According to His Excellency Dr. Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (Derasat), Iran’s scheme for domination and expansion, the destructive role of Qatar and its interference in the internal affairs of other countries, the rising tide of terrorism including cyber terrorism, the threats to international marine traffic and energy supplies and the possible undesirable side effects of economic modernization plans are the key security challenges facing the Gulf region as a strategically important part of the Middle East and the world.
Speaking at the opening of the 9th Marrakesh Security Forum, Dr. Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said that there are many volatile spots in the Middle East facing many political, security, economic and social challenges that can ignite crises and threaten stability and development.
The forum which was organized by the Moroccan Center for Strategic Studies in partnership with the African Federation for Strategic Studies, was held on February 9-10 under the theme “Emerging Threats and New Risks of Conflict”. It was attended by a large number of officials, experts, and international organizations.
Dr. Abdulla Al Khalifa said that because of its strategic location and importance, the Gulf region is going through deep radical changes that require redefining and re-evaluating the “Gulf Security” concept, priorities, limits and pillars. The Gulf is facing serious existing and emerging security challenges exacerbated by intermingled roles and interactions with the regional and international environments.
Dr. Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said that the Iranian expansionist scheme, led by the Ayatollahs since 1979, is the principal sponsor of radical religious fundamentalism which employs illegal means and violates all international norms and laws. Iran is following a clear plan to infiltrate other countries, in what is known as “new generation wars”. Iran has a desire to restore the dream of its extinct Persian empire. For this reason, Iran is engaged in large-scale operations to export the revolution to what is called (Iranian sphere) through the creation and financing of militias and terrorist groups and supplying them with weapons and media propaganda.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees stressed that the danger of Iran does not lie only in its attempts to possess nuclear weapons, but also in many other threats. Iran plays a major role in the creation, financing and sponsoring of terrorism, destabilization of other countries in the region, developing ballistic missiles and threatening maritime security and oil supplies by repeatedly threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, in tandem with threats by the Houthi militias to obstruct international shipping in the Bab al-Mandab Straits.
Dr. Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said that Iran is trying to put obstacles in the path of the reform scheme in the Kingdom of Bahrain through its religious fundamentalists and terrorist cells trained in Revolutionary Guards camps and supplying them with weapons and explosives. In this regard, the security services foiled in 2017 a number of armed terrorist cells linked to Iran. Terrorist acts resulted in 25 martyrs in the ranks of the Bahraini police since 2011, as well as nearly 200 permanent disabilities and thousands of injuries of varying degrees.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees also cited the destructive role of Qatar in the Middle East as another security challenge. The policy of Qatar has since 1995 been to target many of the GCC states and other key Arab countries. Doha is a tool for sowing chaos and division in the region and it uses its financial resources and media outlets for malicious purposes.
“The Kingdom of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have many times given a chance for the regime in Qatar to stop its hostile practices, but it has breached and continues to breach all of its commitments under the 2013 Riyadh Agreement and the Supplementary Agreement and Implementation Mechanisms of 2014. Qatar continues to support, sponsor and finance terrorist groups and provide them sanctuary as well allowing its media outlets to incite agitation and hatred.
Dr. Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa warned of the threat of terrorism as another challenge. The threat of radical groups, terrorist organizations and militias is on the rise and radical ideologies and the culture of religious violence continue to expand. In addition to being a threat in its own right, terrorism represents an embodiment of the previously mentioned two challenges (Iran and Qatar).
He said that cyber terrorism is becoming a serious non-conventional threat to the world in general and to the Gulf States in particular. In the first half of 2016 alone, there were about 3,000 cyber-attacks, or 500 attacks a month, targeting Bahrain government institutions. The majority of these attacks, which were intended to disrupt the work of the government and steal citizens data, originated from Iran but were all repulsed.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees said that whilst the international community was content with the mere condemnation of these threats, the moderate Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia have taken concrete steps to address the situation and restore normalcy. The establishment of the Arab Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen and the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) reflects the conviction of the decision-maker in the Gulf states that the responsibility to protect their national and collective security is their own. These moves also carry a direct warning message that any attempt to tamper with Gulf security would have serious consequences.
Dr. Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said that the Kingdom of Bahrain will, in a few days’ time, celebrate the seventeenth anniversary of the unanimous approval of the National Action Charter in a public referendum. The Charter which represents a turning point in the history of Bahrain, embodies a comprehensive national project led by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to achieve the aspirations of the people of Bahrain, with the support of His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Prime Minister and His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister. The Charter served and continues to serve as a platform for launching initiatives and measures for reform, promotion of democracy, protection of religious freedoms, empowerment of women, investment in people and achieving high rates of development. Despite of a global economic crisis and low oil prices, the Kingdom of Bahrain is making serious efforts to diversify its economy by encouraging entrepreneurship, localization of manufacturing and knowledge and offering investment incentives.
He added that the reform scheme of His Majesty the King embraces change, progress and innovation. Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030, which is based on the principles of sustainability, competitiveness and justice, is unprecedented in the region.
Commenting on the role of Derasat Center, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Dr. Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said that the Center’s vision is to seek adopt a holistic strategic approach to security that can contribute to building a stable and balanced regional structure to deal with the challenges and sources of threats. He called upon all think tanks and research centers to support the efforts of the moderate states in dealing with the challenges that may affect international peace and security, adding that all the money and resources spent on conflicts should be diverted to finance opportunities and sustainable development for the sake of a more stable and prosperous world.