The Bahraini government and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) will not hold what would have been the 8th annual Manama Security Dialogue this year because of the social upheaval and subsequent government crackdown in the country.
"We have decided not to convene the Manama Dialogue in December 2011," IISS CEO and President John Chipman told The Cable. "Instead, we have decided to hold two ‘Sherpa Meetings', one in January 2012, one in May 2012, involving high level officials from all the states that normally participate in the Manama Dialogue, to prepare for the intended resumption of the Manama Dialogue summit in December 2012."
The Manama Dialogue is the region's largest annual meeting of influential national security officials and experts. Chipman said that the Sherpa meetings are meant "to sustain the momentum" of the dialogue, as well as to build support for high-level government participation for the event in December 2012.
IISS notified government officials about the change in an information note last month.
"These Sherpa meetings will involve senior government officials from those states who normally participate in the Manama Dialogue," reads a note on the Sherpa meetings provided to The Cable by IISS. There will be about 65 officials from 20 countries at each meeting, which will be off the record and held at IISS's Manama office.
The most recent Manama Dialogue featured attendance by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, and your humble Cable guy. It's the Middle East counterpart to IISS's annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, which we also attended.
The Manama Dialogue is not the only international event in Bahrain that has been delayed this year for political reasons. The Bahrain Grand Prix Formula 1 racing event was postponed from March 2011 to October and then cancelled outright. The next F1 racing event in Bahrain is scheduled for November 2012.