The dynamics of the security challenge: A Gulf Perspective

The 6th IISS Regional Security Summit - The Manama Dialogue

Introductory remarks by the Keynote Speaker,
Dr. Mohammad Sabah AlSalem AlSabah

December 11th, 2009 - Manama


Thank you professor Heisbourg. Your Highness Mohammad [bin Mubarak Al Khalifa], colleagues, John, ladies and gentlemen, assalaum –alaikom wa rahmatu allahi wa barakatuh. Well I am extremely privileged to be here this evening, and to be invited to such a distinguished and recognized conference. It is truly a tradition to have the Manama Dialogue and I hope it will continue for many years to come. It has served multiple purposes, not only as a dialogue between people from the Gulf and those who are outside the Gulf, but it has also created an environment in which we, as GCC members, can argue amongst ourselves about issues and we can here reflect on others' opinions about us. I'm extremely delighted to be invited here, and for those organizers who have arranged the schedule of my speech and remarks, I thank you very much for making it before dinner for two reasons. First of all, I have a captive audience, whether you like it or not you are going to hear my speech if you want to eat! And secondly, I'll have peace of mind as I will have my dinner at ease without being concerned about last minute developments of my speech. So thank you very much and let my start my remarks. I have prepared my remarks in Arabic, in the tradition of the Manama Dialogue and I will be happy to respond to any questions you have later on. The title of my remarks is the "Dynamics of Security Challenges – A Gulf Perspective."

Your Highnesses, Excellencies and Excellencies.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
May God's peace, mercy and blessings be upon you.
At the outset, I am pleased to extend my great thanks and gratitude to the sisterly Kingdom of Bahrain for hosting and sponsoring the sixth Manama Dialogue, extending my sincere gratitude to Dr. John Chapman, Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, for honoring me by delivering the opening speech of the conference.
I would like to take this opportunity to commend the positive and tangible fruitful efforts made by the International Institute for Strategic Studies and all its staff to make this important event a success, which has become a destination for all those interested in the security and stability of the region, as it provides a space to discuss opinions and put forward ideas freely and with conviction, where we are only constrained by moral positions in presenting our visions aimed at achieving the security and safety to which our peoples aspire.
 Honorable Attendees,

* To speak of dynamism is to speak of different time dimensions of a moving concept.
* There is a clear and present challenge and dealing with it is imperative and immediate.
* There are challenges in the medium and long term that need calm and careful treatments and precautions.
* Hence, it can be said that the concept of Gulf security is shaped in its three temporal dimensions: Immediate, medium and long term, and takes the form of security/political, economic and demographic challenges.
First: Security/Political Challenges
If we scrutinize the reality of the map of the region neighboring this meek island, we will undoubtedly observe events that do not make us happy and do not contribute to the stability of our region, starting from the war in Afghanistan and its surroundings in Pakistan, through the Iranian confrontation with international legitimacy, to the reality of Palestine and the repression and denial of the Palestinian people's right to an independent state, down to the Horn of Africa, wandering towards the crisis in Yemen and its threat to the security of the GCC countries, and here we have no way in the GCC countries but to join efforts to contain these existing and present dangers to our national security. All of us in the GCC countries, until the establishment of the Council, have adopted a preventive diplomacy characterized by transparency and vitality that pushes us to deal with hotspots of tension in a way that we have inherited from time immemorial that has its effectiveness and unique Gulf characteristics, and this method is characterized by the following:

(1): The integrity of the intentions carried by Gulf diplomacy, which has no greed for land or purposes that undermine the rights of others. Its reality is transparent, and its goals are understanding, coexistence, good neighborliness, and the establishment of a strong relationship based on the principle of mutual interests and the realization of benefits for all.
Gulf diplomacy is a system committed to the rules of good behavior and recognition of the rights of others, and its essence is to resolve issues through understanding, remove tensions through frank dialogue, and intensify communication without boredom or despair.
(2): GCC diplomacy is aware of the dangers of employing ideology in relations between states, and believes that harnessing diplomacy to achieve regional ambitions and territorial expansions at the expense of others leads to the disruption of the system of regional understanding, introduces suspicion among neighbors and creates apprehension and fear of blackmail, and if the diplomacy of expansion is destructive, the diplomacy of inflaming neighboring peoples is equally destructive, especially if it is associated with calls to rebel against their systems, challenge their governments or turn against their reality.
The GCC countries have continued their dialogues with neighbors and others in order to develop a collective regional diplomacy free from the causes of tension and the harmful effects of ideologies, and to reach common formulas that are consistent with international law, the principles of the United Nations Charter and the rules of conduct between nations.

