Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 15 December 2019

Manama Dialogue 2019 seeks to make sense of ambiguous international picture

Policymakers to meet in Bahrain as US role in region becomes less certain

Bahrain is implementing fiscal reform measures to eliminate its budget deficit by 2022. Getty Images
Bahrain is implementing fiscal reform measures to eliminate its budget deficit by 2022. Getty Images

A major policy forum will convene in Bahrain this weekend to discuss responses in the Arabian Gulf to security threats amid uncertainty among traditional US allies about Washington’s reliability.

Officials from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, the US, China, France and other nations will attend the three-day Manama Dialogue, organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The annual meeting opens on Friday. Bahrain is seeking to expand its profile as an international centre and ­highlight threats from Iran.

At last year’s gathering, US officials said Iran’s proxy militias must leave Syria and affirmed their commitment to the Middle East Strategic Alliance, proposed by Washington.

If there is a problem (in the Gulf or China) the economy in both regions would be hit

Emile Hokayem, IISS

Iran has since entrenched its proxies across Syria and Mesa – which was supposed to comprise GCC nations, Jordan and Egypt – did not materialise.

Emile Hokayem, senior fellow for Middle East security at the institute, said although Syria had fallen off the radar in Arab and western capitals, the conflict was not over and stabilisation needed to be pursued.

“I think Syria is important. Let us see what the ministers and other officials say,” Mr Hokayem told The National.

Senior US officials are expected in Manama, where they will try to ease fears about Washington’s perceived withdrawal from the Middle East.

A possible turning point in the region since last year’s meeting was the September 14 attack claimed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels on Saudi Aramco’s oil infrastructure.

Although the US says it sent up to 3,000 more troops to the Middle East after the attack, the response has not been seen in the region as robust.

Updated: November 22, 2019 02:35 AM

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