16 November 2016, London: His Excellency Shaikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom addressed members of parliament Tuesday evening about developments in the Gulf region and defense relationships between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the United Kingdom.
The event, under the umbrella of the UK Defence Forum, was organized by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Defense and Security Issues on behalf of its Chairman, former Defence Minister Sir Gerald Howarth MP and was chaired by Jack Lopresti MP, the vice chairman.
His Excellency was welcomed by the Director General of the UK Defence Forum, Robin Ashby and Col Bob Stewart DSO MP, vice chairman of the Bahrain APPG; in attendance was Tobias Ellwood MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Minister for the Middle East and Africa) and 30 members from the Houses of Parliament and Lords from a number of political parties and others.
In his speech HE Shaikh Fawaz identified the two most pressing challenges to Gulf security and stability: Iranian theocratic expansionism and violent fundamentalist extremism such as that espoused by Daesh and Al Qaeda before them. He went on to say that such challenges are not only faced by the Gulf and the Middle East but have broader international ramifications to global security and stability.
Moreover, the Ambassador highlighted concerns over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), stating that it “rewards Iran by unfreezing tens of billions of dollars without any indication that its regime has changed its strategic aim of destabilizing the wider region”. He cited intercepted Iranian-sourced weapon shipments to Bahrain that include assault rifles, grenades, claymore mines, C4, detonators, and significant quantities of other explosives by people who have extensive ties to the IRGC and Hezbollah.
In terms of the threat of Daesh, HE Shaikh Fawaz reassured Parliamentarians that Bahrain is fully committed through its efforts alongside the international military coalition against Daesh as well as seconding a Bahraini Diplomat to the Counter Daesh Global Coalition Communications Cell at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
In reference to Bahrain UK defence cooperation, Ambassador Al Khalifa noted the close ties between the two kingdoms for over two centuries that recently culminated in a bilateral arrangement for the new British Royal Naval Support Facility in Mina Salman. He noted that “underpinning all of this are our shared values, our common commitment to upholding the rule of law and fundamental rights, and our determination to address threats lawfully and in accordance with international standards.”
In closing, HE Shaikh Fawaz pointed out that it is overwhelmingly in the interest of the international and Gulf communities’ that the threats outlined in his speech are overcome through “lawful and effective measures based on strong institutions, community engagement, and the rule of law.”
MPs, Lords, and the other attendees participated in the discussion that followed His Excellency’s speech. They asked questions and raised points of mutual interest regarding global and regional security issues such as Syria and Yemen and Bahrain’s foreign policy on those matters.
Lord Campbell of Pittween stated that the Kingdom of Bahrain has made significant progress and has taken real steps forward, something acknowledged by those in attendance. These sentiments were reiterated by Bob Stewart MP, who praised the long standing relationship between the two kingdoms and His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa’s efforts in cementing Bahrain’s position as a moderate and tolerant example for the region.