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Reuters: U.S. Approves $150 Million Deal for Bahrain F-16 Support

2015-08-08 - 7:19 p

Reuters: The U.S. government on Friday said it approved a possible sale of $150 million worth of equipment to Bahrain to maintain its fleet of Lockheed Martin Corp F-16 fighter jets, even as two U.S. senators introduced legislation to reinstate an arms sales ban that was lifted by the Obama administration in June.

The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees foreign arms sales, told lawmakers that the Bahraini government had requested equipment for support and communications, ammunition and spare parts valued at $150 million.

Lawmakers have 30 days to block the sale, which the DSCA said was needed to maintain the operational readiness of the aging F-16 fleet of the Royal Bahrain Air Force, which has been used in recent strikes against Islamic State.

Dissent is rare, since most arms sales are vetted with U.S. lawmakers before they are formally notified.

In this case, however, several lawmakers have already raised concerns about the U.S. State Department's decision in June to lift holds on security assistance to Bahrain's Defense Force and National Guard that were put in place after the country's crackdown on demonstrations in 2011.

Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, and Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, have introduced a measure that would impose a legislative ban on arms sales to Bahrain, citing concerns about continued government crackdowns on human rights activists, opposition figures and other peaceful dissenters.

Human Rights Watch on Friday welcomed the legislation proposed by Wyden and Rubio, noting that Bahraini authorities this week suspended the only independent newspaper, Al Wasat.

The State Department declined comment on the proposed legislation, but U.S. officials have repeatedly defended the decision to resume security assistance to Bahrain, citing their participation in coalition strikes against the hardline militant group Islamic State.

When he announced the decision in June to lift the ban on security assistance to Bahrain, State Department spokesman John Kirby said Bahrain had made some meaningful progress on human rights reforms, but U.S. officials would continue to press their human rights concerns with Bahrain.



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