Trump administration sells warplanes to Bahrain dictatorship

This video says about itself:

22 November 2015

Bahraini security forces are torturing detainees during interrogation. Institutions set up after 2011 to receive and investigate complaints lack independence and transparency.

From the New York Times in the USA:

Rex Tillerson to Lift Human Rights Conditions on Arms Sale to Bahrain


MARCH 29, 2017

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has decided to lift all human rights conditions on a major sale of F-16 fighter jets and other arms to Bahrain in an effort to end a rift between the United States and a critical Middle East ally, according to administration and congressional officials involved in the debate.

Mr. Tillerson’s decision comes as the Trump administration looks to bolster Sunni Arab states in the Middle East and find new ways to confront Iran in the Persian Gulf. Bahrain is a key player in that effort, and home to the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which patrols the strategic waterway.

But the decision to drop the human rights assurances as a condition of the sale is bound to be read by Saudi Arabia and other states in the region as a sign that the new administration plans to ease its demands to protect and respect political dissidents and protesters. The conditions on the sale of 19 new American fighter jets, worth $2.8 billion, had been imposed by the Obama administration amid continuing concerns about the tiny Sunni monarchy’s crackdown against majority Shiites. …

Human rights groups, informed by The New York Times of the decision, immediately assailed any effort by the administration to lift the conditions on the arms sales.

“If they lift the conditions, they’re saying we don’t think you need to reform, and the Bahrainis have a free pass to continue cracking down,” said Sarah Margon, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group.

Mr. Tillerson’s decision is likely to be welcomed by the Republican majority on Capitol Hill. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said in an interview on Wednesday that he applauded the move to lift the human rights restrictions. He said arms sales should be decided by American strategic needs, and not be mixed with pressure on allies to change their domestic behavior.

Mr. Tillerson, the former chief executive of Exxon Mobil, has taken on much of the diplomacy with the Gulf Arab states himself, often bypassing American ambassadors and other American officials in the region. A Trump administration official said Mr. Tillerson knew many of the regional players from his time at Exxon Mobil.

The decision on Bahrain also suggests that Mr. Tillerson is likely to deal similarly with Saudi Arabia, the largest and most powerful Sunni force in the region. The Obama administration deepened its rift with its Gulf allies in December over the conflict in Yemen when it blocked a transfer of precision munitions to Saudi Arabia because of concerns about civilian casualties that American officials attributed to poor targeting.

But Mr. Tillerson has signaled he favors reversing that decision, and allowing Raytheon to sell the Saudis about 16,000 guided munitions kits, which upgrade so-called dumb bombs to smart bombs that can more accurately hit targets. The kits, if purchased over the life of the proposed contract, are valued around $350 million. Mr. Tillerson has argued that if civilian casualties are the concern, it makes no sense to deprive the Saudis of precision weaponry.

In practice, the ‘smart’ bombs will make it easier for the Saudi absolute monarchy to target civilians, which is their favourite tactic.

The new secretary of state was criticized this month for skipping the release of his department’s annual human rights report, an event his Democratic and Republican predecessors used as a moment to pressure allies and adversaries alike by highlighting abuses. During his confirmation hearing, Mr. Tillerson declined to criticize the state-ordered killings in the Philippines or repression in Saudi Arabia, saying he had to make his own assessment of the facts, and could not trust what he read in news reports.

But the sale of F-16s to Bahrain was the first test of whether the Trump administration would reverse the efforts by former President Barack Obama to use America’s main leverage — military support — to force domestic political change in the tiny Gulf state. For weeks, Mr. Tillerson has been talking to members of Congress about easing the restrictions to allow the $2.8 billion sale of fighter jets, and a separate $1 billion deal to support the existing fleet of aircraft.

Obama aides had urged the Bahraini government to release political dissidents from jail and diversify its predominantly Sunni security forces. But on a trip to the country last April, Mr. Tillerson’s predecessor, John Kerry, was relatively muted in public about criticizing the country.

How the Trump administration handles the politically delicate issues could prove crucial to future relations with the strategically valuable Persian Gulf nation. The Navy’s Fifth Fleet is the key to ensuring flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf, and safeguarding American interests in the highly volatile region.

Mr. Tillerson is no stranger to the politics of the region. Exxon Mobil has close connections with Qatar’s national oil company, and has joined with Doha to build a liquefied natural gas terminal on the Gulf of Mexico coast that is designed for importing gas and possibly for exporting it as well. As a result, the company had a strong interest in keeping the shipping lanes in the region open — for which cooperation with Bahrain is key.

At the core of the decision, however, is the Trump administration’s growing determination to find places to confront Iran

The top American commander in the Middle East, General Joseph Votel, yesterday branded Iran as the “greatest long-term threat to stability” in the region and called for steps, including military action, to disrupt and undermine Iranian influence and activities. Such use of military force would constitute an act of war, destroy the international nuclear deal struck with Iran in 2015 and set the Middle East on the path for another disastrous conflict: here.

Federal court in Hawaii halted Trump’s travel ban indefinitely.

5 thoughts on “Trump administration sells warplanes to Bahrain dictatorship

  1. Pingback: New York University’s ties to Trump, Wall Street and Arab absolute monarchies | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: ‘Stop European complicity in Saudi war on Yemen’ | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Western support for Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa has been especially controversial since he invited the Saudi Arabian army in to crush pro-democracy protests in 2011.

    Since then, Shi’it clerics and suspected dissidents have regularly been arrested.

    A sale of F-16 interceptors was blocked by former president Barack Obama, who said Bahrain had failed to make good on promised human rights improvements.

    But following intensive lobbying by arms firm Lockheed Martin, Mr Trump has decided the sale should go ahead.

    Human Rights First campaigner Brian Dooley said the sale “will send exactly the wrong signal to the dictatorship.”


  4. Pingback: Coronavirus and Bahraini prisoners news | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: No to Turkish-Greek oil war! | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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