THE stage is set for the biggest security forum of the year that will gather intelligence chiefs and experts from around the world to discuss key issues facing the region.
The 14th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Regional Security Summit: The Manama Dialogue 2018 will be held from October 26 to October 28 at The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain in the Seef District.
Details of the conference were revealed yesterday by IISS Middle East executive director Lieutenant General (Retd) Sir Tom Beckett during a Press conference held at the IISS headquarters in GBCorp Tower, Bahrain Financial Harbour, following which a roundtable meeting was hosted for ambassadors of 20 participating countries.
“It is without a doubt that the Manama Dialogue is the leading foreign policy, defence and security forum in the region – there is nothing comparable,” said Sir Tom, who was former UK Defence Ministry senior adviser to the Middle East.
“The IISS brings together experts and senior government delegates to raise understanding of regional affairs.”
Last year’s event witnessed a low turnout from senior government officials compared to previous years, with no high-profile keynote speaker despite the participation of 43 countries.
However, Sir Tom confirmed that this year’s event will be bigger and will have a “significant contribution” from the keynote speaker, who will be announced at a later date.
“If you remember last year US President Donald Trump announced the decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem, which happened a day before the dialogue, following which the Arab League held an urgent meeting,” he explained.
“This year we are looking better than last year and have already secured broader attendance from Africa, Far East and other countries.”
When asked whether delegates from Qatar and Iran would be invited, Sir Tom said that since the IISS was an independent institute they could extend an invite to anyone they wished, however, they were “acutely aware of international politics”.
“Often it makes no sense to offer an invitation, if you know that the invitation will be declined in any case,” he added.
A televised debate will kick off the event on October 26 followed by the opening dinner featuring the keynote speaker.
The following day will feature sessions on US policy in a changing Middle East; shifting relationships and emerging Middle Eastern order; conflict and diplomacy in the Middle East; and stabilisation and reconstruction in the Middle East.
The fifth session will discuss preventing and countering transnational threats.
Sir Tom briefed the diplomats during yesterday’s roundtable meeting on the details of each session and how to arrange bilateral meetings.
“We have three sessions that will elicit discussions on global and regional foreign policies and practices as they affect the Middle East,” he said.
“We will also look at the nature of the region’s power and influence.”
Sessions on the last day of the conference will be held behind closed doors and will focus on defence modernisation and industrialisation in the Middle East; The Horn of Africa and the Security of the Bab Al Mandeb; cyber threats and cyber defence; and nuclear energy and non-proliferation in the Middle East.
The concluding plenary session, titled Shared Interests in Asia and the Middle East, will be held at the end of the final day on October 28.
Bahrain has been hosting the Manama Dialogue since 2004 and other high-profile guests to address the forum included Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, King Abdullah of Jordan, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former UK Foreign Minister William Hague.