To mark the tenth anniversary of the IISS Manama Dialogue the IISS has produced an Adelphi book that analyses the key challenges now faced by the Middle East.

To mark the tenth anniversary of the IISS Manama Dialogue process and to capitalise on the new light it has shed on security issues in the Gulf and the wider Middle East, this Adelphi brings together the results of two workshops held by IISS in its Middle East office in Manama. Featuring essays by nine IISS analysts and a number of outside experts, the book examines the most important geostrategic issues in the region, including the myriad security challenges it faces. These interlinked papers focus in particular on the regional ramifications of the civil war in Syria and the effects of the United States changing posture in the Middle East.

The aim of this Adelphi is to both highlight and develop the ongoing discussions and debates about Gulf security that have taken place in the Manama Dialogue over the previous decade, and that will continue to do so over the next ten years. As such, it capitalises on the IISS’s global reputation not only as the world leader in convening para-diplomatic events, but also as a provider of the best possible objective information and analysis on global military and political developments.

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  • Introduction

    For one crucial weekend each December, the Kingdom of Bahrain becomes the fulcrum of regional defence and security diplomacy in the Gulf, when ministerial delegations from over two-dozen countries converge on the IISS Manama Dialogue. Outwardly, the Manama Dialogue has all the appearances of a conventional conference. But its purpose and its function is the provision of a de facto regional security institution, with at least three very particular characteristics. Firstly...
  • Chapter One: The Crisis of the Iraqi State

    The new and severe crisis that has engulfed Iraq became apparent on 10 June 2014, when the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) took control of Mosul, the country’s second-largest city. There were estimated to have been only 3,000 ISIS fighters in Iraq during 2013–14, yet forces aligned with the rebellion overwhelmed and defeated a garrison in Mosul believed to contain more than 30,000 Iraqi government troops. The rebels...
  • Chapter Two: Iran, the Gulf States and the Syrian Civil War

    Their role has influenced the calculations, positioning, behaviour and fortunes of the principal Syrian players. Irrespective of whether the effect was intended, this regional competition has revealed and deepened the many fault lines that cross Syrian politics and society. It has also exacerbated the polarisation of the Middle East. In the case of Iran and the major Gulf states, ‘spill-in’ – an effect in which a growing security vacuum attracts external...
  • Chapter Three: Assessing Syria’s Jihad

    The Syrian insurgency has had an overt Sunni jihadist component since 23 January 2012, when Jabhat al-Nusra announced its emergence and claimed responsibility for its first attack – a suicide bombing in Damascus on 23 December 2011, which killed 40 people. However, Jabhat al-Nusra had in fact been covertly active on a minimal scale in Syria from at least August 2011, thanks to the release of Islamist detainees from Syrian...
  • Chapter Four: Turkey’s Syria Predicament

    The Arab Spring, the Syrian crisis and the dramatic rise of ISIS in both Iraq and Syria have undermined years of effort in constructing a new foreign policy, upending its relations with states in the Middle East and the West, particularly America. Turkey also has to worry about how its own Kurdish population will be affected by both Kobane and the emergence of jihadist sympathisers within Turkish territory, some of...
  • Chapter Five: Jordan: Caught in the Middle Again

    To mark the tenth anniversary of the IISS Manama Dialogue process and to capitalise on the new light it has shed on security issues in the Gulf and the wider Middle East, this Adelphi brings together the results of two workshops held by IISS in its Middle East office in Manama. Featuring essays by nine IISS analysts and a number of outside experts, the book examines the most important geostrategic...
  • Chapter Six: The Gulf States in an Era of American Retrenchment

    Barack Obama’s 2009 accession to the US presidency spurred a recalibration of American policy in the Middle East, especially the Gulf. Yet the United States adopted a strategy of retrenchment in the region due not only to Obama’s world view and policy preferences, but to structural factors that suggest the subsequent adjustments will outlast his tenure in the White House. High among these drivers is a general sense in US...
  • Chapter Seven: Obama and the Middle East

    Whether the United States is in a condition of resurgence or decline at any given moment, it seems undeniable that its responsibilities, ambitions and pretensions in the global order make it difficult for the US leadership to set priorities and adequately attend to the domestic sources of American strength. Is it simply impossible to orchestrate a managed retrenchment from what is rightly seen as debilitating overextension? Grappling with this question requires...
  • Chapter Eight: Is Russia an Outside Power in the Gulf?

    Following the 2013 IISS Manama Dialogue, a Gulf leader was quoted as saying: ‘the Russians have proved they are reliable friends … As a result, some states in the region have already started to look at developing more multilateral relations, rather than just relying on Washington.’ This particular statement was alleged to have been fabricated, but the sentiment contained therein is broadly reflective of regional elite opinion about Russia. The...
  • Chapter Nine: China and the Middle East

    China is sometimes described as a reluctantly growing power in the Middle East, due to the wariness with which Chinese leaders view the political turmoil and many wars of the region. Beijing is particularly unsettled by the Arab Spring, which it believes has a demonstration effect that could inspire a ‘Jasmine revolution’ at home, and by the spread of Islamic radicalism from al-Qaeda fighters in Pakistan’s tribal areas to Uighur...
  • Chapter Ten: India: Gulf Security Partner in Waiting?

    New Delhi has no publicly articulated, comprehensive Gulf policy. Although some Gulf countries are now recognised as ‘strategic partners’, reciprocal leadership visits are rare, and India’s diplomatic missions in the Gulf are small. Notwithstanding recent attempts to build defence links, the Indian embassies in Bahrain and Kuwait, for example, still do not have resident defence attachés; nor, until March 2013, did the Indian embassy in the UAE. However, historic maritime...
  • Chapter Eleven: Securing Middle East Oil

    China’s reliance on globally traded oil has increased dramatically over the past decade, while America’s has declined. Both trends look likely to continue. Maintaining steady exports of Middle East oil is a major strategic concern for Beijing, yet Washington remains the guarantor of security in the Gulf. Could China replace the United States in this role? The answer to that question depends on three factors: Beijing’s willingness to secure the...

Toby Dodge is Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and Consulting Senior Fellow for the Middle East at the IISS.

Emile Hokayem is Senior Fellow for Middle East Security at the IISS.

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