You are on page 1of 28

Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S.

Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs July 7, 2011

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 95-1013

CRS Report for Congress
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress

Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy

Protests that erupted in Bahrain following the uprising that overthrew Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011, demonstrate that Shiite grievances over the distribution of power and economic opportunities were not satisfied by relatively limited efforts to include the Shiite majority in governance. Most Sunnis in Bahrain believe the Shiite majority will be satisfied with nothing less than outright rule. As protests escalated in March 2011, Bahrain’s government, contrary to the advice of the Obama Administration, invited security assistance from other neighboring Gulf Cooperation Council countries, declared a state of emergency, and moved to forcefully end large demonstrations and arrest dissident leaders. Although the state of emergency was ended on June 1, some believe that continued arrests of dissidents have reduced prospects for a negotiated political solution in Bahrain. Others are optimistic that a national dialogue, which began on July 2, 2011, will produce a negotiated solution and that the challenge to the pro-U.S. regime will abate. Possibly because of concern that a rise to power of the Shiite opposition could jeopardize the extensive U.S. military cooperation with Bahrain, the Obama Administration has not called for a change of the Al Khalifa regime and continues to meet regime leaders at high levels, although it has criticized governmental use of force against, and widescale arrests of, peaceful protesters and activists. The 2011 demonstrations are the latest manifestation of periodic unrest that has taken place since the mid-1990s. Since March 2011, some opposition factions have escalated their demands in response to the initial use of force by the government, which began four months after the October 23, 2010, parliamentary election. That election, no matter the outcome, would not have unseated the ruling Al Khalifa family from power, but Shiite activists believed that winning a majority in the elected lower house could give it greater authority. In advance of the elections, the government launched a wave of arrests intended to try to discredit some of the hard-line Shiite leadership as proteges of Iran—a refrain revived by the government during the recent unrest. Bahrain’s Shiite opposition, and many outside experts, accuse the government of exaggerating the relationship between Iran and the opposition in order to justify the use of force. Unrest in Bahrain directly affects U.S. national security interests; the Administration response has thus been more restrained than the response to some of the other regional uprisings in 2011. Bahrain, in exchange for a tacit U.S. security guarantee, has provided key support for U.S. interests by hosting U.S. naval headquarters for the Gulf for over 60 years and by providing facilities and small numbers of personnel for U.S. war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Because of the instability in Bahrain, there is concern that U.S. use of the naval headquarters facilities might become untenable. This facility has been pivotal to U.S. strategy to deter any Iranian aggression as well as to interdict the movement of terrorists and weapons-related technology on Gulf waterways. The United States has designated Bahrain as a “major non-NATO ally,” and it provides small amounts of security assistance to Bahrain. On other regional issues such as the Arab-Israeli dispute, Bahrain has tended to defer to Saudi Arabia or other powers to take the lead in formulating proposals or representing the position of the Persian Gulf states, collectively. Fueling Shiite unrest is the fact that Bahrain, having largely run out of crude oil reserves, is poorer than most of the other Persian Gulf monarchies. The country has tried to compensate through diversification, particularly with banking and some manufacturing. In September 2004, the United States and Bahrain signed a free trade agreement (FTA); legislation implementing it was signed January 11, 2006 (P.L. 109-169). The unrest in 2011 has further strained Bahrain’s economy.

Congressional Research Service

...................................................................................................................... Policy Contents The Political Structure.......................................................................................................6 The Saudi/GCC Intervention and Crackdown ..................................................... and Human Rights .................... 20 Qatar Territorial Disputes ........................................................................................................... 24 Tables Table 1............................................................................. As Do Protester Demands ..................... 12 Human Trafficking............................................................ 15 U................................. 17 Relations with and Cooperation Against Iran................... Bahrain .......................................................4 2011 Uprising ...................................................... U.................. Reform..........2 2002 Elections ........ Some Basic Facts About Bahrain .......................................................3 The 2010 National Assembly and Municipal Election: Prelude to the Uprising .................... Assistance to Bahrain ......................S.................. 20 Economic Issues ................S......7 Current Situation............................................-Bahrain Security and Foreign Policy Relations ......... 16 Anti-Terrorism Cooperation .......................... 14 Post-September 11 and Post-Saddam Cooperation......S........... Navy Headquarters in Bahrain....................................... 13 U................................ Posture on the Uprising ................................ 23 Congressional Research Service .................................................................................................................................................................................... and U...................................................... Efforts to Promote Political Reform and Religious Freedom ....................................... Comparative Composition of National Assembly ..Bahrain: Reform................... 11 Women’s Rights.................... 13 U........S..................5 Table 2................S........................................... 17 Bahrain-Iran Gas Development Deal and Other Economic Ties .8 Prospects for the National Dialogue/Possible Outcomes ........................... 21 Figures Figure 1..............................................................3 2006 Elections ................................................................................. 12 Religious Freedom ............................................................... Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan .............................................................................................6 Government Tactics Change....................................................................................................................................................................................................................S.................................. 12 Labor Rights ...............................................................................9 U............................................................................................. 20 Arab-Israeli Issues ..........................1 Post-Charter Elections.............. 12 Executions and Torture.................................... Arms Transfers and Military Aid... 19 Other Foreign Policy Issues............................................................ 14 Defense Pact and Cooperation With U.............................................. 22 Table 3................. 13 U................................................................................... 10 Other Human Rights Issues ............................................................................................................................................S....... Security.........................................................................S..............................................................................................................................

................... and U..................... 24 Congressional Research Service .........S.................................Bahrain: Reform. Security.. Policy Contacts Author Contact Information ......................

which was the dominant power in the Gulf until the early 1970s.S.K. and the Trafficking in Persons Report for 2010 (June 14. 2 Government officials dispute that the Shiite community is as large a majority as the 70% figure used in most factbooks and academic work on Bahrain. according to the Central Intelligence Agency’s “World Factbook” July 2010 estimate. The Al Khalifa family’s arrival from the Saudi peninsula to take control ended a century of domination by Persian settlers. In June 1996. Educated at Sandhurst Military Academy in Britain. Shiites of Persian ethnicity are less numerous. has ruled Bahrain since 1783. and U. Shiites are also highly underrepresented in the security forces. and arrived in Bahrain over the past 400 years. which is Sunni Muslim and generally not as religiously conservative as the leaders of neighboring Saudi Arabia. To preserve its power. His son. King Hamad’s reforms. King Hamad was previously commander of the Bahraini Defense Forces (BDF). 1 Congressional Research Service 1 . They believe that the concessions that King Hamad made to the Shiite majority prior to the 2011 unrest caused the Shiites to increase their political demands rather than satisfy them. Reform. and those ministries run by Shiites have been considered less critical. have always been skeptical of King Hamad’s reforms.N. The Shiite community in Bahrain consists of the more numerous “Baharna.000 expatriates in Bahrain. Policy The Political Structure. Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa. has long been considered a proponent of reform and accommodation with Bahrain’s Shiite majority—about 60%-70% of the 503. 3 The name of this official is similar to that of the Foreign Minister. about 41 years old. serving mainly in administrative tasks.S.000-person citizenry. Khalid bin Ahmad bin Mohammad Al Khalifa. Security. The Al Khalifa subsequently received political protection from Britain. survey (some refer to its as a “referendum”) determined that its inhabitants preferred independence to Iranian control. Others believe that level of unrest reached in February 2011 would have been reached long ago had the King’s reforms not been enacted. is Crown Prince. upon his death in March 1999. who succeeded his father.-educated and.” who are of Arab ethnicity and descended from Arab tribes who inhabited the area from pre-Islamic times. there were only four Shiite ministers out of 23 cabinet positions (plus one out of the four deputy prime ministers). Bahrain is led by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (about 61 years old). like the King. Shaykh Salman is U. although judged minor by the Shiite majority. 2010). he Much of the information in this section is from State Department reports: 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (April 8.-and U.) About 25% of the population is age 14 or younger.Bahrain: Reform. 2010). 2011). The King’s uncle (the brother of the late ruler). Bahrain became independent from Britain in August 1971 after a 1970 U. along with other Sunni hard-liners including Minister of the Royal Court Khalid bin Ahmad bin Salman Al Khalifa3 and Interior Minister Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa. 2 (There are also an estimated 235. Amir Isa established a 30member appointed Consultative Council to comment on proposed laws. Shaykh Isa bin Sulman Al Khalifa. are far more extensive than those made by his father Amir Isa during his rule. Shaykh Salman bin Hamad. the Al Khalifa family has insisted on holding onto all strategic ministry positions and at least half of all ministerial slots. Even before the unrest that has seen most senior Shiites in government resign. the International Religious Freedom Report for 2010 (November 17. They speak Persian and generally do not integrate with the Baharna or with Sunni Arabs. In December 1992. CRS has no means to independently investigate the human rights situation in Bahrain or confirm allegations of specific human rights abuses there. and Human Rights1 The Al Khalifa family.

