30th Dec, 2012 –
Scour the 500 pages of the definitive report on the Bahrain unrest, by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and you won’t find a single reference to the use of helicopter gunships against protesters. Various allegations made their way into the media after the opposition handed out false media messages to activists, alleging they had been attacked by Apache helicopters. The Bahraini armed forces don’t have any Apaches – but that doesn’t stop certain Iranian TV outlets repeatedly airing a clip of a woman hysterically screaming “they’re killing us with Apaches” whenever the Bahrain issue is discussed.
Therefore it is strange that organisations like ProPublica is making such a fuss about documents revealing the sale of a Black Hawk helicopter to Bahrain – and aren’t Black Hawks primarily designed for transporting troops, VIPs and medical evacuations?
The excitement about these documents looks even more ridiculous as it’s not even clear which of the vehicle parts, communications equipment and other supplies mentioned within were actually ever delivered.
For those who are determined to attack the US Administration and other Western Governments for not adopting a public policy of regime change for Bahrain, it is inevitable that they will seize on this piece of new information and make the best of it.
However, let’s be sensible about this. There were deeply regrettable deaths in the early days of the Bahraini unrest; a mix of protesters, police and expat workers killed by militants within the opposition. Realizing that the path of bloodshed would be a catastrophe for Bahrain, the King commissioned the above-mentioned independent inquiry and embarked on a series of root and branch reforms of the security and justice sectors to bring these fully into line with international human rights norms.
If the US had been selling arms to regimes like those in Syria, Libya and Yemen – then outrage would have been legitimate. However, selling necessary military supplies to a government, which has successfully demilitarized the civil unrest, is an important signal of solidarity and support for further reforms.
The US is not selling tear gas to Bahrain – the primary material used by police to defend themselves against violent rioters. The State Department has made clear that it is withholding the “export of lethal and crowd-control items intended predominantly for internal security purposes”. So why the hysteria in certain parts of the media when it is clear that the US is doing the right thing in selling necessary and legitimate materials to Bahrain on a “case-by-case basis”?
Many of those making a fuss would probably rather that the US didn’t sell arms to other states at all or dispute the right of any nation outside of Europe and the US being capable of defending itself.
Bahrain is a small island in the middle of the Arabian Gulf – one of the most unstable and sensitive regions in the world. Iran’s leaders periodically assert that Bahrain should become part of Iran. In such circumstances are ProPublica and other organisations alleging that the US should leave Bahrain undefended, in contradiction of the basic UN-enshrined right of all countries to self-defence?