Bahrain Mirror: The White House has been facing strong criticism from the human rights community ever since news came out that the new US President Donald Trump is set to approve a multibillion-dollar F-16 deal with the Kingdom of Bahrain, where the already poor human rights situation has been deteriorating.
In an article published on The Huffington Post, Contributor and Human Rights Defenders Director at Human Rights First, Brian Dooley, said that news that such a deal could be approved without any human rights restrictions "is as depressing as it is predictable," stressing that the "$3 billion deal would be a dangerous misstep, showing that the new administration is handling its foreign policy with all the surety of a blindfolded guy juggling eggs."
Dooley further stated that although the Obama administration did not do nearly enough to push Washington's Gulf ally to stop its repression of peaceful dissent, it at least tied the sale of 19 F-16s to Bahrain to some human rights reform.
The human rights activist highlighted that the sale will encourage further repression in the island kingdom, which, in turn, will cause greater instability and violence as Bahrain enters a particularly tense period.
"Already in 2017 we've seen the first executions since 2010, and two policemen have been killed. Earlier this month Bahraini security forces killed three men attempting to flee the country, and killed another last week trying to arrest him," he noted.
Dooley added that leaders of the peaceful opposition remain in prison along with other prominent human rights activists, which left the regime with no one to talk to should it ever want to end its political crisis.
The HRF director also warned that "the sale will send exactly the wrong signal to the dictatorship, that the White House thinks the crackdown is not just morally acceptable but also not dangerous."
He further pointed out that the halt of arms transfers in 2011 helped produce a period of relative calm and the release of some political prisoners. However, "since the State Department allowed the resumption of sales to Bahrain's military in June 2015, the situation has become significantly more violent and unstable."
Dooley stressed that it is a bad deal that is very likely to backfire, adding that "US interests would be better served by nudging the monarchy towards stability though reform before the country descends into deeper political chaos."
Concluding his article, Brian Dooley stated that the White House and Congress should be pressing Washington's ally for the release of peaceful dissidents such as prominent human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, and for political dialogue, not signaling to the dictatorship that it will get weapons no matter how brutally it treats its political opponents.