and U. in concert with the COR. 2002) on a new “National Action Charter (constitution). There is no “quota” for females in the National Assembly. although not in public session. through the prime minister. and it is generally more supportive of the government than is the elected COR. and not national security issues. many of these bills stalled in the 20062010 parliament due to lack of consensus and broader Sunni-Shiite tensions. they constitute a National Assembly (parliament) that serves as only a partial check on government power. in May 2010. In the COR elections. as has been included in democratic constitutions in post-Saddam Iraq and post-Taliban Afghanistan. although none of these actions has occurred since the COR was formed. create an anti-corruption body. and establish a higher council on social security. it voted to ban sale of alcohol to Muslims. The COR can propose (but not actually draft) legislation and both chambers can question ministers. a runoff is held one week later. regulate the press. vote noconfidence against ministers and the prime minister and override the King’s veto of approved legislation. the Assembly does not appoint—or have power to reject—cabinet appointments. Other legislation considered in the Bahraini National Assembly in recent years included bills to combat cyber crime. reviewing the annual budget. but these powers provide the Shura Council with the ability to block action by the COR. As Hamad’s first reform steps after taking over. Congressional Research Service 2 . if no candidate in a contested district wins more than 50% in the first round. The National Assembly has tended to address primarily economic and social issues. through the government. Security.” rather than “Amir” and implying more accountability. although the unrest gradually took on a Shiite sectarian character. although subject to implementing regulations made by the King. Together. the Shiite majority population criticized the National Action Charter because it established that the elected Council of Representatives (COR) and the all-appointed Shura (Consultative) Council were to be of equal size (40 seats each). and held a referendum (February 14. there was daily anti-government violence during 1994-1998.” However. The COR can.S. For example. makes all cabinet appointments and thus exercises direct rule. Formal political parties are banned. The Shura Council is formally limited to amending draft legislation and. Policy expanded it to 40 members. but factions compete as “political societies” which serve as the functional equivalent of parties for election purposes. However. An elected assembly was provided for under the 1973 constitution but abolished in August 1975 because of fear of sectarian competition and tensions over control of the body. These reforms did not come close to quieting the demands of either Shiites or Sunnis for the restoration of an elected national assembly. by a two-thirds majority. each time marked by substantial tension between the government and the Shiite majority. In the years just prior to Shaykh Hamad’s accession to rulership. regulate the pharmaceutical sector. The King has the authority to dissolve the COR and amend the constitution. even though Bahrain’s Sunnis are considered less hungry for “democracy” than are the Shiites. The King.Bahrain: Reform. Post-Charter Elections Elections have been held every four years since 2002. The government has tended to appoint generally more educated and pro-Western members to the Shura Council. he changed his title to “King.

and 1 Christian (a female). In the November 2006 elections. Al Haq (Movement of Freedom and Democracy). boycotted. Policy 2002 Elections The first elections under the Charter were held in October 2002. but it was short of a majority. In the 2002 election. In December 2008. However. 19 Sunnis. The tension was aggravated by the Shiite perception that a once-repressed Shiite majority came to power in Iraq through U. virtually all those it contested. A harder-line Shiite opposition faction. The 2002 boycott lowered turnout (about 52%) and helped Sunnis win two-thirds of the COR seats. some Shiites protested. led by Shaykh Ali al-Salman). boycotted the elections on the grounds that setting the COR and the Shura Council at the same size dilutes popular will. raising voter turnout to 72%. Some were accused of undergoing guerrilla or terrorist training in Syria. out of 18 female candidates (down from 31 female candidates in the 2002 elections). Wifaq and the National Democratic Action Association. Wifaq boycotted the speakership contest.” Therefore. the Shiites appointed were not all aligned with opposition factions. 2006 Elections As was widely expected by experts. (formally. Of the 170 total candidates. In the fall of 2006. Ten women were appointed. and incumbent COR Speaker Khalifa al-Dhahrani was reelected speaker. along with other Shiite Congressional Research Service 3 . They were tried during February-March 2009 but. won 17 seats. Heightened political tensions continued in between national elections. the government appointed a Shiite (Jawad al-Araidh) as one of the four deputy prime ministers and another (who is close to Wifaq) as a minister of state for foreign affairs. 6 were women. The Shiite opposition was therefore the largest single bloc in the COR. two Shiite opposition blocs. many Shiite opposition “political societies. also known as the Islamic National Accord Association—a large faction. On January 26. 2006. 8 were won by secular Sunnis and 15 were won by Islamist Sunnis (8 from the Salafists trend and 7 Muslim Brotherhood members). led by Wifaq. The opposition. but none of the women were elected. Abduljalil Alsingace and Mr. some of which were publicly corroborated by a government adviser (Salah al-Bandar) in August 2006 in a report to an outside human rights organization. that the government was adjusting election districts so as to favor Sunni candidates. It was also alleged that the government issued passports to Sunnis in an attempt to shift the demographic balance to the Sunnis’ advantage.” including Al Wifaq. including the wheelchair-bound Dr. who was unopposed in her district) won. the government made numerous arrests of Shiite demonstrators and accused some of being part of a foreign-inspired “plot” to destabilize Bahrain. Security. and several were considered “pro-government.Bahrain: Reform. Hassan Mushaima. Wifaq is avowedly Islamist in political orientation. participated. Three other Shiites remained in the cabinet. Only one woman (Latifa al Qaoud.backed elections and that the Bahraini majority was entitled to a similar result. and U. The King subsequently named a new Shura Council with 20 Shiites. the Shura Council was not a bastion of opposition to the government even though Shiites held half of its seats. Sunni-Shiite tensions escalated again in the run-up to the November 25. parliamentary and municipal elections. As evidence of continued friction. the government arrested three leading Shiite activists. In a nod to the increased Shiite strength as a result of the elections. 2009. the Al Wifaq National Islamic Society.S. particularly after allegations. The government was heartened that Sunni Muslims won 23 total seats. both leaders of Al Haq. Of those.S.

