Washington firm on arms sale to Bahrain
WASHINGTON / DUBAI
A policeman fires tear gas toward Bahraini anti-government protesters in Sitra, Bahrain, Jan 30. The US decided to sell military equipment to Bahrain. AP photoThe United States continues selling some military equipment to Bahrain despite controversies that the weapons were used against the protestors, as it walks a fine line between pushing the Sunni monarchy to open talks with the opposition while proceeding cautiously with a strategic ally to counter Iran.
The sale of an undisclosed amount of spare parts and equipment has drawn opposition from some in Congress who argue that it sends the wrong signal about the U.S. commitment to human rights. The State Department said late Jan. 27 that the equipment is for Bahrain’s external defense and support for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is based in the country.
After an Amnesty International report said Oct. 18 that some of the weapons supplied by the United States, Russia and many European countries were used against demonstrators in Bahrain, the Obama administration has told U.S. lawmakers Oct. 20 it is delaying a planned $53 million arms sale to Bahrain. “This isn’t a new sale nor are we using a legal loophole,” the department said. “The items that we briefed to Congress were notified and cleared by the Hill previously or are not large enough to require congressional notification.”
It was almost a year ago that Bahrain’s Shiite majority demanded greater rights from the 200-year-old ruling Sunni dynasty. Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Jim McGovern, both Democrats, collected signatures from lawmakers on a letter they plan to send to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later this week expressing their opposition to the administration’s moves.
Meanwhile, Bahraini detainees and activists convicted for taking part in anti-government demonstrations last year began a hunger strike Jan. 29 protesting a new crackdown on demonstrators, a rights group said. The strike was announced as the Gulf kingdom’s interior minister called for punishment against those “attacking policemen” to be toughened to 15 years in prison.
Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.