have arisen in the past year are not going away anytime soon as they are rooted in the unique modern history of the region. Whether the rise of Daesh, or the turmoil in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen that allowed Daesh and other terrorist groups to come to the fore, sectarianism, radicalism, and competition between regional states are clear underlying trends. Therefore, we will need to think of long term solutions while dealing with the consequences of these problems in the short term. 

“Yet, these problems have also revealed that we in the region are capable and willing to take control of our own regional security in partnership with our friends in the international community. We hope that the coming years will witness greater cooperation by regional states and a renewed sense of responsibility amongst us to shoulder our share of the burden and contribute effectively to regional and international security. 

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