DOHA, Qatar—Senior political and military leaders from around the world are flocking to Manama, Bahrain, Friday for what will be this year's largest and most star-studded meeting on regional security policy, the 2010 Manama Security Dialogue, hosted by the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Institute for International and Strategic Studies.
The U.S. delegation, one of the largest at the conference, is being led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is giving the opening address Friday evening. Other U.S. government delegates include Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro, Assistant Secretary for Defense International Security Affairs Alexander Vershbow, U.S. Central Command head Gen. James Mattis, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner, Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Daniel Feldman, and U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain Adam Ereli.
Among the non-government delegates attending the conference is none other than your humble Cable guy, who is filing this story from a layover in Doha, Qatar, which just happens to be on the country that was just awarded the privilege of hosting the 2022 World Cup. We'll be reporting throughout the conference.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki will give a speech Dec. 4, only two days before Iran will meet the "P5+1" countries -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States -- in Geneva for the first multilateral discussions about Iran's nuclear program in over a year.
"Last year, in response to a question, Mottaki presented what was known as the ‘Kish Island option' for the Tehran Research Reactor fuel swap," Andrew Parasiliti, executive director of IISS's U.S. office, told The Cable. "This idea didn't get far, but at the time, it signaled the fuel-swap was not dead in Tehran." Mottaki's proposal, which the Iranians had first made privately to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, was to transfer the first 400 kilograms of low-enriched uranium to Kish, an Iranian resort island in the Persian Gulf, in exchange for 40-50 kilograms of fuel enriched to 20 percent.
"The presence of both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Mottaki, as well as ministerial delegations from the Gulf and worldwide, could provide an unusual opportunity for the US, Iran, Iraq, and the GCC states to present new initiatives for a Gulf regional security agenda," Parasiliti wrote Wednesday in an op-ed in the National.
Dozens of Arab leaders will also have their first chance to talk face to face with American diplomats about the WikiLeaks diplomatic cable disclosures, which have so far included embarrassing anecdotes about several governments who will be in Manama, including representatives from Kuwait, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.
Another focus of the event will be the future of Iraq. Iraq's Speaker of Parliament Osama Al-Nujaifi was among the latest additions to the list of speakers. The keynote address on Dec. 4 will be given by King Abdullah II of Jordan.
And never count out General Mattis when it comes to the ability to make news. At last year's dialogue, his predecessor Gen. David Petraeus stirred the pot when he stated that the United Arab Emirates' air force had the ability to take out Iran's air force in a head-to-head matchup.
"All of these issues will be discussed in ministerial plenary panels as well as in off-the-record sessions," Parasiliti said.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.