The State Department is ignoring human rights violations in Bahrain, so we can sell them nineteen F-16 jets in a nearly $3 billion deal.
The sale of the military planes was originally approved by the Obama administration, but a bipartisan group of Senators, including Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Tim Kaine, objected to the deal because of Bahrain’s violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in the country. Obama then inserted human rights stipulations into the deal to gain congressional approval for the $2.8 billion sale.
Apolitical uprising has raged in Bahrain since the Arab Spring of 2011. The House of Khalifa, Bahrain’s Sunni ruling monarchy, has been accused of beating, jailing, and torturing Shia dissenters for as little as reading pro-democracy poetry, with the help of troops from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Now, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is waiving the stipulations and turning a blind eye to Bahrain’s human rights violations to push the deal forward. Critics of the move say that it could set a dangerous precedent to other countries, signaling that the United States simply does not care how a country treats its people.
Amnesty International’s Sunjeev Bery said in a statement:
“While getting weapons from the U.S., Bahrain’s government is silencing critics at home and participating in a military coalition that is bombing civilians in Yemen. This deal sends a dangerous signal to Bahrain and all other countries that engage in serious human rights violations. It is particularly galling to arm these governments while simultaneously barring those fleeing violence entrance to the U.S. These deals place the U.S. at risk of being complicit in war crimes, and discourage other countries, like Saudi Arabia, from addressing their own human rights records.”
Congress will still have a chance to review and block the sale.
Sec. Tillerson has already shown that he will not seek to use the United States’ position to influence other countries’ human rights policies. In his confirmation hearing, he proved to be unwilling to acknowledge violations by Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, and Russia. Tillerson also skipped the State Department’s unveiling of the annual human rights report, instead a staffer spoke with reporters via phone and on the condition of anonymity.
Bahrain is a crucial ally to the United States in the ongoing War on Terror. The US Navy’s 5th fleet resides in the country as the US leads a coalition against ISIS. Bahrain is also eager to work with the Trump administration to keep Iran’s power in check. Many saw the arms deal as an opportunity for the US to improve conditions in the country.
Whether it is human rights violations abroad or the rights of people in the United States, members of the Trump administration have clearly shown that they simply do not want anything to get in the way of their political goals. The privacy rights of undocumented immigrants, women’s rights, and the freedom of the press have all been mercilessly attacked by President Trump, leading to the Human Rights Watch to list the President as a threat to human rights.