What is Bahrain?

Nick Turse at Tom Dispatch reminds us amid the election flurry…

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was unequivocal in her condemnation. “We have confronted the Russians about stopping their continued arms shipments to Syria,” she said in remarks earlier this year. “They have, from time to time, said that we shouldn’t worry; everything they’re shipping is unrelated to their actions internally. That’s patently untrue.”

…year earlier, the ruling Sunni minority of the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom had unleashed its security forces on pro-democracy protesters, leaving many wounded or dead, while others were arrested and tortured. The U.S. government, which bases the Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, stayed largely silent about the abuses and then, a few months later, the Department of Defense notified Congress that it had brokered a new arms deal with the country. The Pentagon had arranged for the sale of $53 million worth of weapons and equipment — 44 armored Humvees and hundreds of TOW missiles — to Bahrain’s oil-rich monarchy.

Despite some Congressional opposition, the Obama administration used a legal loophole to move forward with the sale, without any formal public notification, according to a January report by Foreign Policy. (The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the branch of the Pentagon that coordinates sales and transfers of military equipment to allies, did not respond to TomDispatch’s request for information on the current status of the arms deal.)

Even if had there been public notice of the sale in the U.S., the response would, at best, have been muted. While American media outlets followed the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt closely, covered Libya’s revolution with zeal, and have remained focused on the brutal civil war in Syria, the story of Bahrain’s popular, largely nonviolent uprising has largely been limited to scattered coverage and wire service roundups. Thankfully, TomDispatch’s Jen Marlowe traveled to Bahrain this summer to witness the continuing uprising and the brutal government response firsthand, before being detained and then thrown out of the country. She offers a ground-level view of the “secret” revolution that few Americans have been able to follow and the reasons why they need to.

Earlier this year, armored vehicles patrolled the streets after Bahrain’s security forces battled protesters on the first anniversary of the 2011 uprising. Next year, thanks to the Obama administration, they may have brand new American Humvees on hand for the crackdown.      Nick Turse