As the Arab Spring unfolded last year, protesters in the streets saw something startling about the tools of repression being used on them. The Humvees, tanks, helicopters were from the U.S. government; the canisters of chemical agents used to attack them said, “Made in the USA.” The Obama Administration wants to sell 44 of these M1152A1B2 Armored High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs) and other weapons to the dictators of Bahrain. Bahrain, home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet and close ally of Saudi Arabia, brutally suppressed the uprising among their citizens. More than 40 pro-democracy protesters were killed and thousands more were arrested and tortured. While speaking out loudly on Libya’s brutality, the Obama administration remained largely silent on Bahrain.
Last fall the Obama administration announced plans to sell Bahrain $53 million worth of military weapons including bunker buster missiles, armored vehicles and wire-guided missiles. The Pentagon said at the time the sale “will improve Bahrain’s capability to meet current and future armored threats. Bahrain will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense.” Congressional opposition to the sale forced Obama to delay the weapons transfer. Now, sources have leaked, the Obama administration is quietly moving forward with the arms sales to the Bahraini monarchy – despite their on-going human rights abuses.
The tiny island nation of Bahrain plays a big role in America’s Middle East strategy. In fact, more than 6,000 U.S. military personnel and contractors are located just five miles from where government security forces violently put down demonstrations last year. investigativenewsnetwork.org Bahrain is also home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, a major logistics hub for the U.S. Navy ships. The island is located halfway down the Persian Gulf, just off the coast of Saudi Arabia, and is something of a rest stop for U.S. Navy ships cruising the waters of the Persian Gulf. dallasdigestforum.com Bahrain receives security guarantees from the United States. The Bahraini Defense Force sends its personnel to the U.S. for training and it buys high-quality American weapons as well. American military sales to Bahrain have totaled nearly $1.5 billion in the past decade alone. Those sales include everything from Apache and Cobra attack helicopters to F-16 warplanes, missile launchers and howitzers, plus more than 50 Abrams tanks – some of which now patrol Bahrain’s capital of Manama to confront Shia protests. The U.S. has provided Bahrain with military aid worth $3.9 million in 2008, $8 million in 2009, and $19 million in 2010. The request is for $19.45 million this year. These amounts may seem relatively small but Bahrain is a small country with a population of 1.2 million.
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