(3): Gulf diplomacy recognizes the depth of the strategic position occupied by the GCC countries in the system of international relations, which has strengthened with the consolidation of the bond between the GCC countries and the global family, based on a conscious understanding of the role of the region in the global economic construction and in the prosperity of development in various societies.
From this point of view, the responsibility of the GCC countries in securing the stability of the region, protecting its waterways, and adopting a constructive and responsible behavior in oil policies, especially in the equation between production and prices that takes into account the right of the producer and the need of the consumer.
The most important thing we seek in our behavior within the framework of oil diplomacy is to consolidate the world's confidence in our credibility and our commitment to fulfill our duty towards the international community's energy needs.
 Undoubtedly, the Gulf diplomacy to which I referred has achieved a lot, and the most prominent fruits of it are the reality of security and stability in which the GCC countries live, despite the stormy encirclement that surrounds them, and this diplomacy has secured the GCC countries a distinguished position in the ladder of relations among the members of the international community. I am talking about Gulf diplomacy while we have Mohammed bin Mubarak [Al Khalifa], one of the authors of the foundations of this Gulf diplomacy that we are all proud of.

II: Economic challenges
As for the security challenge in the medium term, the existing economic challenges stand out to us through the following main headings:
- Almost absolute dependence on one depleting economic resource, namely oil.
- Instability in the international economic climate.
- The collapses in international capital markets.
- Disruptions in food markets.
- Sharp fluctuations in oil prices.
- These global economic shocks constitute a major strategic challenge in the medium term for the GCC countries, and it is imperative that they combine their efforts to face these challenges and work to immunize and protect their economies from these economic exposures.

To face these challenges, GCC countries must seek to expedite the establishment of a unified Gulf market with its two wings, the customs union and the monetary union, in order to ensure the creation of a Gulf economic environment that absorbs external shocks with minimal damage and costs, and provides investment opportunities for Gulf capital to enable it to build economic units and structures that enhance job opportunities for citizens of GCC countries.
Third: Demographic Challenges

Finally, if political unrest and conflicts constitute one of the main obstacles to moving forward with development programs, other aspects - economic and social - may be no less important and affect development plans in the GCC countries. If we look at the demographic reality of the six GCC countries, we will realize the magnitude of the challenge that this reality poses in the medium and long term. The deep imbalances in the demographic composition of all GCC countries demonstrate the magnitude of the political, cultural, social and economic risks that we are experiencing. Our preoccupation as politicians and decision-makers with this great issue has led to its complexity and aggravation, as unfortunately our Gulf countries have not yet developed effective and efficient plans to address these imbalances, whether at the foreseeable or long-term level.

Here, I would like to present some indicators that show the magnitude of the demographic challenge we are facing.
1- The GCC is expected to witness the fastest population growth rate in the world. According to a recent Economist study, by 2020, the population will increase by 30% from what it is now to reach 53 million people, the vast majority of whom are under the age of 25. While the age structure of the population in America and Europe is aging, the age structure of the population in the GCC is young, with 24% of the population under the age of 15, which is the highest percentage compared to anywhere in the world except Africa. This rapid growth and relatively young population will pose a real challenge to the ability of GCC countries to provide employment opportunities for these young people.
2- According to a report prepared by the Emirates Industrial Bank on the imbalance in the Gulf labor markets, in which the proportion of national workers compared to foreign workers is declining << The ratio of expatriate workers to the total labor force: 90% in the UAE, 62% in Bahrain: 90% in the UAE, 62% in Bahrain, 65% in Saudi Arabia, 65% in Oman, 86% in Qatar, and 83% in Kuwait, the study showed that the value of foreign remittances increased by 31% in 2008 to reach 40 billion US dollars compared to 30. In order to better understand the magnitude of this phenomenon, it should be noted that the GCC countries are second in the world after the United States in the volume of foreign remittances - i.e. remittances of expatriate workers abroad - where the latter (i.e. the United States) in 2008 amounted to 47 billion dollars, compared to 40 billion from the GCC countries.

