Security |

Iran threat takes centre stage at Manama Dialogue 2019

By Mohammed al-Jayousi in Manama

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Leaders and policy-makers gather in Bahrain for the IISS Manama Dialogue 2019 in late November. [Photo courtesy of IISS Manama Dialogue 2019]

Global and regional policy-makers and leaders gathered last month in the Bahraini capital Manama to discuss shared security and strategic partnerships in the face of regional threats.

Participants at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Manama Dialogue 2019 focused on Iran, stressing the importance of strengthening regional alliances to counter its regional meddling and expansionist agenda.

Officials from the UAE, US, Saudi Arabia, France and other nations attended the three-day event, which kicked off November 22nd.

Iran continues to pose the biggest threat to the region's security, particularly to the security of international waters and the flow of oil, Gulf political analysts told Al-Mashareq.

The international community must step up efforts to counter Iran's repeated threats and attacks on its Gulf neighbours, they said, in light of the attacks on oil installations in Saudi Arabia and oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.

"No matter how hard Iran tries to draw us into the conflict, we are still determined not to be drawn in by Tehran's hostile actions, despite its repeated transgressions," said UAE political writer and editor Dirar Belhoul al-Falasi.

Any response should come through "the creation of a coalition capable of countering and putting an end to its illegal activities", he told Al-Mashareq.

"We see the international community starting to press hard against Iran," al-Falasi said. "This is what we aspire for and have long hoped would happen."

Solution-focused discussion

The forum brought together a distinguished group of political and military decision-makers to discuss strategies to ensure regional security, said Nejib Friji, director of the International Peace Institute's Middle East and North Africa office.

Manama Dialogue participants engaged in a robust and high-level discussion about the Iranian threat, he said.

"We are invited here to engage all parties in dialogue," Friji said, calling on participating nations to take a forward-looking view and work towards dialogue.

"We hope that there will be dialogue with Iran, but not at the expense of the sovereignty of states and interference in their internal affairs," he added.

The Manama Dialogue underscored the strategic partnerships between the Gulf states and their global allies to counter the growing security threats caused by Iran, Bahraini political analyst Abdullah al-Junaid told Al-Mashareq.

The sustainability of alliances must be based on the common interests of all parties in order to be able to respond effectively to crises and hostile acts by Tehran, whether by land, sea or air, he said.

Maritime security threats

"A considerable portion of the Manama Dialogue was devoted to maritime security," he said, noting that Yemeni and Somali delegations were invited to discuss the threats posed to vital waterways.

These include drug smuggling, human trafficking and targeting of commercial ships, he said.

It will be important to "build on these in-depth dialogue sessions, draw new ideas [from them] and develop our diplomatic and non-diplomatic tools in dealing with the various sources of threats", al-Junaid said.

He noted that Bahrain's hosting of the Manama Dialogue for 15 consecutive years underscores its desire to enhance regional security.

The island nation hosts the US 5th Fleet, the Combined Maritime Forces and Task Force CTF 152 (Maritime Security Operations in the Arabian Gulf), and participates in joint land and naval exercises within and outside the region.

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