Dubai- Former director of the CIA and former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said the year ahead will continue to be dominated by terrorist groups bent on disrupting global politics and economies, speaking at the Arab Strategy Forum on Wednesday in Dubai.
Panetta suggested that a new Middle East coalition of Arab countries be formed to destroy terrorism and help counter-terrorism incursions in failed states.
Flanked by co-panelist and former British Prime Minister David Cameron, Panetta said that establishing a broad Arab coalition would “confront terrorism and the threat of Iran.”
“The coalition could be a powerful signal to Iran that it can’t go into countries as it did in Yemen and Syria,” Panetta said.
Panetta said the U.S. has been at war against terrorism for 15 years since the 9/11 attacks and noted that 2017 will be a tough year with the presence of terrorist groups such as ISIS.
“Terrorism continues to pose a threat to this region and the world,” Panetta said, noting that “we have to make very clear to Iran they can’t continue to support elements of terrorism in the region.”
The Arab Strategy Forum was launched in 2001 under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, as a platform to foresee the future and identify potential economic and political trends globally and across the Arab world.
In this matter, Cameron agreed that greater cooperation is needed to fight terrorism, pointing out that “I believe we can win against extremist Islamist violence. Today there is a greater understanding of what is required. The key question is whether political will follows this understanding.”
Both Panetta and Cameron pointed to a raft of uncertainties coming up in the new year, including a new U.S. presidential administration, expanding social media influences and political upheaval in the European Union with election outcomes possibly electing right-leaning governments.