Much press attention at this year’s Manama Dialogue will focus inevitably on the conflict in Syria and other consequences of the Arab Spring. But a set of other core issues also remain, including the threat perceptions of regional states, and Iran’s place in these calculations. Regional states, and international partners such as the US, remain concerned by Iran’s continuing drive to improve its ballistic missile capabilities, amidst international preoccupation with Tehran’s nuclear programme. Given these uncertainties, the development of regional military capabilities will likely figure high in delegates’ conversations Read the rest of this entry »
By Mark Fitzpatrick, Director, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme
Anticipating that Iran nuclear questions would feature prominently at the IISS Manama Dialogue, I set to work yesterday updating my briefing papers on the status and options. No sooner had I begun, however, than the phone began ringing, with calls from journalists asking about different kinds of weapons in two other countries in the region. Could we trust reports that Syria was mixing chemical-weapons components, and what were the implications of NATO deploying Patriot missiles to Turkey? Similar questions are likely to come up at the Manama Dialogue.
It is clear to me that there is good reason to worry on the first point, even if there is no guarantee that Syria really is readying sarin nerve-gas weapons by mixing the two main chemical precursors. The media reports of this are all sourced to unnamed US officials, and many simply echo articles on Wired’s Danger Room and CNN from 3 December.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius stressed that the reports had not been confirmed. There are ample signs, however. The forceful, pointed warnings from President Barack Obama and other Western leaders reflect the alarming nature of the intelligence information being collected last week.