Gulf, Nato face common threats


This is the first time that Nato has been invited to attend the meetings. Other than officers from the US Central Command and the GCC states, military personnel were also present from countries like Japan, New Zealand, Australia, S Korea and Singapore.

Henault, however, clarified that Nato was involved only in the discussions and did not take part in any military exercises. “Qatar has shown good leadership and is important in the region. The prime objective here was to increase cooperation and at the same time, to establish contacts to be intra-operable,” Henault said.

Henault said Iran was raised as a concern in the meetings here but was certainly not the dominant issue. "Most around the world are worried of nuclear-capable countries. They would prefer a non-nuclear Middle East. Qatar is very anxious to maintain stability in the region. Their objective is to have a stable neighbour," said Henault.

As for Iraq being discussed, Henault said the matter had been raised but only in terms of the instability prevailing there. Henault said that there is a keen desire to maintain regional security among the GCC states and he was impressed with the level of their cooperation.

Nato is drawing closer to the region and as Henault frankly said, the organisation also can learn a great deal from here. Joint training exercises are on the anvil and observers from the Gulf are expected to be invited to Nato exercises. Training initiatives also entail meritorious officers from the Gulf region being sent to the Nato Defence College in Rome. At present, a Qatari officer is attending a modular short course there. Only officers of a certain rank or above can take part and there are criteria to be met, said Henault.

Nato hopes at some stage to establish a Mideast training faculty as well as for Mediterranean Dialogue countries.

Declining to comment on the preparedness of regional armed forces, stating it was a matter best raised with the respective military commanders, he, however, said: "All (armies) are trying to modernise, to transform their forces."

Henault will be retiring next year after 40 years in uniform. The Canadian soldier has made no concrete plans yet, but may conceivably join a think-tank or accept directorships with company boards. "I can say I will definitely be out of uniform," said Henault.

A book, too, is a possibility.

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