For example. 2010. Among those arrested was Dr.Bahrain: Reform. 2010. About 200 people registered to run. were pardoned and released in April 2009. primarily from various international human rights organizations. with a second round runoff for some districts on October 30. such as Al Haq. was not a candidate. only one was formally endorsed by a political society. The crackdown might have helped the government’s election strategy but it also led to stepped up demonstrations by Shiite youth in Shiite neighborhoods.S. on September 4. one woman withdrew after registering. One of them was a Wifaq member. 2010. Alsingace remained incarcerated and told his lawyers that he was being beaten and deprived of sleep. There were only a limited number of international observers. She is Munira Fakhro. leaving a field of six female candidates. Policy activists. discussed further below. Shiite oppositionists accused the government of drawing district boundaries so as to prevent the election of a Shiite majority. and U. The electorate was about 300. Wifaq. They were among about 160 Shiites arrested in August and September. Alsingace (see above). the government cracked down on Shiite activitists. again (for the third time) reached agreement to jointly monitor the 2010 elections. still by far the most prominent Shiite political society. had his Bahrain citizenship revoked on September 20. The crackdown did not prompt Wifaq to reverse its decision to compete. The tensions over the election almost certainly were a catalyst for the major unrest that has occurred in February 2011. 2010. Mushaima subsequently went into exile in Europe. Two Bahraini human rights watchdog groups. Al Haq again boycotted. Municipal elections were held concurrently. Alsingace has visited the United States several times to highlight the human rights situation in Bahrain. upon his return from abroad. In the run-up to the election. and in so doing suppress the election turnout among Shiites. a prominent Shiite woman who was exiled prior to the political reform process under King Hamad. Of the six.) The 2010 National Assembly and Municipal Election: Prelude to the Uprising The resentments over the 2006 election. under a 2006 anti-terrorism law that gives the government broad arrest and prosecution powers. as it did in 2006. Shaykh Ali Salman. she narrowly lost to a Sunni Islamist (Minbar. Security. As was the case in the 2006 elections. 2010. 23 Shiite leaders were arrested on charges of attempting a violent overthrow of the government. or “platform. Registration of candidates took place during September 12-16. However. Alsingace was arrested again in August 2010. A prominent Shiite cleric. Some observers asserted that the government crackdown would drive Bahraini Shiites to politically support boycotting harder-line movements. carried over to the 2010 election.” faction). In 2006. the Bahrain Human Rights Society and the Bahrain Transparency Society. voting in 40 districts spread throughout five governorates. Congressional Research Service 4 . Mushaima was arrested after his return and both are on trial in connection with the 2011 unrest. which means “promise” in Arabic). (As noted below. Ayatollah Hussein Mirza alNajati. The tensions are also widely blamed for resulting in a bombing that damaged four police cars on September 15. the National Democratic Action Society (Waad. The election was held on October 23. of whom seven were women. and the still unfulfilled demand of Bahrain’s Shiites for greater political power and an end to economic discrimination. 2010.000 persons. said to be close to the most senior Iraqi cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. registered candidates. on August 13. At least four candidates in districts where there was no opposition were declared winners by September 28. Its leader. preferring to continue to lead the faction from the background. 2010. particularly those who supported boycotting the election.

the King named the 20102014 Shura Council. there are two that are considered Islamist. which is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. The results.Bahrain: Reform. Policy Among Sunni political societies. Bahrain has an estimated 1. out of a Jewish population in Bahrain of about 40 persons. in favor of pragmatists who would address Bahrain’s economic difficulties. included: • • The increase of Wifaq’s representation from 17 seats in the 2006-2010 COR to 18 seats. However. Among the four. and U. 2010 Election Results Despite the preelection tensions. and Al Asala. the election was held without major reports of violence. which is a harder-line “Salafist” political society. leaving only 10 newly appointed members. mentioned above. Salafi. 2010. As noted below. Security. The Council has four women. a Shiite. Most of the seats were picked up by Sunni independents. Asala and Minbar members held a combined 15 seats. 1 Christian 3 22 Sunni. Turnout was about 67% between the two rounds. substantially fewer than the 2006-2010 Council that had nine women. Religious Composition Upper House (Shura Council) 17 8 7 2010 Lower House (COR 18 17 2 8 23 Sunni. They include Minbar. 17 Shiite 20 Shiite. one is Jewish (Nancy Khadouri). up from 9 in the 2006-2010 parliament. one woman was elected in the second round—the first woman to be elected to a municipal council. moderate Islamist) in COR Sunni Islamist (Asala. Thirty of the 40 serving Council members were reappointed. in the 2006-2010 parliament. some unexpected. reducing their total to 5 seats from 15. the secular and generally leftwing ideological Waad won no seats at all. • • In advance of the December 14. Table 1.S. The same one woman won who had won in 2006. including the speaker. conservative Islamist in COR Sectarian Composition in COR Sectarian. and one is Christian (Hala Qarrisah). 1 Jew Congressional Research Service 5 . and even all ideological candidates. 19 Sunni. These results appeared to represent a rejection of Islamist ideology. In addition. 18 Shiite 19 Shiite. the 18 is still short of a majority. Comparative Composition of National Assembly 2006 Lower House (COR) Shiite Islamist (Wifaq) in Elected COR Sunni Independent (mostly secular) in COR Sunni Islamist (Minbar. Minbar and Asala each saw dramatic reductions in their seats from 2006: Minbar (Muslim Brotherhood) decreased to 2 seats (from 7) and Asala decreased to 3 seats (from 8). 19 Sunni. Ali al-Salih. Muslim Brotherhood. start of the parliamentary term. In the municipal elections conducted concurrently.000 Christians. was reappointed. The Council speaker. A total of 19 Shiites were appointed. who won 17 seats. 1 Christian. Unexpected losses by Sunni Islamist factions.

to release or pardon 308 Bahrainis. 2011. At least four demonstrators were killed. Politically. Britain closed its embassy in Bahrain after the February 17. After a few days of protests and relatively minor confrontations with the mostly Bahraini Sunni and expatriate Sunni security forces. That effort was supported by a gesture by King Hamad on February 22. 2011. ending gerrymandering that prevents Shiites from winning a majority in the COR. pulling security forces back from confronting protesters. with Crown Prince Salman leading the effort. Despite heavy security patrols. and. Government Tactics Change. 2011. and announced it might ban further arms exports to Bahrain. 2011. A consistent theme among protesters appeared to be to end the sense among Shiites that they are “second class citizens” or “not trusted” as Bahraini citizens. Wifaq pulled all 18 of its COR deputies out of the COR immediately following the February 17 crackdown. many of whom were asleep. and used rubber bullets and tear gas to remove them from the location. among some protesters. providing more jobs and economic opportunities. and U. the mostly Shiite demonstrators converged on the interior of a major traffic circle. which had killed two until that time. an account disputed by the protesters. As Do Protester Demands In part at the reported urging of the United States. with a second round to be held on October 1. Hassan Mushaima (who returned to Bahrain from exile in Europe on February 27. At the same time. On February 15. additional protests took place on February 18. although some accounts say that a demonstration three days later. per se.S. the government changed tactics on February 19. At a news conference later on February 17. 2011. 2011. According to the government. 2011). this included dropping two Al Congressional Research Service 6 . in the wake of the success of an uprising in Egypt that forced the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. 2011. King Hamad spoke to the nation and announced the formation of a committee to investigate the use of force against protestors. The unrest took on new dimensions in the early morning of February 17. 2011. when security forces surrounded the thousands of demonstrators in Pearl Roundabout. demonstrators reentered Pearl Roundabout and held large demonstrations at or around that location subsequently. and security forces apparently shot several demonstrators. invited the representatives of the protesters to begin a formal dialogue to try to agree on reforms. including the exiled leader of the hardline Al Haq. if needed. others died subsequently. King Hamad changed several cabinet posts. which spanned miles of downtown roads. but generally centered on such political reforms as altering the constitution to expand the powers of the COR. 2011.700 payment to citizens. On February 26. Foreign Minister Khalid Al Khalifa claimed that the Pearl Roundabout was cleared to avoid a “sectarian abyss”—all-out civil conflict between the Shiites and Sunnis. The government asserted it had warned of the impending move. “Pearl Roundabout. The February 22 demonstration followed by one day a large counter-demonstration by mostly Sunni supporters of the government.” named after a statue that depicted Bahrain’s pearl-diving past. A February 22. Security. Their resignations have prompted the scheduling of by-elections to fill their seats on September 24. demonstration was said to be perhaps the largest in Bahrain’s history. The uprising took place after King Hamad had authorized the latest annual iteration of a $2. Policy 2011 Uprising King Hamad’s efforts to accommodate Shiite aspirations were demonstrated to have failed when a major uprising began on February 14. these persons were tried not for political views.Bahrain: Reform. replacing hard-line Prime Minister Khalifa. crackdown. the government. The initial demands of the protesters were numerous. 2011. but rather for committing or advocating violence. was even larger. That day.

