Bahrain Mirror: Emile Nakhleh highlighted in a Lobelog article that the justification given by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for his decision to lift human rights as a condition for the sale of F-16 fighter jets and other weapons to Bahrain was ostensibly that "Bahrain is a key ally in the fight against Iran-supported Houthis in Yemen."
Nakhleh stressed that this policy, however, "clearly shows the growing influence of Bahrain's lobbyists in Washington and the cozy relationships that Tillerson, the former head of global giant Exxon, as well as Secretary of Defense James Mattis and some current and retired military officers and diplomats, have forged with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and other member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council," adding that "these Sunni countries, the largest of which is Saudi Arabia, are ruled by tribal potentates who violate their citizens' basic human rights blatantly, viciously, and systematically."
Referring to the United States history of coddling with autocrats, Nakhle noted that the US was addicted to autocracy because Arab and other autocrats did Washington's bidding without being constrained by the messiness of democracy or parliamentary debates. "By ignoring the human-rights requirement, the Trump White House is signaling its tacit approval of Arab autocrats' bloody crackdown on their citizens. Tens of thousands of Egyptians, Bahrainis, and Saudis are languishing in jail as a result of illegal arrests and sham trials. Many others have been executed, tortured, and ‘disappeared.'"
He explained that the Trump administration justifies the new policy because these countries are "close allies" of the United States and are important partners in the fight against terrorism, especially IS. "Yet, despite the billions of dollars in arms sales to Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, the threat of terrorism has not receded."
Shedding light on human rights, Nakhle stressed that the Al-Khalifa minority ruling regime in Bahrain has participated in the extrajudicial killing of Bahraini citizens from the Shia majority and used illegal arrests and a pliant judiciary to jail peaceful dissidents. "The regime's security forces have frequently invoked the so-called anti-terror laws to dissolve law-abiding political groups, such as al-Wefaq and al-Waad, arrest their leaders, and muzzle the few remaining semi-independent media outlets such as al-Wasat newspaper."
"According to a recent Washington Post article, the Bahraini government claimed that it seized a secret bomb factory in a Bahraini home," Nakhle pointed out, adding that the regime "has previously made similar assertions to discredit the opposition and to paint it with a broad brush of terrorism."
He underlined that despite the regime's claims to the contrary, violent Shia groups in Bahrain do not represent the large majority of anti-regime dissidents, whether individuals or groups, noting that the bulk of the opposition remains peaceful. "The regime's efforts to link peaceful opposition with terrorists are disingenuous, and it would be sad for Western countries to fall for this dubious claim."
Nakhleh highlighted that Bahrain, not the US, is the main beneficiary of the US Navy's home-porting agreement, suggesting that the US should seriously consider moving the Fifth Fleet to another location. "By removing it from Bahrain, Washington would send a clear message to the Al-Khalifa regime that it does not tolerate its continued oppression of the Shia majority."
Concluding his article, the expert on Bahrain politics stated that the recent history of the region "has taught us that coddling dictators and alienating their populations do not serve American interests," stressing that such an approach usually creates more unrest and, ultimately, more terrorists, which of course puts American interests and personnel at risk in those countries.