US resumes Bahrain arms sales despite rights concerns
MANAMA: The United States will resume some military sales to Bahrain, a key Gulf ally facing Iran, despite human rights concerns linked to months of popular protests against the island kingdom’s rulers, the State Department said.
The Obama administration notified Congress that certain sales would be allowed for Bahrain’s defense force, coast guard and national guard, although it would maintain a hold on TOW missiles, Humvees and some other items for now, the department said in a statement.
“We have made the decision to release additional items to Bahrain mindful of the fact that there are a number of serious unresolved human rights issues that the government of Bahrain needs to address,” the statement said.
The State Department did not give a total value for the items being released but emphasized that the equipment being approved was “not used for crowd control” as the majority Shi’ite community continues to protest against the Sunni royal family following a crackdown last year.
US officials said among the sales now allowed to go forward would be harbor security vessels and upgrades to turbo-fan engines used in F-16 fighter aircraft as well as legislation which could pave the way for a future sale of a naval frigate. Items still on hold, besides the missiles and the Humvees, include teargas, teargas launchers and stun grenades.
The decision was criticized by Senator Patrick Leahy, who wrote a provision Congress passed last year requiring the administration to consult lawmakers before allowing sales of teargas and other crowd-control items to governments of countries undergoing democratic transition in the Middle East.
“While I am pleased that the administration is continuing to withhold tear gas, small arms and other crowd-control items from the Bahraini security forces, this arms sale sends the wrong message,” Leahy, a Democrat, said in a statement. reuters