and only informal meetings took place in search of a political solution. Wifaq’s leader. freed up by the GCC deployment. On March 15. which. The protests also began to spark Sunni-Shiite clashes which some Bahrainis believed were evolving into outright sectarian conflict at the mass level—whereas previously sectarianism had been a concept mainly confined to power struggles among the elites. and the cabinet reshuffles did not prevent the protesters’ demands from escalating or cause them to leave Pearl Roundabout. The Saudi/GCC Intervention and Crackdown With no systematic dialogue begun. In response to the request. Congressional Research Service 7 . On March 13. of which it is a member.200 Saudi forces (in armored vehicles) and 600 UAE police crossed into Bahrain and took up positions at key locations in and around Manama.Bahrain: Reform. including Al Haq’s Mushaima. demanded a resignation of the monarchy outright. and U. and Bahraini security forces. 2011. and others accepting the Bahrain/GCC view that the GCC force is only guarding key locations and infrastructure. send additional security forces to protect key sites.4 The regime’s offer of dialogue was not taken up consistently or systematically by the more moderate groups. Well before intervening in Bahrain. 2011). Security forces were overwhelmed. a GCC force (from the GCC joint Peninsula Shield unit) spearheaded by a reported 1. Bahrain requested that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Anger at the government’s initial use of force appeared to shift many demonstrators closer to Al Haq. cleared demonstrators from Pearl Roundabout (and demolished the pearl monument itself on March 18. offers of dialogue. the GCC states had begun to fear that the Bahrain unrest could spread to other GCC states. and many Shiites in other senior posts in the judiciary and elsewhere resigned.5 Some additional protester deaths were reported in this renewed crackdown. many of the Shiites in the Shura Council. have substantial Shiite minorities. 2011. March 9. 2011. as of the beginning of March 2011. King Hamad declared a three-month state of emergency technically headed by BDF Chief of Staff Marshal Khalifa bin Ahmad Al Khalifa. The government concessions exposed long-standing splits in the opposition. and efforts to promote more job opportunities for Shiites.S. On March 13. but most of them. None of the other GCC states has a Shiite majority (like Bahrain). Some accounts differ on the involvement of the Peninsula Shield force. such as that between the more moderate Wifaq and the more hardline Al Haq. The pulling back of the security forces. Six smaller hardline Shiite political societies reportedly joined Al Haq in insisting on maximalist demands. as discussed further below. including Saudi Arabia. protesters blockaded the financial district of the capital. Kuwait sent naval forces to help Bahrain secure its maritime borders. was not arrested. prompting governmental fears that the unrest could choke this major economic sector. Wifaq and other more moderate groups appeared willing to accept the formation of a constitutional monarchy. The remaining Shiite ministers in the cabinet. In conjunction. Security. On March 1. demonstrators blocked the entrance to the parliament building and delayed the meeting of its bodies for six hours. on March 14. Manama. 2011. protests escalated. Shaykh Ali Salman. although a few subsequently returned to service. seven Shiite leaders were arrested. The GCC states met at the foreign 4 5 “Bahrain Hard-Liners Call for Royal Family to Go. 2011. with some observers arguing that members of the force have participated directly in suppressing protests. The posts changed were those that can influence job opportunities and living conditions. Cable News Network website. Policy Khalifa family members from the cabinet. It was also feared that Iran might be able to exploit the situation.

On April 15. Allegations of Iranian involvement in the unrest are discussed later in the section on Bahrain’s foreign policy. including the Kuwaiti naval force. On June 6. were arrested. Human rights groups. two weeks earlier than scheduled. On May 31. including Mushaima and Alsingace. Some sources say the government has bulldozed about 30 Shiite mosques as a measure to prevent Shiites from gathering.Bahrain: Reform.200 people. 2011. 2011. and the GCC forces that deployed to Bahrain. 2011. There are about 300 delegates to the national dialogue. On May 8. Policy minister level on February 16. the King announced in early May that the state of emergency would end on June 1. On May 2. including at least 50 medical professionals who helped tend to injured protestors. was summoned before the military court prosecuting alleged agitators. Of Congressional Research Service 8 . and Crown Prince Salman visited UAE on March 2. mostly neighborhood-based demonstrations continue despite a heavy security force presence around Manama. Current Situation Most public protests ceased subsequent to the GCC intervention. Security. hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. was arrested April 9 and his daughter subsequently began a hunger strike. for consultations on how to handle the unrest. the government announced that Wifaq and another Shiite political society. Those countries have arranged for large pledges of aid (some reports mention $20 billion) to help the Bahrain government (and that of Oman. King Hamad spoke to the population on May 31 to mark the end of the emergency. As part of what some observers call a punitive and excessive continuing crackdown. 2011. 2011. of which the Shiite opposition has 35-50 delegates. Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja. have been dismissed from their jobs. and expressed solidarity with the government of Bahrain. according to government figures. 2011. Mansour al-Jamri. including those testifying at a May 13. seven others went on trial in absentia. mostly Shiites. began to depart in late June 2011. and U. 2011. went on trial on May 18. the government closed the pro-opposition newspaper Al Wasat. Al Haq leader Hassan Mushaima affirmed those fears in March 2011 when he warned that Saudi intervention could prompt Iranian intervention on the side of the Shiite protesters. A well-known human rights activist. offering unconditional dialogue with the opposition beginning July 1. it editor-in-chief. The government held to that schedule. one of whom had resigned from the COR because of the unrest. for inciting violence.S. which also has faced unrest) create jobs for Shiites. 2011. 14 oppositionists. 2011. 47 doctors and nurses were put on trial for aiding protesters. a key activist. Nabeel Rajab. which began on July 2. To date. Some experts speculate that Saudi intervention could prompt a wider conflict. State of Emergency Ends June 1 and National Dialogue Begins Perceiving the regime had gained the upper hand. the Islamic Action Association. have reported a broad crackdown in which 630 remained in detention. the head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. King Hamad visited Saudi Arabia on February 23. After extensive internal debate. Wifaq accepted the offer to participate in the dialogue. 24 Bahraini protesters have died in the violence. Over 1. two Wifaq officials. under the chairmanship of speaker of the COR Dhahrani. 2011. 2011. were being investigated for harming national unity and could potentially be disbanded. in early April 2011. although some. although opposition figures are much higher. went on trial before a state security court.

