The Bahraini government’s violent, ongoing crackdowns against their substantial Shi’ite population was a big part of the US imposing restrictions on arms sales to the small Middle Eastern nation, insisting on at least some human rights assurances being offered before any sales are approved.
At least that’s the way it was. Despite the Bahraini government never really reforming in any serious way, or even admitting its crackdowns on Shi’ites was a problem, Secretary of State Rext Tillerson has decided to waive the human rights conditions on all future sales to Bahrain.
This is aimed in practice at speeding up major sales of US-made warplanes to Bahrain, which sales to all GCC members a substantial goal of recent administrations in keeping a strong arms export market going. Arms sales to other GCC members, Saudi Arabia in particular, are also serious concerns because of the huge number of civilians being bombed by the Saudis in Yemen.
Officials are trying to present easing the conditions on Bahrain as a move to “confront Iran,” since Shi’ite Iran has been very critical of Bahrain’s crackdowns. Human Rights Watch officials are warning that the way in which the conditions are being lifted amounts to a US imprimatur for Bahrain to continue its crackdowns.
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