The Success of Manama Dialogue

The success of the 11th IISS Manama Dialogue is definitely a crowning achievement  for the Kingdom of Bahrain, yet again, especially for  Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister  His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, under whose patronage the security summit was held.

But one can judge the efficacy of the dialogue, only in the weeks and months to follow, on the actual works, and not on the mere words of the participants; among whom were key leaders in regional  governments and experienced strategy analysts, from military, economic and political spheres.

The importance of this annual Regional Security Summit has grown over the years and, this year, as you and I would assume, significant discussions were around the burning topics: Syria, Yemen and Daesh (ISIS).

In his keynote address, the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi defined the conference’s dominant theme as the preservation of the region’s nation states, and of resisting the attack on the rule of law by armed militias.

On this point, I think, rests the focal-point of the Manama dialogue: “resisting the attack on the rule of law by armed militias”.

It is actually the allowance, I feel, that some regional governments had given to some groups – which seemed innocuous at first, but then became armed militias in the next – which has been the cause for all the turmoil and turbulence.

President Al Sisi had said: “These people are supported by religious political parties that at first we thought were capable of remaining separate from the extremists, but then these parties started to change the political scene and they connived with the extremists. They are still a threat to our security.”

Also opposing this sectarian strife were Tony Blinken, the US Deputy Secretary Of State, and Philip Hammond, the UK Foreign Secretary.

They both said that Russia, by taking on rebels outside the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and backing the Assad regime, risked becoming “drawn into a quagmire”.

But they both felt, however, that this might itself force Russia into negotiating a political transition that removed President Bashar al-Assad from power.

Justifying the Gulf-States’ coalition action on Yemen, Saudi’s Foreign Affairs Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al Jubair said that Iran was driving Houthis in Yemen, while Russia as well as Iran were backing Syrian regime.

But the Saudi Minister pointed out that Russia’s role had been positive in the Yemen issue. And that the coalition forces led by Saudi had been successful in containing Iran’s influence in Yemen.

Meanwhile, on the side-lines of the conference, HRH Prince Salman  met ministers and senior government officials of various countries including those from  the US, UK, Jordan, Morocco, Singapore and Kuwait.

His personal appreciation of these delegates’ participation in the conference’s discussions, and his reiteration of how much it reflects their commitment towards collectively resolving complex regional and international security issues, is noteworthy.

His Royal Highness also welcomed the shared international commitment to protecting the region’s citizens from extremist ideologies and also to securing regional stability.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary-General, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani too, had also congratulated the Royal family and the Government of Bahrain on the success of Manama Dialogue Conference.

Needless to say, the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), which is a non-partisan organisation, independent of the influence of government bodies, has made this forum a resounding success.

IISS has, among its policy themes, such varied themes as non-proliferation, transnational threats and geo-economics to climate change and security.

According to Information Minister Isa bin Abdulrahman Al Hammadi,  the massive presence of diplomats, politicians and military officials in the summit, which concluded in Bahrain yesterday,  represented a good opportunity to work out a common vision on the challenges undergone by the region.

And I believe forums and interactions such as these are essential for governments to effectively analyse matters that impact security and stability of the region. Consequently, they lead to actions that speak louder.