Of all the Arab Spring uprisings, Bahrain probably gets the least attention in the U.S. press. There are perhaps some good arguments why; it could be the fact that the United States is on the side of the monarchy violently suppressing the democratic aspirations of its people.
So it was news that the United States decided on Friday to ahead and continue selling arms to Bahrain. But barely news. The Washington Post‘s Karen DeYoung (5/12/12) gave space to some critics of the deal to point out the troubling level of support for a regime torturing and imprisoning dissidents.
The administration officials explaining the decision to reporters, though, were granted anonymity–which of course makes it easier to say that the military supplies being sold to Bahrain would not be “used against protesters in any scenario.” Those sources also assured that administration officials “raised a number of human rights concerns” when they met with Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa last week (get a decidedly different take from the Institute for Public Accuracy).
And then there was this explanation of the apparent White House conundrum:
The escalating violence and repression has presented the Obama administration with a complex panorama of conflicting priorities. Its genuine concern about political reforms in Bahrain is set against the backdrop of a long-standing security relationship with Bahrain and an escalating threat from Iran.
A complex panorama–good grief! This echoes some of the coverage of the uprising in Egypt, where U.S. officials were said to be walking a “tightrope” in a “delicate” crisis, and so on.
One can assume that in countries with state-controlled media, the decision to send arms to a regime attacking democracy protesters might be presented in a similar manner.