Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, look, good morning from Washington, and good afternoon, Foreign Minister Al Zayani, and to everyone joining from Bahrain.
It’s a pleasure to kick off our first-ever bilateral strategic dialogue.
Look, our two countries have been working together for a long time. But today is a testament to how President Trump has joined with King Hamad to make our decades-old ties even closer, for the benefit of both of our nations.
It’s been a privilege for me personally to work with His Majesty the King as well, and all the more so because he spent some time studying at the United States Army Command and General Staff College in my home state, the great state of Kansas here in America.
Together, our two teams have achieved historic outcomes for the entire Middle East. I’m very confident that what we’re doing today, this dialogue and the sessions that will follow, will lay a foundation for more successes, and frankly an even stronger alliance.
I want to start with security – the focus of multiple working sessions.
You’ve helped us defeat ISIS, launching airstrikes against the fraudulent caliphate.
Bahrain also hosts the United States Naval Central Command and our Fifth Fleet’s headquarters. That allows lots for us. That allows us to collaborate across the board, from fighting terrorism to safeguarding the passage of goods in the Gulf, free from Iran’s maritime attacks.
Indeed, the regime in Tehran is the number-one threat to Gulf security, and to peace-loving people throughout the entire region.
And I want to thank you all. I want to thank Bahrain and its people for their steadfast support of our maximum pressure campaign, which has successfully isolated Tehran and cut off tens of billions of dollars for Iranian malign influence and terror.
Bahrain and the United States share a key foreign policy insight: We’re realists; we see the world as it is.
We recognize the violent nature of the revolutionary Iranian regime, and we understand that when it comes to countering Tehran and many other important issues, Israel is a key partner, and not a problem.
Thanks to the Abraham Accords, partnerships with Israel and the United States are now blossoming. In fact, just what’s now last month the United States hosted our first Strategic Dialogue with the United Arab Emirates, another signatory.
Look, there’s already more trade and investment between Bahrain and Israel in areas like telecom and financial services in just a handful of weeks.
Indeed, when I was in Israel just a couple weeks back now, I greeted the first direct flight from Bahrain carrying the first cabinet-level delegation, including the foreign minister himself. We held a trilateral meeting to build on our progress, including by opening the door for an exchange of embassies between Israel and Bahrain.
This is a sign of hope for the region as it moves past stale, outdated thinking to which no one should want to return.
And I am confident more nations will follow Bahrain’s leadership, showing the geographic size of a country does not dictate its influence on the world stage.
Together – together, we’ve proven what works. There’s more to do; there always is.
Over the next couple weeks, five working groups from the State Department and other agencies will meet with their Bahraini counterparts.
They’ll discuss how we can make sure that our two nations coordinate more in areas like military training and on women’s empowerment.
It’s also important that our future 5G networks are safe from the Chinese Communist Party and malign operators like Huawei.
So, too, is standing up for human rights and combating human trafficking – areas in which Bahrain has made tremendous, real progress.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL ZAYANI: Thank you, sir.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m happy. Our bilateral relationship is a powerful force for good – let’s keep together to deliver positive results.
Foreign Minister Al Zayani, thank you and the people of Bahrain for your friendship with the United States of America. Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL ZAYANI: Thank you, sir. Thank you, Secretary Pompeo. Thank you for your kind remarks. Excellencies, distinguished participants, good morning for all those in D.C. Good afternoon for those in Bahrain, and good afternoon for those who are joining us in Israel. Sheikh Abdullah is there on an official visit. Sheikh Abdullah, welcome. I am delighted to welcome you all to this Strategic Dialogue meeting, and I want to thank you, Secretary Pompeo, and all your colleagues for joining us.
May I start by expressing appreciation for how strongly U.S.-Bahrain relations have grown over so many decades, repeatedly proving their value to both sides. Today, they take in the full range of political, economic, security, and cultural ties, making this a truly strategic partnership. Given this broad scope, it is also valuable to zoom out, and from this perspective, to analyze how we can most effectively move forward to maximize the benefits of our countries and the region. So I greatly welcome these meetings as an opportunity to do just that, and I appreciate the engagement of so many agencies from both sides, corresponding to the wide scope of our agenda.