each has 15 sub-themes and each sub-theme has 90 topics. to life in prison on charges of plotting a coup. Harder line Shiite groups are not participating and believe that no compromise is possible with the Al Khalifa regime still in power. was likely.S. to investigate the government’s response to the unrest that began in February. particularly in the event that there is no settlement reached during the national dialogue. The government also released about 150 of those who had been imprisoned for the unrest. centered around the Wifaq proposals for a fully elected parliament with legislative powers. Others believe that. “Bahrain Opens Dialogue Buoyed by Shiite Attendance. some Bahrainis have said that the dismissal of Prime Minister Khalifa Al Khalifa. On July 7.” Agence France Presse.6 The dialogue. with Wifaq leader Shaykh Ali Salman or another moderate opposition figure. Many in the opposition maintain that the continuing detention of many oppositionists does not augur well for progress. interim compromise could involve replacing Prime Minister Khalifa. 2011. social. including Mushaima and Alsingace. 2011. will address political. “Bahrain Sentences 8 Activists to Life Terms. April 2011.Bahrain: Reform. Most experts predict that large protests are likely to resume.” Washington Post. the judiciary sentenced eight harder-line Shiite oppositionists. is not chairing the dialogue. Congressional Research Service 9 . Earlier.8 Another interim compromise could include a broad reshuffling of the cabinet to give Shiites many more ministerial posts and control of key economic ministries. Senior Bahraini officials said the intent of the dialogue is to outline a vision of Bahrain rather than necessarily reach agreement on specific steps. Wifaq said it would not participate in the economic and social issues meetings. This suggests he remains in eclipse by harder line Al Khalifa members allied with the prime minister. 2011. In agreeing to participate.7 Prospects for the National Dialogue/Possible Outcomes Outcomes of the dialogue are difficult to predict. of a five-person commission headed by Dr. although these bodies do not have national legislative authority. Security. a less ambitious. Some believe the GCC intervention and subsequent crackdown hardened Shiite demands to the point where compromise is difficult. June 23. that proposal would entail direct selection of the prime minister by the largest coalition in the elected legislature. Wifaq already holds the majority of seats on several elected municipal councils. suggesting early pessimism that its demands would be met. Other reforms could include redistricting that would permit Shiites to win a COR majority. a few days prior. 2011. which is to last several weeks. despite its fractious beginning. and U. July 2. Throughout the crisis. According to senior Wifaq officials. 8 Author conversations with representatives of and observers close to the regime. economic. Cherif Bassiouni. Possibly contributing to Wifaq’s decision to participate was the King’s formation. 2011. a positive outcome of the dialogue is possible. Wifaq asserted that it would pull out of the talks if and when it became clear that its proposals for a fully elected parliament with legislative powers would not be met. short of an alteration of the electoral process. Policy those. Others took note of the fact that the Crown Prince. and to file its report by October 30. the principal champion of dialogue within the upper ranks of the regime. who is widely despised by the opposition. Some experts believe that. Erika Solomon. five belong to Wifaq. and human rights issues. on June 23. The overthrow of the government and the ascension of a Shiite-led regime is possible. although the GCC determination to prevent this makes this outcome less 6 7 Mohamed Hasni. possibly in an effort to divide the opposition.

who favors dialogue and negotiation. 2011. meetings between the Crown Prince and Secretary Clinton and President Obama. clearing of Pearl Roundabout. In phone calls to their counterparts after the February 17. 2011. 2011. At a May 5. saying that the prospects for success of a dialogue with the opposition are compromised by the jailing of opposition figures. 2011. officials had praised the release of political prisoners and called on all parties to take up the offer by the Crown Prince for a broad political dialogue on reform. and the ascendancy within the regime of the prime minister and other hardliners. According to a White House statement. As I said earlier this week. Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates reportedly expressed concern to the Bahrain government for using force against the protesters. and U. Secretary Clinton reiterated the U. 2011. The U. at least in the short term. Secretary of State Clinton and other U. This U. Posture on the Uprising The U. Security. Just prior to the GCC intervention and subsequent crackdown.S. security interests in Bahrain. On the regime side. speech on the uprisings in the Middle East was critical of Bahrain.” 9 Secretary of State Clinton Comments on the Situation in the Middle East.S. and said: Bahrain obviously has the sovereign right to invited GCC forces into its territory under its defense and security agreements…. The U.” President Obama’s May 19. President Obama spoke by phone to King Hamad and reportedly stated that Bahrain’s stability depends on respect for the universal rights of the people of Bahrain.S.S. compromise has been made more difficult by the apparent political eclipse of the Crown Prince.S. support for the Crown Prince’s offer of dialogue. use of Bahrain’s military facilities. February 27. adding that “security operations will not resolve the challenges Bahrain faces.9 In a statement. violence is not and cannot be the answer. President Obama praised the February 26 cabinet reshuffle and King Hamad’s restatements of his commitment to reform. These contacts reportedly contributed to the government decision to exercise restraint at that time.” Reuters. 2011. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. position did not change immediately following the GCC intervention. and a process of meaningful reform. rather than achieve quiescence and stability. We have raised our concerns about the current measures directly with Bahraini officials and will continue to do so. On March 19.Bahrain: Reform. A political process is. Congressional Research Service 10 .S. position was restated in separate June 7. State Department officials testified that the United States is “deeply concerned” by the “campaign of retribution” against the political GbucMZUg3Gc 10 “Obama Welcomes Bahrain Cabinet Reshuffle. Policy likely. but it has since became more critical as the crackdown has proceeded.10 The U. concern is that a fall of the Al Khalifa regime and ascension of a Shiite-led government could increase Iran’s influence and lead to an unwanted loss of the U. response to the unrest in Bahrain has been colored by the vital U. Presiedent Obama stressed to the Crown Prince that those Bahraini forces or officials responsible for human rights abuses should be held “accountable. http://www.S.S. [The United States has] made clear that security alone cannot resolve the challenges facing Bahrain. U. On April 30.S. view is that the crackdown is likely to further inflame unrest over the long term.S. 2011.S. according to the White

Levels of those sales and aid are discussed in the sections below. Critics point to Secretary of State Clinton’s comments in Bahrain on December 3. and Hindus although the constitution declares Islam the official religion. The Obama Administration. Adam Entous.S. However. 2010. senior U. The Administration did not send an official to testify at the May 13 Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing discussed above. although some observers say the United States advised King Hamad not to visit the United States in May 2011 to attend his son’s college graduation.S. released April 5. position has been criticized by some as a U. It takes time. 2010. and there are no indications the Administration might take that position. “double standard.” December 3. February 23. He visited again in mid-April. As noted above. “U. government reports on human rights and religious freedom in Bahrain. The U. 11 12 Department of State.S. has not announced any alteration of its military and anti-terrorism assistance or arms sales policy for Bahrain. Some say that the United States should begin examining alternate facilities in the Gulf region in the expectation that continued Bahraini hosting of the U. Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East Jeffrey Feltman was sent to Bahrain as of March 14.S.” Wall Street Journal. The State Department issued a statement on July 2. visited on May 17.S. 2011. covers the period of calendar year 2010 and does not address the government response to the 2011 unrest.S. 2010. meeting with senior Bahraini officials and again urging them to try to start dialogue with the opposition. Outgoing Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg. Policy U. 2011. the Administration has undertaken some efforts to help mediate in the crisis.12 It is possible that outside experts and some in Congress might object to further sales to Bahrain. we know that from our own experience. note problems for non-Muslims and for opponents of the government. officials continue to meet with the Bahraini regime at high levels. referring to the October 2010 elections. Congressional Research Service 11 . response to the 2011 unrest in Egypt.S. saying: “I am impressed by the commitment that the government has to the democratic path that Bahrain is walking on. Jews. such as the human rights report for 2010. Other Human Rights Issues Many of the general human rights issues are directly tied to the schism between the Sunni-led regime and the Shiite majority. 2011. as noted in U. allies are under review because of the unrest in the region. particularly of equipment that could be used against protesters. Beyond that issue.”11 At the same time. “Remarks With Foreign Minister Al Khalifa After Their Meeting. press reports say arms sales to Bahrain and other U. praising the start of the national dialogue. It should be noted that the State Department human rights report. along with Feltman and an NSC official. and U. naval headquarters has become unstable. State Department reports.S. Some believe that the Administration’s refusal to call for the ousting of the regime reflects a consistent pattern of downplaying abuses against Bahrain’s Shiite community.Bahrain: Reform. 2011. to attempt to achieve the beginning of a sustained dialogue between the government and the opposition. which presented its FY2012 budget request on February 14.S. Reviews Arms Sales Amid Turmoil. just as the unrest in Bahrain was growing. and Libya. Security. officials have not called for the Al Khalifa to step down and yield to a political transition. Bahrain allows freedom of worship for Christians.S. Tunisia. 2011.” compared to the U.

