Washington DC (Tasnim) – The Trump administration has told US Congress it plans to approve a multibillion-dollar sale of F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain without the human rights conditions imposed by the State Department under President Barack Obama.
If finalized, the approval would allow the Persian Gulf island to purchase 19 of the jets from Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corp., plus improvements to other jets in Bahrain’s fleet. Though Congress has opportunities to block the sale, it is unlikely it will act to do so, given the Republican majority’s strong support for the sale.
Bahrain, home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet and an under-construction British naval base, has crushed the 2011 uprising with help from US allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Under Obama, the US withdrew approval before the fighter jet deal was finalized because it said Bahrain hadn’t taken steps it had promised to improve human rights.
US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker’s office said the committee was told by the State Department that it plans to proceed with the sale. The State Department declined to comment, AP reported.
Bahrain’s government and Lockheed did not respond to requests for comment. In prepared remarks before a hearing Wednesday of the US House’s Armed Services Committee, the head of the U.S. military’s Central Command acknowledged the delay in the fighter jet sale to Bahrain “continues to strain our relationship.”
“We continue to urge the government of Bahrain to reverse steps it has taken over the past year to reduce the space for peaceful political expression in its (Shiite) population and have encouraged the Bahrainis to implement needed political reforms in the country,” US Gen. Joseph Votel said.