The 7th Manama Dialogue run by the International Institute for Strategic Studies [IISS] is almost upon us. It will take place at the Ritz Carlton this weekend from Dec 3rd – 5th and will be attended by virtually the who’s-who in world’s political and security spheres.
The delegates this year are probably the most powerful collection of individuals the conference has ever had. They include:
Some 25 government delegations will include prime ministers, foreign and defence ministers, chiefs of defence staff, permanent secretaries, military and intelligence chiefs and distinguished delegates from the private sector.
Selected delegation leaders and senior government officials include:
- HRH Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander, Bahrain
- HM King Abdullah II, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
- Zalmai Rassoul, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Afghanistan
- Kevin Rudd, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Australia
- Sh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohamed Al Khalifa, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bahrain
- Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, Canada
- General Walter Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff, Canada
- Admiral Edouard Guillaud, Chief of Defence Staff, France
- Christian Schmidt, Parliamentary State Secretary for Defence, Germany
- Manouchehr Mottaki, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Iran
- Dr Barham Saleh, Prime Minister, Kurdistan Regional Government, Iraq
- Hoshyar Zebari, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Iraq
- Hajime Hirota, Parliamentary Secretary of Defense, Japan
- Nasser Judeh, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jordan
- Sh Dr Muhammad Al Sabah Al Salem Al Sabah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kuwait
- Lieutenant General Waheed Arshad Chauhdry, Chief of the General Staff, Pakistan
- Sh Hamad Bin Jassim Al Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Qatar
- HRH Prince Naef Bin Ahmed Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud , Advisor to HRH the Crown Prince Sultan, Saudi Arabia
- HRH Prince Turki Al Faisal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Chairman, Board of Directors, King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, Saudi Arabia
- Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, Singapore
- Carl Bildt, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sweden
- Professor Dr Ahmet DavutoÄŸlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Turkey
- HH Sh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, UAE
- Lieutenant General Hamad Thani Al Romaithi, Chief of Staff, UAE Armed Forces
- Dr Liam Fox, Secretary of State for Defence, UK
- General Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, UK
- Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, US
- General James Mattis, Commander, US Central Command
- Dr Abubakr Al Qirbi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yemen
Among those whom I shall be particularly interested to hear is Secretary of State for the United States Mrs. Hillary Clinton’s conference’s opening address, as well as attending her press conference in which I hope she will field considered questions and will at least attempt to answer them without too much of a political twist or fluff. I suspect some of the areas she will be questioned on is Cablegate, obviously, but also the US’ future in this region, particularly Iraq, Afghanistan and most importantly the Gulf including the Iranian situations. I would dearly like to hear an unequivocal support for Human Rights defenders in this region and a strong US-led push into democratic reforms. Naive? Possibly, but I would rather be optimistic at this point.
Another thing of interest will be King Abdulla 2’s keynote address and see how his physical proximity to Iran and the Iranian delegation will revise his position, yet again, on his “Shi’a Crescent” theory, and how the revelations of the Wikileaks cables will have coloured that position. He’s a good public speaker, but I’m not sure that we’ll get coherent content from him. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt though and wait to hear what he has to say.
In this conference, even though Wikileaks will be at the forefront of the delegates’ and attendees’ minds, the main published theme of the conference this year is “Spotlight on Nuclear Proliferation and Missile Defence”, a theme which obviously has not been chosen haphazardly. It clearly demonstrates the import of the Iranian nuclear issue to everyone in the region and its impact on the regional and global security and stability, apart from the perceived or real threat the Iranian nuclear program has on Israel and the Americans.
Although most of the delegates will be from the security stream, I do hope that diplomats at least will take this golden opportunity to initiate a much needed dialogue between the Arabs and the Iranians. The Iranians too should take this opportunity to genuinely reciprocate and engage both the Arabs and the Americans and allay their suspicions by being open and transparent about their nuclear programs under the auspices of the international community.
This region has lived through perpetual tensions and wars for millennia, I don’t for a second assume that this – or any other conference – is going to resolve long set adversarial positions, but wise men should take any opportunity to at least find a point of equilibrium to allow progress, safety and security to be achieved for fellow human beings. Just imagine how this area would be transformed for the better with democratic, just and transparent rule. Don’t you think that we can most certainly build a better future for us and our children? Of course we could, we need to exert a concerted effort at achieving such a position. We owe it to future generations not to lose this one or be lethargic about the search for peace.