and health sectors. Bahrain’s practices and customs tend to limit women’s rights. All unions must join the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU). The 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report (June 14. The Shura Council has vetoed a proposed law that would have authorized formation of more than one union per company.S. Ms. education. and has in the past threatened to shutter un-licensed churches serving Indian expatriates. although other State Department reports (human rights reports for 2008 and for 2009) say that the Baha’i community now gathers and operates openly. 2010.Bahrain: Reform. although religious courts may refuse a woman’s divorce request. State Department report on international religious freedom. is ambassador to the United States. A previous female minister of health. However. However. A Baha’i congregation was repeatedly denied an official license. an attorney and formerly the only Jew in the Shura Council. with explanatory language similar to that of the 2008 report. Huda Azar Nunu. Women can drive. including a prohibition on strikes in the oil and gas. including a 2002 law granting workers. The 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report (June 16. the government has promoted several women to high positions. says that non-Muslims have been able to practice their religion privately without government interference. including the president of the University of Bahrain. Religious Freedom On freedoms for religions other than Islam. and to maintain places of worship. Bahrain was elevated in the 2008 Trafficking in Persons report to “Tier 2 Watch List. the November 17. the government requires licenses for churches to operate. Congressional Research Service 12 . Bahrain has been credited with significant labor reforms. The report for 2011. keeps Bahrain’s placement at Tier 2. has been discriminated against in Bahrain.” from Tier 3 in the 2007 report. Policy Women’s Rights Bahrain has tended to be relatively progressive as far as law and regulations. released June 27. including non-citizens. own and inherit property. in the section on Bahrain. on the grounds that it is investigating and prosecuting forced prosecution cases and convicted nine trafficking offenders during the reporting period. declared blasphemous in Iran and Afghanistan. and U. Since 2005. but their right is restricted in practice. 2011. Labor Rights On labor issues. Human Trafficking On human trafficking. to date. resigned in October 2007 following allegations of corruption in her ministry by conservatives who oppose women occupying high-ranking positions. Two other women. 2009) kept Bahrain as Tier 2 Watch List. 2010) upgraded Bahrain yet again to Tier 2 (dropping the “watch list” designation) on the grounds that Bahrain is making significant efforts to comply with minimum standards and has begun making prosecutions under its anti-trafficking statutes. The law holds that the right to strike is a legitimate means for workers to defend their rights and interests. because it is “making significant efforts” to comply with the minimum standards for elimination of trafficking. Security. there have been two female ministers—Minister of Social Affairs Fatima bint Ahmad al-Balushi and Minister of Information and Culture Mai bint Muhammad Al Khalifa. as is the case with its neighbors. have ministerial rank. and initiate divorce cases. To try to showcase its progressiveness. the right to form and join unions. There are about 50 trade unions in Bahrain. but has not shown results. The Baha’i faith. Nada Haffadh.

S. and U. there were no executions in Bahrain. government discusses religious freedom with the [Bahraini] government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.S.-Bahrain FTA.S. opened in September 1971. “Bahrain: Torture Redux. and to help Bahrain implement the U.S. 2010). Shaykh Salah Al-Jowder. and civil society legal reform. Human Rights Watch. small businesses. 14 13 Congressional Research Service 13 . In February 2010. Allegations of torture against Shiite opposition figures are widespread. 2011. thereby raising the stakes for the United States in the February 2011 unrest.S. Security. “The U. In May 2006 Bahrain revoked the visa for the resident program director of the National Democratic Institute (NDI). when the threat level in the Persian Gulf was perceived as relatively low. Other U. Bahrain’s capital. the United States has sought to accelerate political reform in Bahrain and to empower its political societies through several programs. diplomat responsible in Manama responsible for human rights issues. U.-Bahrain Security and Foreign Policy Relations14 U. government sponsored the visit to the United States of a prominent Sunni cleric.S. That sentenced was imposed for a 2005 murder. “ February 2010.S. Ludovic Hood. Bahrain’s Court of Cassation upheld the sentencing to death by firing squad of a citizen of Bangladesh. media training.” The religious freedom report also noted that the U.S. Policy Executions and Torture Another issue that predated the 2011 unrest is that of executions. some human rights group and Bahraini activists believe the United States has consistently (including during the February 2011 unrest) downplayed democracy promotion in favor of broader security issues.” Some funds have been used to help build an independent judiciary and strengthen the COR. U. According to the State Department’s International Religious Freedom report for 2010 (November 17.13 Witnesses at the May 13. A U. Still.S. and did not allow the office to reopen.S. Human Rights Watch and other groups asserted that Bahrain is going against the international trend to end execution. The State Department returned him to the United States in June 2011 because of perceived threats from Bahrainis who felt he was too critical of the government. hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission asserted that torture was being used regularly on those arrested in the post-GCC intervention crackdown. and the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA). In November 2009. including the “Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). Embassy in Manama. NDI is conducting programs to enhance parliamentary capabilities through a local NGO. MEPI funds have been used to fund AFL-CIO projects with Bahraini labor organizations.Bahrain: Reform. the MEPI office of State Department signed a memorandum of understanding with Bahrain to promote entrepreneurship there and promote opportunities for trade with U.S. Some believe the government did not adequately protect a U.-Bahrain relations are intimate and mutually reinforcing. Information in this section obtained from a variety of press reports. From 1977 until 2006. to discuss religious freedom and interfaith dialogue.-funded programs focus on women’s empowerment. educational opportunities. Efforts to Promote Political Reform and Religious Freedom For many years prior to the 2011 unrest.

Bahrain: Reform. hosting 17. Iran. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan Bahrain was part of the U. in several phases. and Afghanistan have benefitted from access to Bahraini facilities. Central Command).S. In recognition of the relationship. and other military facilities. defense issues have become a central feature of U. Construction began in May 2010 to allow larger ships to dock at the naval facility. efforts to address threats in Iraq. The explosion is widely suspected to have been a terrorist attack. mostly Navy. Figures are as of June 30.S. 2010. no funds for FY2009. military is implementing a planned $580 million military construction program in Bahrain.S. seven months after the ousting of Iraqi troops from Kuwait. President Bush (Presidential Determination 2002-10) designated Bahrain a “major non-NATO ally (MNNA). 112-10). and various other ships that are afloat or which dock elsewhere in the region. Navy Headquarters in Bahrain February 2008 marked the 60th anniversary of a U. Policy Since then. and U. The bulk of the construction program is to expand the naval facility.S. 2010.S.S. 110161). MIDEASTFOR (U. Bahrain has long linked its security to the United States.L. $41. and $100 million requested for FY2012. in March 2002.S.S.” The facility now covers over 100 acres.-led allied coalition that ousted Iraq from Kuwait in 1991. and a faction linked to Al Qaeda (Abdullah Azzam Brigades) claimed responsibility. including Bahrain. Middle East Force).S. NAVCENT (naval component of U. and U. A January 2008 lease agreement between the United States and Bahrain allowed for the expansion by making available the decommissioned Mina (port) Salman.S. the U.S. as exemplified by a July 28.15 Some smaller U.300 U. its successor. are assigned there. arms sales.500 troops and 250 combat aircraft at Shaykh Isa Air Base (mentioned above). 1991. naval headquarters. Although Iraq is no longer a strategic threat to the region because it cannot project power outside its borders.S. as well as the Fifth Fleet (reconstituted in June 1995) are headquartered there.S.-Bahrain relations. personnel. the project is expected to be completed.L. Iran’s nuclear program is considered a growing threat to the Persian Gulf states. $258 million for FY2011 (Bahrain. The pact was renewed in October 2001 and is up for renewal in 15 Unclassified information provided to CRS by the Department of Defense. U. Defense Pact and Cooperation With U. at a sprawling facility called “Naval Support Activity-Bahrain. P. There is also the issue of terrorism and piracy in the Gulf.” a designation that facilitates U.S. but the Fifth Fleet also consists of a Carrier Battle Group. Congressional Research Service 14 . explosion on a Japanese oil tanker in that waterway. Recent appropriations and requests to fund the construction include: $54 million for FY2008 (Division 1 of P. Security.L. To further develop the naval facility (sometimes referred to as “Bahrain Island”). and about 2. but $45 million of the funds is to be used to expand an apron at Shaykh Isa Air Base and $19 million is to be used for a Special Operations Forces facility.5 million for FY2010 (P. by 2015. In large part to keep powerful neighbors in check. 111-117). Expanding on the agreement under which Bahrain hosted U. ships (minesweepers) are docked there. an Amphibious Ready Group. Bahrain and the United States signed a 10-year defense pact signed on October 28. naval command presence in Bahrain.

