While much of the world’s focus has been on the civil war in Syria, the island kingdom of Bahrain continues to shake with anti-government protests that started in last year’s “Arab Spring.” While it has received less attention, human rights groups have documented ongoing government abuses.
Those concerns were enough to put a halt on a weapons sale from the U.S. to Bahrain last fall, but the Obama administration announced last Friday that it has decided to proceed with the sale, despite the ongoing upheaval and protests from both Congress and human rights groups.
“Bahrain is an important security partner and ally in a region facing enormous challenges,” wrote Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Nuland in an official statement announcing the sales. “Maintaining our and our partners’ ability to respond to these challenges is a critical component of our commitment to Gulf security.”
In a nod to the human rights concerns, the Pentagon said the weapons being sold to Bahrain will not include anything that could be used against protestors. Instead, it would be a package of equipment geared towards protecting the country from external threats, including engines for F-16 planes and harbor security boats.
“Sales of items that are sort of predominantly or typically used by police and other security forces for internal security, things used for crowd control, we’re not moving forward with at this time,” said an unnamed administration official on a conference call last Friday. “That would include things like tear gas, tear gas launchers, stun grenades – those ...