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US/Bahrain: 'Fullest picture yet' of US arms sales to Bahrain



ProPublica published documents released from the Defense Department Tuesday detailing US arms sales to Bahrain which have continued despite Bahrain’s bloody crackdown on democratic protesters.

The list includes Blackhawk helicopters, ammunition, an unidentified missile system, and spare parts for combat vehicles.

In the article, Justin Elliot of ProPublica wrote that although weapon names were listed, it remains unclear in some cases whether the actual weapons were delivered, or if spare parts for those weapons were sold.

The documents were provided in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, he said, but the Defense Department could not provide some major details “because of the security of Bahrain,” according to their spokesman.

The released information covers a year-long period starting in February 2011, when the popular uprising first erupted.

State Department spokesman Noel Clay told Elliot that they were withholding “the export of lethal and crowd-control items” and were only providing “items related exclusively to external defense, counter-terrorism, and the protection of US forces,” assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Although the United States and Bahrain insist that US-provided arms are for external defense, Bahrain had reportedly used American-made helicopters in violently quelling peaceful protests in March 2011.

The United States had briefly frozen arms sales to Bahrain in 2011 but resumed within three months of including Bahrain on a list of human rights offenders. It agreed to sell $53 million worth of maintenance support and military equipment to the island state, including armored vehicles and bunker busters.

Bahrain has been a longstanding American ally and is host to the US navy’s Fifth Fleet. Elliot also wrote that the United States has been playing a training role in Bahrain, teaching the military to use US-bought equipment.

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