Confusion Over U.S. Arms Deal to Bahrain

According to several sources in the State Department, the United States finalized an arms $53 million arms deal today. Many have asserted this arms deal is necessary for the Bahraini regime to defend itself from aggression in the Persian Gulf.

Correction (October 25): It appears that the above story was prematurely written as the United States held back on its deal pending a local human rights investigation that is proceeding before the Independent Commission of Inquiry in Bahrain right now. The deal will be held off on until this commission comes through with its report. Even then, it is much more likely that it will be under the scrutiny of Congress than before as a result of this mix up.

Analysis: The United States is in a difficult position regarding its relations with Bahrain. On one hand, the United States has come down in favor of the protestors in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Syria (one could also argue they have come down on the side of protesters in Yemen). It does not seem that the United States is ready to take the same stance in Bahrain for several reasons.

First, Bahrain is a strategic ally in the Gulf. The United States houses its 5th Navy Fleet on this island. Second, Saudi Arabia will be very unhappy with support for the Bahraini protestors. As has been stated before, the Saudis are afraid these protests will spill over the causeway into their own country. On a related note, supporting the Shiite protesters could be seen as a move favorable to Iran, who has been accused of supplying arms to the Shiite protesters in Bahrain in the past. The issue seems increasingly complex. However, the United States will not want to be accused of supporting a regime that suppresses human rights.

One can question, however, if this $53 billion arms deal to Bahrain even means that much. Last year, the Obama administration okayed a $60 million arms deal last year. The Saudi Arabian regime helped the Bahrainis fend off protesters earlier this year. With this close relationship between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, one can wonder whether  American arms sold directly to Bahrain even matter.

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