3-The GCC countries suffer from the emergence of the phenomenon of the second generation of expatriate workers, by which we mean residents who have given birth and formed a social life and whose children (the second generation) have joined the labor market, and this generation, which knows no other home than the GCC countries in which it has worked and lived, poses a great dilemma in how to absorb them within the socio-cultural patterns of the societies of the GCC countries.
If the security challenge is visible and present in front of us, such as the Iranian nuclear program or the wars and political conflicts (Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen), through the issues of extremism and radicalization. Yemen) through the issues of extremism and terrorism, or if the economic challenges are known and diagnosed as current and short- and medium-term issues, the demographic challenge is a strategic challenge for the GCC countries that requires wisdom, patience, foresight and a long series of quiet and gradual measures involving incentives, innovative solutions and creative projects, as the issue of preserving the Gulf identity, civil peace, social cohesion and cultural identity is very important in our efforts to solve this demographic issue.
Gentlemen of the audience.

The challenges facing the GCC countries are numerous and complex, and summarizing them and going into all their details would require more time and more sessions, and I am confident that this conference and through the seminars and dialogues that will be held over the next two days will address these topics in more detail and deeper research. Therefore, I tried in this introduction to focus only on those that I found to be the most urgent and the most impactful. ،،،، Perhaps I succeeded in what I went to, thanking you for your patience and good listening.
May God's peace, mercy and blessings be upon you.
Questions and answers:

Dr. Tim Huxley (Executive director of IISS Asia – Singapore)
Q: My question relates to the relations and security matters between this region (the GCC) and Asian countries, and I'm particularly interested in what role major Asian powers like, China, Japan, and also India might play in the security of this region and if there are any particular contributions you think they might usefully make in the future. Thank you very much.
Dr. Mamoun Fandy (Senior Fellow for Gulf Security and Corresponding Director for IISS-Middle East)
Q: Dr. Mohammad, thank you very much for the wonderful speech. Since you have mentioned Yemen in your speech, I would like to ask; is Yemen on the agenda of the GCC Heads of State summit in Kuwait, and is there any thinking of putting any policy position to stabilize Yemen from a GCC point of view?