Ladies and gentlemen, I want to say a few words on the Kingdom Bahrain’s vision for the next 25 years of bilateral ties, the opportunities and challenges, and our aspirations for a broader and closer partnership across a range of issues. I do so against the backdrop of a momentous 2020. COVID has brought unprecedented health, social, and economic challenges across the globe. Rebuilding from these will be among the defining issues of the next few years, and effective international cooperation will be critical.
And in the last few months, the Abraham Accords have seen a step change in the dynamics of the Middle East and a renewed optimism towards peace and prosperity. These goals are central to our country’s shared vision, and I am convinced also that the Bahrain-U.S. partnership will be key to achieving them. So today, I want to focus on Bahrain’s vision for bilateral relations, specifically in their security and economic assets, and how these can contribute to the wider Middle East.
Firstly, security: For 70 or 75 years, the Bahrain-U.S. partnership has been a bedrock of Gulf security, and from Bahrain’s perspective, we see this role continuing and growing in importance. But it will also come under renewed challenge from parties seeking to undermine Middle East stability. Primarily, that means Iran, whose malign intent and activities are more blatant than ever. From its nuclear program to its ballistic missiles, from its interference in other states to its increasingly overt involvement in conflicts, Iran today challenges regional security as aggressively as at any time in recent history. It is therefore essential that the international community maintains its resolve to recognize and confront such behavior, with unrelenting pressure on Iran to become a responsible actor. We want our partnership with the United States to be an integral part of this process in exposing the ongoing challenges of the theocratic regime and its proxies, but also in ensuring that Bahrain and other regional allies continue to have the capabilities to effectively protect their peoples against such threats.
More broadly, I am confident that the coming quarter century will also see intensified bilateral cooperation on a range of security issues. These will build on current successful counterterrorism, counter piracy, and maritime security efforts, but they will also take in emerging challenges, where the close and effective cooperation between our respective military and civilian agencies will again prove its value.
Beyond that, the Abraham Accords hold out the possibility of a reconfigured Middle East architecture based on cooperation rather than confrontation. Here too, Bahrain-U.S. relations will be important, both in sustaining the regional security necessary to encourage wider engagement in the process, but also by demonstrating in word and deed the benefits of doing so. So I have no doubt that a central part of both our countries’ vision for the coming years will be to build on these agreements to advance security and prosperity across the Middle East.
Turning to the economic aspect, once again, we have solid foundations based on our 2004 FTA, but also on our shared values of transparency, open markets, fair competition, labor standards, and technology. These are values we in Bahrain will continue to promote while ensuring that our dynamic modern economy remains an attractive trade and investment proposition for U.S. and other companies, because Bahrain’s vision for the Middle East is not just security, but prosperity, and prosperity in which all the region’s peoples ever seek. That was one of the reasons we hosted last year’s Peace to Prosperity workshop in Manama, and why we have moved so quickly to ensure that establishing diplomatic relations with Israel leads to a genuine, warm peace and the rapid development of economic, cultural, and people-to-people ties.
We want to see more trade among the countries of the region, partly to spread prosperity, but also to build interdependence and prove the benefits of cooperation. If we can demonstrate that working together lifts the prosperity and life chances of all our citizens, then we will have the best possible guarantor of enduring regional security. So we see Bahrain and the United States continue to deepen their economic partnership, increasing trade and investment between them, while also drawing in other like-minded seats to create a network of Middle East prosperity. Bilaterally, there are many opportunities for further cooperation, as will be reflected in tomorrow’s trade and investment session. In petrochemicals, for example, U.S. expertise can be instrumental in tapping the significant reserves confirmed in 2018, while there is great scope for American partnership, with Bahrain’s vision, leading banking and fintech sector. In 25 years, therefore, Bahrain’s vision is for closer and deeper economic partnership with the United States, one which is the centerpiece of a stable, thriving region.
Ladies and gentlemen, I want to conclude by expressing confidence that Bahrain’s ties with the United States will continue to develop strongly not just in the areas I outlined, but across the full range of our relationship. As they do so, I hope that it will be supplemented by intensified cooperation and interconnection with other like-minded regional states who share our values and our goal of a peaceful, secure, and prosperous Middle East.
Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and thank you all.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you.