Air Force Deputy Undersecretary Heidi Grant expressed that she found herself in a bind attempting to reassure countries that Washington’s refusal to approval billions of dollars in US arms sales was not an indication of a weakening of the bilateral air force-to-air force relationships that exist.
Although Grant expressed that she "would like to see a decision soon" in an interview with Reuters on the eve of the Farnborough Airshow in England, the procurement process to the Gulf states with systematic records of human rights abuses presents a troubling legal and ethical conundrum for the United States.
Bahrain, specifically, has shown a willingness to turn US provided weapons against peaceful Shiite majority demonstrators who demand that the repressive Sunni King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa open the country to democratic reforms. These demonstrators, far from subversive, have proposed the idea that the King remain in the role of a government figurehead while policies are executed by the people.
The government in Manama struck fervently against this opposition routinely attacking, imprisoning, executing and torturing civilian demonstrators while outlawing the leading opposition party prescribed to by the majority of the population and stripping citizenship from opponents rendering people clamoring for self-determination stateless with US approval.
The situation has in fact become so dire in Bahrain that a group of hawkish US Senators led by Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) have called on John Kerry’s State Department to address the political situation in Bahrain and to eliminate arm sales to Manama.
The tiny island kingdom of Bahrain, however, plays host to the Navy’s 5th Fleet which is why the State Department has repeatedly circumvented the Leahy Law, named after US Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) which proscribes the sale of weapons to systematic abusers of human rights, by breaking arms sales into hundreds of smaller sales to improperly maneuver under the small-scale weapons sale exclusion.
Yes, the State Department is currently aiming to facilitate acts against humanity by employing the preferred method of money launderers who break transfers into cycles to avoid breaching the threshold required for filling out a currency transaction report.
Despite the patent illegality of this practice, the Obama administration’s Pentagon and State Department have both willfully signed off on the sale of 36 F-15 fighter jets to Qatar, 24 F/A 18E Super Hornets to Kuwait, and 16 F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain in a deal valued at just under $1 billlion.
This deal has stalled, despite standing in stark contradiction to the State Department’s own findings that Bahrain continues to suppress democratic practice and is engaged in systematic human rights violations not out of adherence to US law, but rather because of objections raised by Israel that equipment sent to the Gulf states could fall into the wrong hands and be used against the United States.
The legacy of the Obama administration may ultimately be Daesh terrorists flying around in Super Hornets and F-16 fighter jets if the deal is allowed to move forward and it is for that reason that the Air Force Deputy Undersecretary Heidi Grant should not hold her breath waiting for approval.