The U.S. is again selling arms to Bahrain, the gulf kingdom that has been roiled by massive anti-government protests since February of 2011, says the Los Angeles Times. Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta all met with Bahraini crown prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa in Washington, D.C., this week. While State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that Humvees, antitank missiles and “certain additional items for the Bahrain Defense Force” would still not be sold, Bloomberg reports that the equipment will include air-to-air missiles, ammunition, F-16 jet engines and a frigate.
The U.S. had frozen the sale of $53 million in weapons to Bahrain in October over human rights concerns.
In a statement, Nuland said that Bahrain, which houses the U.S. Navy’s Fifth fleet and is a U.S. ally, “is an important security partner and ally in a region facing enormous challenges.”
Indeed: Friday also saw police using tear gas and stun grenades on protesters after a rally calling for the release of detained activists, says Al Jazeera.
Human rights activists immediately criticized the U.S.’s decision, pointing out the continued suppression, jailing and abuse of protesters and to U.S. support of other pro-democracy Arab Spring protesters. Said Brian Dooley, human rights director of the non-profit Human Rights First,
Where is the progress that warrants the reward of arms? This new sale will only damage U.S. credibility among those working for democracy in Bahrain and across the Middle East.
Supporters of the government claim that protesters have thrown Molotov cocktails and that Iran has been behind the protest effort.
Most of the protesters in Bahrain are Shi’ite Muslims, who comprise a majority in Bahrain but describe long-term discrimination for government and other positions under the country’s Sunni monarchy.
BBC Journalists Visit Hunger Striker Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja
One prominent dissident, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, has been on a hunger strike for over 80 days, since February 8th. Sentenced to a life sentence for seeking to overthrow the monarchy and consorting with terrorists by a military court in June, he began the hunger strike to protest his sentence and the abuse he had been subjected to. In early May, BBC journalists were allowed to visit with him for five minutes in a “well guarded and ultra modern military hospital run by the BDF, the Bahrain Defence Forces.” No TV cameras or recording equipment were allowed and only a few photographs could be taken.
Photo of the U.S. Secretary of the Navy meeting the Crown Prince of Bahrain in April of 2012 by
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