The State Department announced it will lift its freeze on arms sales to the repressive government of Bahrain on Monday, despite the country’s myriad human rights abuses in recent years, including arbitrary detention of children, torture, restrictions for journalists and a brutal government crackdown on peaceful protestors in 2011.
“The Administration has decided to lift the holds on security assistance to the Bahrain Defense Force and National Guard that were implemented following Bahrain’s crackdown on demonstrations in 2011,” wrote John Kirby, a State Department spokesperson, in a press release on Monday.
Human rights groups were quick to criticize the decision. “There is no way to dress this up as a good move,” Brian Dooley, a program director at Human Rights First, said in a statement. “It’s bad for Bahrain, bad for the region, and bad for the United States.” Dooley said Obama should be “doing everything to stop sectarianism in the Middle East, rather than send more weapons to bolster a military drawn almost exclusively from Bahrain’s Sunni sect.”
Bahrain’s Sunni government rules a country where the majority of the population is Shiite.
Just three weeks ago, the State Department condemned the Bahrainian regime for convicting a leading opposition figure, Ali Salman.
“We do not think that the human rights situation in Bahrain is adequate,” the State Department said.
But some things are evidently more important: “Bahrain is an important and long-standing ally on regional security issues, working closely with us on the counter-ISIL campaign and providing logistical and operational support for countering terrorism and maintaining freedom of navigation.”
(This post is from our blog: Unofficial Sources.)
Photo: Protesters run from Bahraini security forces in February 2011. (John Moore/Getty)