Published: Wednesday 16 May 2012
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.

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 ...

Published: Tuesday 15 May 2012
“In announcing what it called the ‘renewal of U.S. security cooperation with Bahrain’, the State Department stressed that none of the weapons approved for transfer could be used in the kingdom’s ongoing efforts to suppress growing unrest on the island.”

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is sending the wrong signal to the government of Bahrain in proceeding with a partial sale of new arms to Manama, according to human rights activists and some lawmakers here.

 

Their reaction followed Friday's announcement by the State Department that it had cleared a number of items for transfer out of a 53- million-dollar arms package that the administration originally announced last September but subsequently held up due to opposition from key members of Congress. 

 

In announcing what it called the "renewal of U.S. security cooperation with Bahrain", the State Department stressed that none of the weapons approved for transfer could be used in the kingdom's ongoing efforts to suppress growing unrest on the island, especially among its majority Shi'a community. 
 

Demonstrations have been taking place on an almost nightly basis in Shi'a villages in recent weeks and have increased in violence, with some youths throwing Molotov cocktails at police, and with police firing tear gas and birdshot to disperse the protests, with sometimes fatal results. 
 

"Given the continued deterioration in the human rights situation there, we think it's a bad call to be releasing arms - any sort of arms - to Bahrain at this time," Joe Stork, a veteran Middle East specialist at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told IPS. 
 

"We're very concerned with the signal that this sends both to the Bahraini government and the Bahraini people," said Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED). 
 

"And we're very disappointed that this announcement was not accompanied by an announcement of any real progress on reform issues, including the numerous recommendations made by the Bassiouni Commission that have yet to be ...

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