The Obama administration’s troubling arms trade and military relationship with the oppressive regime is being questioned by the US Senate, but a change in policy is unlikely.
On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of US Senators called on the State Department to reconsider military aid to Bahrain, citing the deteriorating state of human rights in the country following an escalation in crackdowns against pro-democracy demonstrations that have been ongoing for five years.
The letter, from Senators Marco Rubio [R-FL], Chris Murphy [D-CT], Ron Wyden [D-OR] and Tim Kaine [D-VA] comes in the wake of a June 21 State Department report to Congress that blasted the Bahraini monarchy for its wanton aggression against peaceful civilians.
“The lack of due process and the criminalization of the exercise of free expression continue to undermine the progress Bahrain has made since 2011,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby after fielding questions about the United States’ stance towards the Bahraini regime.
The monarchy has moved in recent months to outlaw the leading Shiite opposition party, al-Wefaq, by freezing its assets, imprisoning and torturing its members, and doubling the prison term for the party’s secretary general, Sheikh Ali Slaman. He will now serve nine years in prison for allegedly “promoting forceful change of the political regime.”
Additionally, in recent months the al-Khalifa monarchy moved to revoke citizenship of opposition members, including the country’s most prominent Shiite religious leader, Sheikh Isa Qassim, rendering individuals stateless and without proper human rights protections.
While the US State Department had rhetorically savaged Bahrain’s regime for its acts against peaceful civilian, the Obama administration continues to funnel heavy weapons into the Middle Eastern country. Many of these are used against the country’s citizens.
The situation has deteriorated in Bahrain to the point that the monarchy has openly welcomed the Saudi regime to intervene against the civilian protesters. It has also asked Takfiri terrorists, including members of Daesh [Arabic acronym for “ISIS” / “ISIL”], to kill demonstrators these radical Muslims view as apostates.
The United States renewed the sale of heavy weaponry to Bahrain in early 2012 at the start of the pro-democratic uprising in Bahrain. Then-State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Bahrain is “an important security partner and ally in a region facing serious challenges.”
Bahrain has received nearly $1 billion in US aircraft, ships, bombs and heavy weapons since 2012 that have been used to put down peaceful domestic dissent. The State Department continues to embrace a policy of looking the other way.
Notably, the US maintains its critical Fifth Naval Fleet in Bahrain, a force vital to maintaining America’s regional presence and for staging Special Forces operations against terrorist organizations.