Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Bahrain continues to pay the Republican Trump administration. It is trying its best to veer Washington away from the island kingdom's internal crisis, which has been under criticism by the Democratic administration led by former president Barack Obama.
In just two weeks, over $8 billion military and industrial deals have been announced, amid a financial crisis that the gulf country has been suffering due to its security and political situations and falling oil prices.
A US congressional source revealed last Wednesday (March 29, 2017) that Donald Trump's administration informed the Congress of its plan to pursue the $5 billion sale to Bahrain of 19 Lockheed Martin F-16 aircraft and related equipment.
This deal was pulled back last year because of concerns that Bahrain had not made promised improvements to its human rights record. However, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker sees that "there are more effective ways to seek changes in partner policies than publicly conditioning weapons transfers in this manner."
In prepared remarks before a hearing Wednesday of the US House's Armed Services Committee, the head of the US military's Central Command Gen. Joseph Votel acknowledged the delay in the fighter jet sale to Bahrain "continues to strain our relationship."
"We continue to urge the government of Bahrain to reverse steps it has taken over the past year to reduce the space for peaceful political expression in its (Shiite) population and have encouraged the Bahrainis to implement needed political reforms in the country," he added.
Director of the Human Rights Defenders program of Human Rights First, Brian Dooley, said decoupling the sale from such conditions would "encourage further repression" and fuel instability during a tense period for Bahrain.
"The sale will send exactly the wrong signal to the dictatorship: that the White House thinks the political crackdown is not just morally acceptable but also not dangerous, when in fact it's what's fueling the country's instability," Dooley further stated.
The $4.867 billion sale includes the aircraft, 23 engines, radars and other avionics, air-to-air and air-to-ground ordnance and related equipment.
This comes two weeks after the United States Acting Assistant State Secretary at the Bureau for Near Eastern Affairs, Stuart E. Jones, announced that the US leading company Bechtel, a global leader in engineering, procurement and construction, has been selected as the EPCM contractor for the sixth potline for the Alba aluminium smelter in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The project is expected to cost $3.5 billion (around 1 billion and 320000 Bahraini dinars).
For its part, the US Embassy in a statement said that Jones who visited Bahrain on March 14-15, 2017 met with the Crown Prince and other Bahraini officials, noting that one of the priorities of the new US administration is the US's "commitment to economic participation across the region."
The new US administration is thus striving for an economic partnership, and Bahrain, which is taking austerity steps to face harsh financial pressures, seems to have additional billions in its pockets to offer the US administration which is thirsty for further Gulf deals at the expense of everything else.