The Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (Derasat) His Excellency Dr. Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa took part in the opening session of the third edition of the Indian Ocean Conference which was organized by India Foundation under the theme “Building Regional Architectures” and held in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi from 27 to 28 August 2018. The conference was inaugerated by His Excellency Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of the Republic of Sri Lanka, Chairman of the Conference Organizing Committee, Her Excellency Mrs. Sushma Swaraj, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of India and His Excellency Mr. Vivian Balakrishnan Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Singapore, and attended by government officials, distinguished political and academic figures and representatives from 43 countries.
At the beginning of his speech, Dr. Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa stressed the close ties between the Gulf region and South East Asia, saying that the history and geography of the two regions were connected based on trade, commercial interests and cultural relations. The ties that link the two sides also give them the ability to respond to the threats of extremism and terrorism, as well as to development issues, climate change and other challenges that the two regions face.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees of “Derasat” Center outlined the vision of the Kingdom of Bahrain for building a new acceptable and sustainable regional structure in the Gulf region to respond to the developments that the Middle East region faces and the challenges that threaten the Arab national security. He said that during the so-called “Arab Spring”, the region went through an unprecedented phase of spiraling chaos, leading to the collapse of the institutions of the state in a number of countries which, in turn, paved the way for foreign interference in their internal affairs.
Dr. Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa explained that the Middle East has since 2011 been a theater of military operations, civil wars, a center for exporting terrorism and migrants and a source for spreading sectarianism and religious violence. He pointed out that the United Nations estimates the losses caused by protests and upheavals in several countries in the Middle East at about US$ 614 billion during 2011 to 2015 and that according to official Arab estimates, losses reached US$ 900 billion as at the beginning of this year, in addition to 1.4 million dead and 15 million refugees.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees said that the moderate GCC states stand as the most stable countries in the region. They have even actively contributed to combating terrorism and securing the regional security. However, the Gulf states have faced many major challenges including the malicious and harmful activities of the Iranian regime against the security and stability of the region and the world as a whole. He said that Iran is the biggest sponsor of terrorist groups and militias such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen and terrorist cells in the Gulf states. Tehran also continued to threaten the security of international shipping routes and develop ballistic missiles.
Dr. Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa added that the moderate Gulf states have achieved major successes in protecting the security of the region through effective preventive measures, most notably the establishment of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC). The primary objective of this coalition, which is led by Saudi Arabia and has about 40-member states, is to fight terrorism and preserve the security and stability of the region. Consequently, the hostile practices of the regime in Qatar have been curtailed as a result of the boycott which was imposed by the Arab Quartet in accordance with international law. The boycott was part of the efforts to restore the balance in the region and neutralize the financing of terrorist groups or providing them safe havens. Similarly, Iran’s blatant interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries has been checked and internal problems started to surface in Iran as a result of deteriorating economic conditions. There are indications that the radical changes taking place may lead to the emergence of a new Iran. He considered that the re-imposition of US economic sanctions on Iran and the 12 demands set by the US for concluding a new deal is the right way to go forward, because the current nuclear agreement provides the Iranian regime with opportunities to suppress its people, destabilize the security of its neighbors and continue to develop its ballistic missile systems. The question here is “did Iran’s behavior change after the nuclear agreement?”. The answer is “yes, but to the worst”.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees warned that the victory of the international coalition over the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the vast territories it has lost does not mean that the end of terrorism is in sight. There are still many obstacles to achieving sustainable security. The extreme theocratic ideology is still alive and expresses itself in violent acts whenever it has a chance. There is a need to fight the ideologies of radical groups and eliminate the causes that lead to propagating extremist ideology and the recruitment of young people in the name of religion. We should expect to see a new generation of terrorists with advanced capabilities and unconventional goals, strategies and tactics. He added that terrorist groups cannot be limited to ISIS and al Qaeda only, but should also include the groups supported by Iran, including the Houthi militia in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon and terrorist groups and cells in the Gulf states. They are transborder terrorist militias that harbor intolerant sectarian ideology.
Dr. Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said that in view of the dramatic changes in the structure of the present regional order and the increased threats to the security of the Gulf region, there is no doubt a number of successful international experiments that can be used as a guide in building a stable security structure in the Middle East, subject to meeting certain conditions including maintaining the balance in the region, recognizing the requirements of cooperation and finding mechanisms capable of dealing with the existing crises or providing realistic solutions to prevent further escalations.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees stressed that the establishment of a comprehensive and sustainable regional order acceptable to all the parties requires the building of trust and confidence that Iran will cease all hostile behaviors and end its interference in the region’s affairs based on the principle of “security for all” and become a normal peace-loving state. The same applies to Qatar which should implement the legitimate demands of the anti-terror countries. He added “I do not want to appear pessimistic, but the truth of the matter is that the regimes in Tehran and Doha need to undergo a radical and thorough rehabilitation process so that they can be integrated into any real regional arrangement. Iran must rid itself of racism, support to terrorism and the mafia practices. Its neighbors and the world have for decades suffered from its hostile behavior. The regime in Qatar lacks maturity, and we cannot allow a child play with a bomb among people just because he affords the price of one.
Dr. Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said that the Kingdom of Bahrain, under the leadership of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, has laid out a clear vision for Gulf security based on an ongoing and self-sustaining reform process and on the concept that security and development are necessary prerequisites for prosperity and combating terrorism. Bahrain’s vision also emphasizes the role of the GCC as a regional organization that promotes peace and security and seeks to find solutions and devise political initiatives for the settlement of the region’s problems and crises. In this regard, His Majesty the King said “We have to decide our fate according to our own will and amongst ourselves, envisioning the future that we wish, away from any plots imposed upon us or interference that affect us”.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees added that such an order or structure shall be based on a number of principles including non-interference in the affairs of other countries, the acceptance of diversity, coexistence and tolerance and the agreement to settle differences and disputes through dialogue. It also requires the creation of formulas for mutual economic cooperation, fighting all forms of extremism and terrorism and enhancing partnerships between countries.
Dr. Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa highlighted the outstanding achievements of the glorious era of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, as a leader of reform and tolerance and a pioneer of development and enlightenment. Under the wise and inspiring leadership of His Majesty the rule of law was strengthened and the state now guarantees personal and religious freedoms. He said that the Kingdom welcomes the “partnership of moderation, stability and prosperity” so that we all enjoy peace and the fruits of sustainable development.
In concluding his speech, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of “Derasat” Dr. Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa stressed that the real battle of the world is against terrorism, chaos, poverty and ignorance. He called for benefiting from this international forum as a platform for widening and deepening partnerships between countries and enriching our shared strategic values.