Dr. Mansoor Al-Arayedh (Chairman of the Gulf Council for Foreign Relations)
Q: Your speech regarding the importance of GCC security, does Your Excellency support the GCC neighborhood nuclear security frame-work that will support the GCC security and peace in the region? Thank you.
Dr. Mohammad al-Sabah al-Salim al-Sabah (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, State of Kuwait)
A: Thank you very much. Dr. Huxley. The relationship between the GCC and Asia, the Far East if you will, is an emerging relationship which has its foundations in the historical ties that exist between the GCC and Asia in particular, and the Far East in general. We can talk about [the concept of] interdependency [in discussing] the relationship between the GCC and the Far East. We have a dialogue that we have achieved between the GCC and the Asian countries that was started by Bahrain under the auspices of His Majesty King Hamad [Al Khalifa], and we had a meeting just a few months ago and we will have the next meeting in Singapore in the first quarter of next year. The Far East has presented a very lucrative market for GCC products, especially petroleum products; crude and petrochemicals.  China - as you know is one of the largest consumers - along with Japan and Korea represents where the overwhelming portion of our exports are going, to the Far East rather than to the West or the United States. In exchange for that, the Far East presents a fertile area for our investments, especially in the area of food security. Our Prime Minister, for example, made a visit about a year ago to South East Asia in which we were exploring the idea of investing in agriculture, land reclamation and irrigation techniques and to invest in agricultural products to find a secure source for food for our region. This is an idea now being explored and we are now putting some concrete steps to activate this concept of interdependence. We have the capital, they have the labor and we can mix these two together to produce the maximum benefit. So in terms of how we look at the Far East in terms of a security linkage to the GCC, I think that we have been moving more and more in terms of our relations with the Far East. As you know, trade is an important element in cementing relations between societies, and if you look at the trade patterns between the GCC and the rest of the world, you will find that the Far East is finding an increasing portion of the GCC trade flows.
With respect to my friend, Mamoun Fandy's question concerning Yemen; Yemen is of course located in a tricky part of this region. It is adjacent to the Horn of Africa, a region that has been witnessing numerous problems and we have unfortunately a failed state, a country that is very close to us, that is Somalia. As a result, all sorts of problems have emerged in such a situation, and now we start seeing that it is not only confined to Somalia but it has been exported in the form of piracy and has affected our trade flows from that region. Of course, Yemen, with the problem of being adjacent to such a troubled area [has been] compounded by three kinds of confrontations or challenges. On the one hand, you have the "Hoothi" uprising in the north that presents a serious security challenge to Sana'a. You have an emerging grouping or presence of al-Qaeda, because the center of authority has been very much occupied by the "Hoothis" and     al-Qaeda is apparently finding some footholds in the heartland of Yemen. Thirdly, you have the more serious of all [challenges], the secessionist movements in the south which is reviving the idea of two sides rather than one unified state. The government is in a position which I don't think anybody wants to be in. The Foreign Minister of Yemen is going to arrive in Kuwait, he has a letter from His Excellency the President of Yemen addressed to the Heads of State. I think the Yemen issue will be discussed thoroughly and the implications of the Yemen crisis will have a profound impact on regional security, and especially Gulf security. Mind you, since the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, this is the first GCC summit to be held with one of its members in active military operations, and here we are talking about Saudi Arabia's confrontations with [developments in Yemen]. This is a unique event, and a phenomenal event which we have not seen in the past 18 years and for sure, the GCC Heads of State will discuss this in a serious manner.
With respect to Dr. Mansour's remark, whether the GCC is going to support the nuclear security pact, I can not speak on behalf of the GCC at this moment because it has not been discussed among us. But I can only say that the GCC have taken a decision to first explore the ability and efficacy of using nuclear technology for power generation in the Gulf countries. The Heads of State during their meeting in Saudi Arabia have taken the decision to explore this possibility and we have formed a committee within the GCC and we are in contact with the IAEA to explore this idea. Even though this is a collective decision, we have two countries that I know of, the United Arab Emirates and my country Kuwait, that have decided to go ahead and build a nuclear power plant for water and electricity generation. The idea you have mentioned has not been discussed within the GCC, but I can tell you this is the direction we are heading towards.
Mark Fitzpatrick (Senior Fellow for Non-proliferation – IISS)
Q: Mohammad, in your preparatory remarks you twice mentioned Iran in the context of problems, once regarding the nuclear program. May I ask you sir, what Kuwait and the GCC would like Iran to do to improve confidence in their intentions, particularly regarding the nuclear program?  
Q: As we are here, people are meeting in Copenhagen to address issues of climate change. That for oil producing countries is something that (inaudible), is this something that is being considered seriously at the next meeting of the GCC and if there are any plans you can share with us.
Dr. Mohammad al-Sabah al-Salim al-Sabah (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, State of Kuwait)
A: Thank you Dr. Fitzpatrick. Our Prime Minister has just made a visit to Iran a couple of weeks ago, we have met with the "Morshid", the President and the Speaker of the Parliament. We expressed, first, our total support to any country that would like to pursue nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes according to the IAEA guidance. We think this is a right. I think what we also said that the on-going confrontation between Iran and the rest of the world with regard to this nuclear program, especially the confrontation between Iran and the IAEA, is something that puts the whole region in a state of tension because we think that the IAEA is responsible for safeguarding any program from being used in clandestine operations and purposes, and also, most importantly for Kuwait's concern as we are the closest to some of these nuclear plants, especially in Bushehr that might have an environmental impact. So we expressed our concern about the IAEA not total satisfaction with the program and we expressed Iranian friends that our concerns extend, as far as Kuwait is concerned, from the environmental impact of these programs. We want to make sure that these programs are built according to the guidelines and standards of the IAEA guidelines. What I said in terms of my remarks, I did not categorize Iran as a problem, I categorized Iran's nuclear program as problematic because Iran is now facing possible sanctions by the UN. If that's what the Security Council is going to determine than this region is going to enter a period of tension. Iran is a major player in the Gulf, and any tension with Iran will reflect on the relationship between the GCC and Iran as well. We hope that Iran will satisfy the IAEA requirements so that there be no need for sanctions.
As for Fareed's comments on the GCC's position regarding the Copenhagen conference, and especially that there are some who argue that the oil exporting countries should burden the disproportionate portion of the debt of the environmental impact of using fossil fuels. I think that our position will be very strong. We, the GCC countries, have allocated $700 million for research in the areas of carbon sequestration, a technology that will make using oil resources environmentally friendly. We are carrying some of the burden ourselves by investing in technology that could make the use of oil resources environmentally friendly. We don’t think it is fair to shift burdens on developing countries or, for that matter, countries that have the resource to cutting their forests to generate foreign exchange because that apparently, according to some studies has more of an environmental impact than the consumption of fossil fuels. In that sense, I think that the Copenhagen summit coming immediately after the GCC summit will be an opportunity for the Heads of State to discuss this issue. 


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