Halifax International Security ForumSpeaking at the 2011 Halifax International Security Forum, Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, warned that Iran continued to be a “major challenge, not just to Israel, but to the whole world’’ adding that "nuclear Iran is unacceptable, we should be, like the rest of the world, determined to prevent them from turning nuclear, all options should not be removed from the table.’’

Barak made the comment at the Forum on security threats (November 18-20) in Canada's Atlantic port city, which brought leaders from the military, government, business and academia to discuss current and future global security issues and challenges.

Apart from Iran, the crisis in Syria was a major topic at the forum. Former US State Department official, Anne-Marie Slaughter said when considering military intervention one must remember that the “cost of using force is going to outweigh the benefits’’. Currently a professor at Princeton University, Slaughter pointed to the recent intervention in Libya.  ‘’In Libya, it looked like the benefits would outweigh the costs …if you look at Bahrain… the cost of using force, with Saudi Arabia right there, could be absolutely enormous''. In the case of Syria, she said  three months ago she would not have believed that the Arab League would discuss military intervention.  ''I would have told you absolutely not, but when you look into huge refugees flows in Jordan and Turkey, you look at the destabilization of the entire region that could result Syrian civil war. If we look at the benefits of trying to act in various ways to force the government to change it starts to looking different.’’

Radwan Ziadeh, Executive Director of the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies, underlined the lengthy response by the international community to the events in Syria. ''The international community reacted within 11 days and in Syria it has been 9 months of ongoing crisis.'' He also called on the international community, specifically the Security Council members, to take a stand on Syria. In October, Russia and China exercised their veto on a previous UN resolution. 

NATO General Charles Bouchard was asked if there is any discussion taking place in NATO  following the recent call by the Muslim Brothers for military intervention by Turkey to protect civilians in Syria. Bouchard replied that he was not aware of any such discussions taking place but said if a military intervention is considered an "analysis needs to take place at a deeper level.’’

This year's Halifax International Security Forum underlined that the Arab Spring events pose wider security threats to the region and the rest of the world.  Paul Salem, Director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Lebanon, noted that some countries have not yet been affected by the Arab Spring such as Saudi Arabia and Algeria.  As Saudi Arabia faces leadership and succession questions, Salem warned that "Saudi Arabia is the big risk going forward ... is too big to fail, but it's going to fail... if it doesn’t institute significant reforms.’’  

At the conclusion of the third international security forum, Canada's Defense Minister, Peter MacKay stressed the need for ''cooperation and creativity'' to tackle security threats and challenges as global budgets continue to shrink.