October 2011, Week 2


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Sat, 8 Oct 2011 15:10:39 -0400
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US Politicians Seek to Halt Bahrain Arms Deal

    Concerned about the kingdom's response to a
    popular uprising, members of Congress aim to
    bloc a $53m sale.

October 8, 2011


US members of Congress, concerned about the Bahraini
government's response to a popular uprising, introduced
a rare measure that would halt a $53m arms sale to the
Gulf Arab state.

US Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and US Representative
James McGovern of Massachusetts, both Democrats, said
they introduced resolutions in both houses of Congress
on Friday to prevent the sale of US weapons to Bahrain
"until meaningful steps are taken to improve human
rights" there.

"Selling weapons to a regime that is violently
suppressing peaceful civil dissent and violating human
rights is antithetical to our foreign policy goals and
the principle of basic rights for all that the US has
worked hard to promote," Wyden said in a statement
posted on his website.

"The US should not reward a regime that actively
suppresses its people. This resolution will withhold
the sale of arms to Bahrain until the ruling family
shows a real commitment to human rights," Wyden said.

The Pentagon last month notified Congress that it had
approved the sale of $53m of weapons to Bahrain,
including more than 44 armored vehicles and 300
missiles, 50 of which have bunker busting capability.

Prime contractors for the arms sale would be AM General
and Raytheon Co, according to the Defence Security Co-
operation Agency, the part of the Pentagon that
oversees foreign arms sales.

The notice of the sale was officially reported to
Congress on September 14, triggering a 30-day period
during which Congress can pass a resolution opposing
the sale.

Members of Congress seldom challenge arms sales
notifications since weapons sales are generally vetted
with Congress before being made public.

In the wake of the so-called "Arab spring," which swept
the governments of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya from power,
Bahrain's Shia majority turned up the political heat in
the island country, which put down a pro-democracy
uprising earlier this year with the help of neighboring
Saudi Arabia.

Many Shia areas are witnessing almost nightly clashes
with police. Opposition groups say heavy-handed police
tactics are worsening tension on the street.

Hundreds of Shia were dismissed from their jobs over
suspected roles in the protests and many remain in
police detention.

About 30 people, mainly Shia, died when the protest
movement erupted in February, but ongoing clashes and
deaths in police custody have taken the total past 40,
according to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights

McGovern said it was not in the United States' national
security interest to sell weapons to Bahrain.

"Human rights ought to matter in our foreign and
military policy," he said. "Now is not the time to sell
weapons to Bahrain."


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