As a prelude to the opening of the exhibition, the IDEX Conference took place on Saturday at the UAE Armed Forces Officers Club. Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE President and Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the conference addressed a number of timely defence and security issues.
Danny Sebright, President of the US/UAE Business Council and master of ceremonies for the IDEX conference, described the UAE as an “island of stability in a sea of restlessness”, and praised the country’s contribution to the ongoing struggle against Daesh, which is perhaps the most obvious element within what another speaker identified as an ongoing “tidal wave of international strife and geopolitical flux”.
This has added urgency and relevance to defence discussions in the region and beyond.
According to Staff Major General Pilot Mohammed Rashid Al Ali, Director of the Joint Operations Centre of the UAE’s General Headquarters, the security and stability of the Gulf is not just a regional concern.
In his address, he pointed out that it must be both a national and an international responsibility, making an eloquent plea for ever closer co-operation between allies. Even though the UAE has always preferred to adopt peaceful means of resolving disputes, the General detailed how the UAE has established and built up armed forces that are well trained and well equipped to protect the country against “anyone who wants to interfere in its affairs”.
Another of the conference speakers, Philip Dunne MP, the UK’s Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, identified the “brutal campaign of murder and repression across northern Iraq and Syria” being carried out by Daesh militants as being a major regional and international challenge.
The air campaign against Daesh has involved the air forces of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Jordan, as well as those of the USA, France and the UK, and a recurring theme of the conference was the importance of building closer partnerships between allied air forces, and between air forces and industry.
However, the campaign in Syria and Iraq is only one of the challenges facing the region and the international community, as Dunne pointed out, marking only one facet of a wider threat, one of several vicious insurgencies being undertaken in the name of Islamic extremism, and which threaten the stability of the region. These include what he identified as “growing insurgencies in Libya and Yemen”, and spreading insurgencies in Africa, where “the barbaric Boko Haram are moving across national borders beyond northern Nigeria to threaten neighbouring countries”, as well as trouble in the Sahel and in Somalia.