17 Post-September 11 and Post-Saddam Cooperation The naval headquarters.S. 17 Walter Pincus.” Washington Post. U.S.16 Following the liberation of Kuwait in February 1991. OIF). Bahrain took a turn in a rotation to command CTF-152. Army War College: Strategic Studies Institute). but also requires consultations with Bahrain if its security is threatened.S. Bahrain has not contributed funds to Iraq reconstruction.N. Some provisions are discussed in Sami Hajjar. Air Force munitions). 27. Congressional Research Service 15 . On October 16. and it expanded exercises and U.S. 2011. arms. “Bahrain Government’s Ties With the United States Run Deep.-Bahrain defense agreement are classified.-led Multinational Interdiction Force (MIF) that enforced a U. Bahrain’s participation in OIF came despite domestic opposition in Bahrain to that war. and U. which ousted the Taliban after the September 11 attacks.S.S.S. That process was suspended in late 2008 as Iraq stabilized and the United States has begun the process of withdrawal. The pact not only provides the United States access to Bahrain’s air bases and to pre-position strategic materiel (mostly U. military personnel in Bahrain during the 1990s to contain Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.S. military personnel during major combat of OEF (October 2001-May 2003). military operations ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. In March 2008. have still not established a full embassy in Iraq.-supplied frigate warship (the Subha) to help protect U. expected to be complete by the end of 2011. Bahrain and UAE have been the only Gulf states to deploy their own forces to provide aid to Afghanistan. Iraq fired nine Scud missiles at Bahrain during the war. warships performing support missions for U. During both OEF and OIF. but it attended the “Expanded Neighbors of Iraq” regional conference process which last met in Kuwait on April 22.000 U. embargo on Iraq during 1991-2003.S. Policy October 2011. ships. there were about 1. These task forces also seek to counter piracy in the Arabia Sea. In January 2009.S.S.Bahrain: Reform. weapons inspections in Iraq during 1991-1998. in line with King Hamad’s pledge to President Bush in March 2008. 2008.S. Because of its limited income. March 2002. Some of the other Gulf states. 2008. and allied naval operations related to the U. Bahrain publicly deployed its U. Military Presence in the Gulf: Challenges and Prospects (U. Bahrain commanded an anti-piracy task force in Gulf/Arabian Sea waters in October 2010. of which three hit facilities there. the United States has reportedly stationed two Patriot anti-missile batteries there. Since the early 1990s. and it sent ground and air assets to Kuwait in support of OIF. use of which predated the defense pact. These ships are also part of Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 and 152 that seek to interdict the movement of terrorists. most notably Saudi Arabia. Bahrain allowed the United States to fly combat missions from its bases (Shaykh Isa Air Base) in both OEF and the war to oust Saddam Hussein in March-April 2003 (Operation Iraqi Freedom. and Bahraini pilots flew strikes over Iraq during the war. has been used to coordinate the operations of over 20 U. Bahrain hosted about 4. and the U. the U. These operations are offshoots of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan. and it commanded again in December 2010.N. in part 16 Details of the U. Security. Bahrain hosted the regional headquarters for U.S. training of Bahraini forces.S. Bahrain sent 100 police officers to Afghanistan on a two-year tour to help U.S.S. February 22. Bahrain’s first post-Saddam ambassador to Iraq (Saleh Ali al-Maliki) presented his credentials in Baghdad. or weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-related technology and narcotics across the Arabian Sea. p.300 U./NATO-led stabilization operations there.

S. and U. but are said to supplement their ranks with unknown percentages of paid Sunni Muslim recruits from neighboring countries. As an example.-made F-16Cs from new production. considered a hardliner in the royal family. U. Congressional Research Service 16 . Policy due to differences between Saudi Arabia and the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri alMaliki. cit. 109-163).S. Bahrain has purchased some U. and interoperability with U.L. the U.000 personnel (plus about 1. 26 Bahraini students attended U.200 National Guard). the United States sold Bahrain 26 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) to arm the F-16s.S. Bahrain is eligible to receive grant “excess defense articles” (EDA). to support and upgrade the avionics of its F-16 fleet. Ian Henderson. democracy. Yemen. The United States transferred the FFG-7 “Perry class” frigate Subha (see above) as EDA in July 1997. The current director of the internal security service is Shaykh Khalifa bin Abdullah Al Khalifa. as of FY2008.-origin weapons. Navy a 360-degree field of vision around Bahrain.S. forces. Bahrain purchased 10 U. assistance. to enhance inter-operability with U.S.” Op. Until 1998. title subsequently passed to Bahrain. worth about $390 million. which has about 13. In 1996. Congress and successive Administrations.S. The main recipient of such assistance is the relatively small Bahrain Defense Force (BDF).18 Some funds have been used to build up Bahrain’s Special Operations forces. systems.S. to augment Bahrain’s air defenses. small amounts of International Military Education and Training funds (IMET) are provided to Bahrain to inculcate principles of civilian control of the military. In 1998.S. have supported military assistance to Bahrain’s small force. the United States gave Bahrain a no-cost five-year lease on 60 M60A3 tanks. military schools. 18 “Bahrain Government’s Ties With the United States Run Deep. Recent FMF (and funds provided under “Section 1206” of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2006. Navy is supporting providing another frigate (an “extended deck frigate”) to Bahrain as EDA because the Subha is approaching the end of its service life. and elsewhere. who had a reputation among Shiites for using repressive measures. although some Members were concerned that the AMRAAM sale could promote an arms race in the Gulf. In 1999. Security. The BDF and the police are run by Sunni Bahrainis. about 45% of Bahrain’s forces are fully capable of integrating into a U. have been provided to help Bahrain maintain U. Iraq.S. including Pakistan. and to improve counter-terrorism capabilities. During FY2010. citing Bahrain’s limited income.S. Purchases With National Funds Despite its limited funds (Bahrain’s total government budget was about $6 billion in 2009).S.S.Bahrain: Reform. Jordan. According to the State Department’s FY2012 budget request. Bahrain’s internal security services were run by a former British colonial police officer. The Defense Department estimates that. Foreign Military Financing (FMF) was suspended for Bahrain in FY1994 but restarted in appreciation of Bahrain’s support in OEF and OIF. forces.-led coalition. Arms Transfers and Military Aid To assist Bahrain’s ability to cooperate with the United States on regional security issues. P. the United States has supplied Bahrain with a coastal radar system that reportedly provides Bahrain and the U. As noted in the table. in part due to U.

