Reports emerged Monday that the White House is trying to overturn a 4-year-old arms sale ban to Bahrain — a ban linked to human rights improvements which have failed to transpire.
Bahrain’s King Hamad was most recently in the news for failing to attend a White House-organized Camp David summit of Gulf leaders. Instead, he was spotted at the Windsor Horse Show with the U.K.’s Queen Elizabeth. (RELATED: Bahraini King Misses Obama Summit… For A British Horse Show)
The U.S. has banned the sale of weapons to Bahrain ever since 2011, when American-made weapons were used to brutally suppress peaceful protests against the government. Any future weapon sales to Bahrain, based on the administration’s own standards, would require specific improvements in Bahrain’s treatment of its citizens.
The State Department’s own human rights report states that Bahrain is guilty of dozens of violations, including “citizens’ inability to change their government peacefully,” arbitrarily detaining and killing peaceful protestors, “violations of privacy” and “restrictions on civil liberties.”
And besides abusing its own citizens, last year Bahrain expelled Tom Malinowski, the State Department’s top official on human rights, for scheduling meetings with members of Bahrain’s opposition political party.
Like its Gulf neighbors at last month’s White House summit, Bahrain is concerned about the consequences of U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran. So according to Bloomberg News, Secretary of State John Kerry decided to singlehandedly change U.S. policy in a Paris meeting with Bahraini officials last month.
Bloomberg now reports that “secret negotiations” are underway between the U.S. and Bahrain to lift the ban, and “U.S. negotiators are now operating with the understanding that lifting the weapons ban is a commitment that Kerry made.”
Bahrain is also home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. In recent years, the American and Bahraini governments have both made threats to cancel that strategic partnership.
May’s promise to Bahrain is not the first time Kerry has altered American policy on the fly. In September 2013, strategy against President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria changed several times based on apparently impromptu remarks by Kerry.
Threatening that the U.S. would conduct airstrikes against the Syrian regime unless it disposed of its chemical weapons, Kerry said that any attack would nevertheless be an “unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.” President Barack Obama later had to clarify that “the U.S. does not do pinpricks” against its enemies.
In the same 2013 press conference, Kerry suggested that Syria could avoid a U.S. strike by turning over all its chemical weapons in a week. The seemingly rhetorical proposal that met unexpected backing from Russia, a key Syrian ally. (RELATED: Evil Faces Evil As ISIS Uncovers Assad’s Torture Prison)
Nearly two years later, and 4 years after the start of Syria’s civil war, U.S. airstrikes have not focused on Syrian government targets.
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