US resumes controversial weapons sale to Bahrain

Gulf Cooperation Council countriesBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
The United States has announced that it will resume a controversial weapons deal with the Kingdom of Bahrain, despite its government’s substandard human rights record, which has been internationally criticized in the context of the Arab Spring. The administration of President Barack Obama halted all weapons sales to the oil-rich Gulf state in September of 2011, nearly a year following the eruption of widespread popular protests in the Kingdom. On May 11, however, Washington announced that the weapons sale would go ahead after all, with the exception of some items that could be used against human rights protesters. According to The Christian Science Monitor, one of a handful of American news outlets that covered the story, US officials said that the decision to resume weapons sales to Bahrain was taken “in light of US national security interests”. The paper quotes an unnamed US government official who told reporters that Washington had given the go-ahead to the weapons sale in order to “help Bahrain maintain its external defense capabilities” against Iran. The regime in Bahrain has accused human rights activists of operating under the control of the Iranian government. The Monitor says that the resumption of US military aid to Bahrain has dealt a significant blow to the pro-democracy movement, and appears to have “incensed opposition activists”, who see it “as a signal that that the US supports Bahrain’s repression of opposition protests”. The article quotes one such activist, Mohammed al-Maskati, who describes the weapons deal as a “direct message [from the US] that we support the authorities and we don’t support democracy in Bahrain, we don’t support protesters in Bahrain”. Meanwhile, all eyes are in Saudi Arabia this week, as Arab Gulf leaders are meeting to discuss plans for forming a pan-Arab Gulf union. Read more of this post

Emirates authorities deny Oman spy ring allegations



The government of the United Arab Emirates has denied operating an espionage network in the neighboring Sultanate of Oman, saying that spying goes against the country’s values. The official denial was issued in response to a news report by Oman’s state news agency, which said that Omani authorities had uncovered a spy ring targeting the country’s intelligence and military apparatus. According to the report, issued yesterday by the Oman News Agency, the country’s security services “discovered a spy network affiliated to the State Security Service in the United Arab Emirates”, leading to several arrests across the Sultanate. No further information was issued by the news agency, but Reuters quoted an anonymous Omani government source, who said that the alleged spy network was first uncovered two months ago, and that the arrestees include “Omani nationals”. The news of the espionage allegations have perplexed observers, who consider the UAE and Oman to be generally on good terms. Both countries belong to the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, an increasingly unified political and economic union that involves the region’s pro-Western oil states, including Saudi Arabia. One notable difference between the UAE and Oman is the latter’s traditionally close relations with Iran, with which it maintains common energy concerns. Read more of this post

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