Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Mike Stone / Reuters & Amnesty International – 2017-09-09 00:18:02
State Dept Approves $3.8 Billion Arms Sales to Bahrain
Sales Includes Large Purchase of
Warplanes From Lockheed Martin
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(September 8, 2017) — The US State Department has approved $3.8 billion in weapons sales to the tiny island nation of Bahrain. The Pentagon confirmed the approval and the State Department has notified Congress, who held up a similar sale last year over Bahrain’s many, many human rights problems.
The $3.8 billion sale is almost entirely going to Lockheed Martin, who will be providing 19 F-16V fighter jets, along with substantial upgrades to the nation’s existing fleet of F-16s. Raytheon will be selling 221 anti-tank missiles to go with it.
Sales to Bahrain were supposed to be suspended, as Sen. Bob Corker (R ‘ TN) had threatened to hold them all up until they resolved tensions with Qatar. In the end, however, Congress is said to have signed off through normal channels.
State Department officials insist that the US is continuing to discuss human rights issues with Bahrain, and is encouraging reform. That historically has never really been the case, as the US has largely turned a blind eye to Bahrain’s abuse of its Shi’ite population, viewing it as a cost of getting to host a major naval base there.
Bahrain had earlier today condemned Amnesty International for a report detailing their detention and torture of Shi’ite dissidents. Bahrain didn’t provide any details on their problem with the report, just that they “regretted” it being published.
State Department Approves $3.8 Billion
In Arms Sales to Bahrain: Pentagon
Mike Stone / Reuters
WASHINGTON (September 8, 2017) — The US State Department has approved arms sales packages worth more than $3.8 billion to Bahrain including F-16 jets, upgrades, missiles and patrol boats, the Pentagon said on Friday.
The approvals coincide with the State Department’s notification to Congress, which had held up a similar arms deal last year over human rights concerns. The proposed sales include 19 F-16V jets made by Lockheed Martin Corp, which could have a value of up to $2.7 billion, the Pentagon said.
Other potential sales approved Friday include two 35 meter (114 feet) patrol boats with machine guns, 221 anti-tank missiles made by Raytheon Co and $1.8 billion worth of upgrades to Bahrain’s existing fleet of F-16 jets, the Pentagon said in separate statements.
In May, US President Donald Trump said Washington’s relations with Bahrain would improve, after meeting with the king of the Gulf Arab state during a visit to Saudi Arabia.
However in June, US Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he would block arms sales to members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, including Bahrain, until they made progress in resolving a simmering dispute with Qatar.
But a US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity earlier on Friday, said the proposed sales were cleared by the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees through the regular “tiered review process” which precedes this formal notification.
The US official also said the United States has regular discussions with Bahrain on human rights and political reform and continues to urge its government to pursue efforts that will enhance regional security.
Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle.
Bahrain’s Year of Crushing Dissent
Since mid-2016, the Bahraini authorities have
dramatically stepped up their crackdown on dissent
(September 8, 2017) — By June 2017, Bahrain’s formerly thriving civil society had found itself reduced to a few lone voices brave enough to speak out. The majority of peaceful critics, whether they are human rights defenders or political activists, now feel the risk of doing so has become too high.
Over the course of a year, the authorities increasingly resorted to a wide range of repressive tactics including arrest, harassment, threats, prosecution and imprisonment to silence peaceful critics. Amnesty International’s research concludes that the security forces have even resorted to torturing or otherwise ill-treating human rights defenders, both men and women, a practice that has not been prevalent in Bahrain since the height of the crackdown that followed the 2011 uprising.
One Year of Violent Crackdowns
From harassing activists . . .
During the period between June 2016 and June 2017, Amnesty International found that at least 169 critics or their relatives were arrested, summoned, interrogated, prosecuted, imprisoned, banned from travel or threatened. Human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, political activists and leaders, Shi’a clerics, and peaceful protesters have been particularly impacted.
The Bahraini authorities have also targeted the only independent newspaper in Bahrain, al-Wasat, temporarily suspending its online edition in January 2017 and arbitrarily closing it down entirely in June. They have additionally dismantled the political opposition, dissolving the main opposition group, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, and opposition political party Waad on the basis of what Amnesty International has found to be unfounded charges.
. . . to killing protesters
Security forces, including the National Security Agency (NSA), have increasingly used excessive force, beating peaceful protesters, firing shotguns and semi-automatic rifles, and firing tear gas from armoured personnel vehicles or helicopters into houses or directly at protesters. Since the beginning of 2017, security forces have killed six people, including one child, and injured hundreds.
Complicit Silence of the International Community
The heightened crackdown in Bahrain should be understood within the wider geopolitical context. The election of US President Donald Trump and his new administration’s apparent deprioritization of human rights in US foreign policy seems to have encouraged Bahrain’s government to be bolder in its attempts to silence dissent.
The UK, which has heavily invested in Bahrain’s reform programme and which has a “special” relationship with Bahrain, has looked to ensure closer trade ties with Gulf countries since the UK voted to leave the European Union.
Its response to the deterioration of human rights in Bahrain has been weak. This, coupled with the lack of criticism by fellow member states in UN forums, has emboldened Bahrain further.
Amnesty International urges states within the international community that have influence in Bahrain to publicly and privately condemn the crackdown in Bahrain.
It is also appealing to states supplying equipment to Bahrain that could be used for internal repression, including firearms, less lethal equipment and armoured vehicles, to stop transfers to Bahraini law enforcement agencies until the Bahraini authorities allow prompt, independent and impartial investigations into the allegations of abusive or arbitrary use of force.
If you are outraged by this silence, raise your voice and push your government to publicly condemn the human rights crackdown in Bahrain.
Amnesty International Urges
The Bahraini Authorities to:
* Cease their crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly;
* Immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience; * Halt the reprisals against human rights defenders, other peaceful critics and their relatives;
* Stop the targeting of political opposition parties and closing independent newspapers;
* Urgently prevent the torture and other ill-treatment of human rights defenders, political activists and other detainees; and,
* Rein in security forces and ensure prompt, independent and effective investigations into allegations of violations.
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