US Resumes Arms Sales To Bahrain Over Protests of Activists

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.

Noting that he had been beaten so badly last year while in custody that he had to have titanium plates inserted in his head, the†BBC‘s Frank Gardner reports that Al-Khawaja said that he was “happy to meet” them (the journalists were concerned that their interview with him was forced and “under duress”). While he has lost 25% of his body weight, Gardner says that Al-Khawaja takes fluids and cans of nutritional supplements routinely, and that he appears to be on a “managed hunger strike.” Policemen and hospital staff “milled around” outside Al-Khawaja’s room while the reporters were present.

Gardner describes Al-Khawaja’s case as a “microcosm of the divisions” that split Bahrain:

To his supporters, who are many in the seething Shia villages where protest marches morph all too often into violent clashes with police, Mr Khawaja is a hero, a human rights defender who has worked tirelessly all his life for democracy and human rights across the region.

But many in the mainstream Shia political opposition do not share his radical views. They want to reform the way Bahrain is ruled but not get rid of the monarchy altogether, a move they know risks leading the country into civil war.

Al-Khawaja belongs to the†Shirazi sect of Shia Islam, notes Gardner. His immense popularity has meant that mainstream opposition figures are hesitant to criticize him publicly, even while seeing him as a “threat to their whole way of life, and to Bahrain’s prosperity, believing that he and his associates would usher in an Iranian-style Islamic republic.” Al-Khawaja’s wife Khadija has “categorically” denied any such link.

Bahrain’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, has ruled that†Al-Khawaja’s case and that of 19 other dissidents should be reviewed by a civilian court. Al-Khawaja holds dual citizenship with Denmark, which is pressing for him to be transferred there to receive medical treatment. His daughter, activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, has been detained and remains in custody after participating in an April 21 rally to protest Bahrain holding a Formula 1 Grand Prix race.



Related Care2 Coverage

Stand up for Bahrainís Teachers

New Trials For Bahraini Activists: Just Buying Time?

Bahraini Protester Found Dead On Roof of Building

Photo of the U.S. Secretary of the Navy meeting the Crown Prince of Bahrain in April of 2012 by Official U.S. Navy Imagery


Huber F.
Huber F5 years ago

Well as long as he leads he does more to support the people than new successors. Right?

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener5 years ago


Carlos Bagram
Carlos Bagram6 years ago

@David Y.- You are 100% right on that good sir. But you left out a key part. With every sale the Federal Government gets their cut, and it is a hefty cut of revenue from the Export and Sales taxes. Just like the hefty profit the Federal Government gets from Tabaco Taxes. Now we can try to play that off by saying, Oh that is just the evil GOP using that money and 60% of tax money for wars. But we would only be lying to ourselves. The truth is that is you simply look up the Federal Budget you will find a sad reality, DOD expense is not our #1 expense, it is actually our #3 expense with 19% of the budget. Our #1 expense is Medicare/Medicaid with 23%, followed by Social Security at 20%, and Optional social programs in 4th with 18%. The truth is that the higher expenses need to be funded, so all presidents either GOP or DEM will turn a blind eye to international guns sales. They all know more details than most of us but the let business be business. Reagan, Bush, Clinton all had super big revenues from these gun sales in their time, now Obama joins them in that aspect. Before anyone calls me a Troll please just look up everything I just posted, they all have blood on their hands. Like I said it is not B&W.

David Youmans
David Youmans6 years ago

Elaine P... The problem is that the arms companies ARE getting rich selling their weapons. Our government buys then, other governments buy them, that's the problem. These are companies that are {They'll deny this is true every time, so watch out for the trolls} Making a killing on killing... These companies are getting rich on the misery of the people of the world, as their weapons kill people from numerous nations, including our own. THEY DON'T CARE!!! They are showing a profit for their stockholders, who only care about the money...

Elaine Pequegnat
Elaine Pequegnat6 years ago

when will the West learn that you can't get rich selling arms - without the world paying the price. Are we then going to send our sons and daughters to get killed by our Western-made weaponry? - again?!!!!

Kevin Cline
Past Member 6 years ago

Thank you

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L6 years ago

I think the US should get out of the business of selling weapons.

John Mansky
John Mansky6 years ago

Thank you for the article...

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons6 years ago

Very sad thing is that we have exported all of our industries overseas except for making and exporting WMD's

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons6 years ago

How long is it going to be before they start using those weapons that we sold them against us?