Regional security top of the agenda for Arab leaders in Bahrain

Annual summit in Manama will cover Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Iran

Arab and western officials will meet in Manama, Bahrain. AFP
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Top Arab and western officials will meet in Manama to discuss and present their policies over pressing regional security as the conflict in Ukraine continues to affect the region.

The summit will be opened by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, who will deliver the keynote address. The annual event in Bahrain is hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and is a central element of Middle East security architecture.

“How regional countries will position themselves and try to navigate those turbulent times is going to be at the heart of this year’s discussion,” said Emile Hokayem, IISS’s senior fellow for Middle East security.

“We have seen detente across the board. However, we have not seen it translate into solid agreements, security arrangements, and so the region remains in turmoil,” Mr Hokayem said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has added a new level of geopolitical and economic strife to which the Middle East is very exposed, he said.

Leaders attending the summit will include Pentagon policy chief Colin Kahl, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak and other top regional officials.

The theme of this year’s conference is Rules and Competition in the Middle East.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had crippling effects on the Middle East and exposed geopolitical tensions between the region and the US.

“While some states are profiting from higher oil prices, the conflict has exposed both latent and new tensions in US–Gulf relations,” said John Raine, IISS’s senior adviser for geopolitical due diligence.

"For those two reasons the Arab and Gulf region is focused on the cause and outcome of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” he said.

Iran will also be on the summit’s agenda as anti-government protests have continued for for more two months since the death of Maha Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman.

Amini was detained by the morality police for allegedly not abiding by the country’s strict dress code.

“The wave of riots that we’ve seen over the past few months have been unusual in their geographic distribution,” Mr Raine said.

They are taking place throughout Iran and in all of Iran’s provinces.

“We are also seeing a strong response from the regime. It’s gone for both physical and virtual clampdown on the protesters,” he said.

Iran’s government is unsettled and has realised that it has “lost its legitimacy” or “is in danger of losing its legitimate appeal”.

“This is not a regime that has very many negotiation rooms,” he said.

Hundreds of people have been arrested and killed during the uprising.

Updated: November 17, 2022, 1:56 PM