Bahrain: 8th IISS Regional Security Summit
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) held its Eighth Annual Middle East Regional Security Summit in Manama, Bahrain on December 7-9. The summit hosted panels which discussed the role of the U.S. in the Middle East, the influence of sectarian politics in regional security, as well as preparing for the “day after” in Syria. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, and Representative Charles Ruppersberger (D-MD) spoke during the First Plenary Session of the conference.
McCain observed that “the region now stands at a crossroads between two very different alternative futures.” He lamented, “The greater danger now is understating the ability that America still has to help our friends and allies here to shape events in their region for the better.” McCain pointed out that, “There is a visceral sense among so many of the people and leaders in this region that they are not getting as much support from the United States as they desire. And this is the perception among so many civil society and opposition groups, including here in Bahrain, who recognize that America has national interests that it must look after, but who want America nonetheless to speak up more, and more often, on behalf of their peaceful democratic aspirations.” Yet, ”It is difficult to convince the American people right now that we need to be doing more in the world, not less,” he concluded.
Burns said, “It’s important for Americans… to understand that the Middle East is not all about us. But if it’s not about us, the future of the region certainly matters a great deal to us.” He listed, “Security, continued support for political openness, democratic reforms, and successful post-revolutionary transitions, economic support, and a “re-energized effort to resolve regional conflicts,” as four keys to American policy in the Middle East. Burns noted that American, ”influence has obvious limits, but we’re far better off continuing to work with people and leaderships across the Middle East who want to shape trends and events in a positive direction, than we are if we simply wait for them to be shaped for us.”
Ruppersberger declared, “I am here today to say we will NOT pack up and leave the region. We have a history of long term, strategic partnership with the countries of the region and that will continue. Our common ground is the fight against terrorism. We need the Gulf States to be strategic, long term partners in the region.”