Abu Dhabi Conference to Address Regional Security Threats

  • 23 March 2015

Regional security threats and the future of the Arab political scene are among the issues that will be discussed at a conference in the capital next week.

Hosted by the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), Middle East: Shifting Roles, Interests and Alliances will tackle political, economic, social and security challenges in the region.

“A new source of threat is developing in the region, with the Shia militia supported by Iran and Hizbollah crossing the Lebanese border into Syria,” said Dr Mustafa Alani, the director of national security and terrorism studies at the Gulf Research Centre.

“It’s not only ISIL or Al Qaeda, so we are focusing on these new threats, and the UAE is a major player in regional politics with Abu Dhabi growing very rapidly.

“The UAE is playing a major role in crises outside the GCC too, like in Libya and Egypt, and it is no longer a marginal state but a central one.”

Fouad Siniora, former prime minister of Lebanon, and Dr Marwan Muasher, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, are among the speakers.

Topics will include changing interests and alliances among Arab Spring countries and regional powers, and related challenges for the international coalition against terrorism.

“These security challenges must be addressed,” Dr Alani said. “We have regional problems.

“Terrorism has become a global issue but if you look at the Houthis in Yemen, it’s a regional issue and as risky, dangerous and threatening as terrorism.”

With recent regional turmoil as a result of the Arab Spring, international and local experts will discuss the risks and challenges that it has brought to the stability of neighbouring countries, including the UAE.

Dr Albadr Al Shateri, a senior adviser and researcher for the Armed Forces, said this was crucial because sectarianism was rampant and “out of control”.

“A country can instrumentalise sectarianism to further its interests before it backfires,” Dr Al Shateri said.

“I once compared such a policy to strapping the region with a belt bomb, which will definitely kill your enemy but you will not survive it.

“So any effort, intellectually or otherwise, that will reduce the risks of pushing the region into the abyss and over the cliff is quite a feat and positive.”

He said that the successful outcome from such a conference was both long and short term.

“In the long term, it raises awareness over the strategic important issues and influences the discourse on finding the appropriate solutions,” Dr Al Shateri said.

“The short term may be sounding out experts and policy wonks on how to face the challenges, or at least mitigate them.”

The role of energy in the strategies of regional and international powers will also be discussed, as will China’s role in the region and the balance of power in the Middle East.

“Since its establishment in 1994, the ECSSR has been in a position of responsibility towards the UAE in particular, and the Gulf and the Middle East in general, to have a scientific environment and discussions of all cases that actually have an impact on our area here,” said Dr Abdullah Al Shaiba, deputy director general of the centre’s community services.

“The ECSSR is placed in a leading position in the area to discuss the impact of current situations and their strategic implications on the area.”

The future of the Arab political scene, role of pan-Arab institutions and the GCC will also be discussed at the conference, which takes place on March 31 and April 1.