‘1.4 million dead due to Arab uprisings’

Manama: Well over a million people have been killed and billions of dollars wasted as a result of years of protests and upheavals in Middle East countries, the head of a Bahraini think tank has said.

“The United Nations estimates the losses caused by protests and upheaval in several countries in the Middle East at about $614 billion from 2011 to 2015 while official Arab estimates say that losses reached $900 billion as of the beginning of this year, in addition to 1.4 million dead and 15 million refugees,” Shaikh Abdullah Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Bahrain Centre for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (Derasat), said on Monday.

“During the so-called Arab Spring, the region went through an unprecedented phase of spiralling chaos, leading to the collapse of the institutions of the state in a number of countries which, in turn, paved the way for foreign interference in their internal affairs,” he said at the Indian Ocean Conference organised by India Foundation under the theme “Building Regional Architectures” in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

The Middle East has, since 2011, been a theatre of military operations, civil wars, a centre for exporting terrorism and migrants and a source of sectarianism and religious violence, he said.

The moderate GCC states stand as the most stable countries in the region, Shaikh Abdullah added.

“The GCC states have even actively contributed to combating terrorism and securing the region’s stability. However, these states have faced many major challenges, including malicious and harmful activities of the Iranian regime against the security and stability of the region and the world as a whole,” he said.

“Iran is the biggest sponsor of terrorist groups and militias such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Al Houthis in Yemen and terrorist cells in the Gulf states. Tehran also continued to threaten the security of international shipping routes and develop ballistic missiles,” he said.

Shaikh Abdullah added the Gulf states have achieved major successes in securing the region through effective preventive measures, most notably the establishment of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC).

“The primary objective of this coalition, which is led by Saudi Arabia and has about 40 member states, is to fight terrorism and preserve the security and stability of the region. Consequently, the hostile practices of the regime in Qatar have been curtailed as a result of the boycott that was imposed by the Arab Quartet in accordance with international law. The boycott was part of efforts to restore the balance in the region and neutralise the financing of terrorist groups or provide them safe havens.”

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt on June 5 last year severed their diplomatic, trade and travel relations with Qatar over its support for extremists and funding terrorism.

The Quartet issued a list of 13 demands, but Qatar denied the charges and rejected the list, causing the issue to stall.

Despite mediation efforts led by Kuwait, no incremental progress or even a breakthrough has been achieved and the standstill continues.

Shaikh Abdullah told the conference that Iran’s blatant interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries has been checked and that internal problems have started surfacing in Iran as a result of deteriorating economic conditions.

“There are indications that the radical changes taking place may lead to the emergence of a new Iran. The re-imposition of US economic sanctions on Iran and the 12 demands set by the US for concluding a new deal are the right way to go forward because the current nuclear agreement provides the Iranian regime with opportunities to suppress its people, destabilise the security of its neighbours and continue to develop its ballistic missile systems. The question here is ‘Did Iran’s behaviour change after the nuclear agreement?’ The answer is ‘Yes, but for the worst’.”

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