and local banks cooperate with U.S.) To allay congressional concerns about possible U.) and associated equipment. weapons might be sold to the Gulf monarchy states. an August 2000 sale of 30 Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMs. (A notification of a possible sale to Bahrain of 30 ATACM missiles and associated equipment. of nine UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters. promotion of missile proliferation in the region. worth up to $252 million. The report. 101-167) made Bahrain the only Gulf state eligible to receive the STINGER shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile.Bahrain: Reform. the State Department’s report on international terrorism for 2009 (released August 5. Only a small portion of that total sales volume is reportedly slated for Bahrain. The Bahraini Ministry of Interior is the lead agency that receives this support and. 2010) credits Bahrain for having “actively monitored terrorism suspects” and for achieving convictions of five men accused of membership of a terrorist organization—the first use of a 2006 counterterrorism law.” begun in 2006 to counter Iran.S.-Bahraini control of the weapon.S.S. Some of the most recent sales are in accordance with the State Department’s “Gulf Security Dialogue. which has purportedly demonstrated an ability to aggravate Bahrain’s domestic turmoil to a greater degree than has any Congressional Research Service 17 .S. and under which a total of about $20 billion worth of U. Anti-Terrorism Cooperation Bahrain’s cooperation in post-September 11 regional security operations was discussed above. Financial Information Unit (within the Central Bank). efforts against terrorism financing and money laundering.S. notes that Bahrain has not overcome legal constraints that have sometimes hampered its ability to detain and prosecute suspected terrorists. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the missiles. assistance to Bahrain (NADR funds) are used to provide training to its counter-terrorism institutions and to augment the ability of Bahraini forces to protect U.S. of six Bell search and recovery helicopters. valued at about $70 million. however. As far as terrorists operating inside Bahrain itself. of up to 25 AMRAAMs (Raytheon Missile Systems Corp. and a sale. notified August 3. Bahrain focuses its foreign policy intently on Iran. valued at about $160 million. some of the U. Relations with and Cooperation Against Iran As noted previously. of 180 “Javelin” anti-armor missiles and 60 launch units. As noted by the State Department in the FY2012 budget justification. valued at about $74 million. the Administration is “reviewing” the use of this aid to ensure that none was used “against protestors” in the 2011 unrest.S. 2007. Security. as did the same report of the previous year. and U. 2009. was sent to Congress on November 4. according to the FY2012 budget justification. a system of short-range ballistic missiles fired from a multiple rocket launcher) included an agreement for joint U. a sale.) Among recent sales notified to Congress by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) are a sale. (This authorization has been repeated in subsequent legislation. 2010. U.L. notified on July 28. diplomatic and military facilities in Bahrain. worth up to $42 million. arms sales policy to Gulf allies and other Middle Eastern countries is said to be under review in light of regional unrest that began in early 2011. a sale. Bahrain also continues to host the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENA/FATF) secretariat and its Central Bank. As noted above. including Bahrain. and the United States has sold Bahrain about 70 Stingers since 1990. Policy Section 581 of the FY1990 foreign operations appropriation act (P.

20 19 Congressional Research Service 18 .20 On May 16.N.” Wall Street Journal. 19 On April 14. After these official determinations. that article. To date. Policy other regional power. if and Bahrain and Iran have withdrawn their ambassadors from each others’ capitals. and that there was some information to indicate that Iran might have transferred small amounts of weapons to Bahraini oppositionists. One such example was a July 2007 Iranian newspaper article reasserting the Iranian claim to Bahrain. However. Those contests included an effort by Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran in the 1930s to deny Bahrain the right to grant oil concessions to the United States and Britain. speaking on background. again referring to Bahrain as Iran’s 14th province. Secretary of Defense Gates has not accused Iran of instigating the unrest but has warned that the protraction of the crisis allows Tehran opportunities to exploit it. did not mar the visit of Iranian President Ahmadinejad on November 17. 2011. but turned back the following day for fear of provoking a clash with GCC ships. 2011. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon formally alleging that the pro-Iranian Shiite faction Hezbollah is seeking to destabilize Bahrain with “logistical help” from unnamed countries (but clearly referring to Iran). now an advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader. survey giving Bahrain independence rather than integration with Iran. there has been little evidence of direct Iranian intervention. Iran’s Foreign Ministry immediately tried to limit any diplomatic damage by asserting respect for Bahrain’s http://www. In March 2009 by former Iranian parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nateq Nuri. Those findings were endorsed by U. U. April 14. Bahrain’s leadership—and other countries in the region—have reacted strongly against statements by Iranian editorialists and advisers to Iranian leaders appearing to reassert Iran’s claim. 2011.stripes. evidence of direct Iranian interference in Bahrain has been limited. IFLB). 2011. told journalists that Tehran is debating how much aid.N. however. Bahrain perceives Iran as willing and able to support Shiite groups against Bahrain’s Sunni-dominated government. Bahrain’s fears about Iran had been infused by lingering suspicions. Says Iran Helps Crackdown in Syria. along with the Bahraini Crown Prince’s November 3. On March 21. perhaps by urging the hardliners among Bahrain’s Shiites not to compromise.137532 Adam Entous and Matthew Rosenberg. the Bahraini government sent a letter to U. The issue of alleged Iranian involvement in the 2011 unrest has risen to the surface of the debate in Bahrain and the United States.S. “U. officials. to provide to Bahrain’s opposition. Iranian warships began an effort to transport 150 pro-Bahrain opposition Iranian Shiites to Bahrain. 2011. and U.S.N. Bahrain had considered the issue closed. In recent years. after over a century of Persian contestation of Bahraini sovereignty. although in recent years. comment that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon (Iran claims it is developing only civilian nuclear power). which was ratified by Iran’s parliament.S. sometimes fed by Iranian actions.Bahrain: Reform. 2007. King Hamad indirectly accused Iran of involvement in the unrest by saying a “foreign plot” had been foiled by the GCC assistance and on April 17. This event came two days after Iran’s Foreign Minister praised a speech by King Hamad that appeared intended to lower tensions with Iran by “offering friendship” to Tehran. Well before the 2011 unrest. and then again in June 1996—a time when Iran was actively seeking to export its Islamic revolution— Bahrain publicly accused Iran of trying to organize a coup by pro-Iranian Bahraini Shiites (the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain. Security. and in the current crisis. Iranian leaders have criticized the Bahraini crackdown. Security Council Resolution 278. that Iran never accepted the results of the 1970 U. 2007. In December 1981.

Some energy firms in the Gulf. 111195)—provides for sanctions against foreign firms that sell more than $1 million worth of gasoline to Iran.N. In the joint news conference with Secretary Clinton on December 3. that is something that we can never accept. there have been expectations that U. December 3. and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA. Bahrain’s leaders have sometimes tried to silence voices in Bahrain that publicly attack Iran. Congressional Research Service 19 .S. Bahrain-Iran Gas Development Deal and Other Economic Ties Another way in which Bahrain stays engaged with Iran is through discussions of major energy projects with Iran and by conducting normal trade and banking ties with it. but Bahrain is not known to have publicly disavowed further gasoline sales to Iran.2 billion cubic feet per day (for 25 years) of Iranian gas via an undersea pipeline to be built. Policy sovereignty and independence.S. Security Council Resolution bars such sales. P. Morocco broke relations with Iran as a response. The 2007 Ahmadinejad visit resulted in a preliminary agreement for Bahrain to buy 1. Bahrain regularly supports the invitation of high-ranking Iranian officials to the annual International Institute for Security Studies (IISS) conference in Bahrain called the “Manama Dialogue. Transcript of Remarks by Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Al Khalifa. referenced earlier. officials might meet with Iranian officials at the margins of the conference.”21 At the same time. but a U. or other criticism of Iran. the foreign minister restated Bahrain’s support for Iran’s right to nuclear power for peaceful uses. including some from the Gulf. Accountability. 2009. and U.S. The deal would have involved a $4 billion investment by Bahrain to develop Phases 15 and 16 of Iran’s South Pars gas field. to developing it into a cycle for weapon grade.” held every December. There are no indications that Iran-Bahrain commerce has been affected by the 2011 unrest. Security Council requirements to verifiably demonstrate that its nuclear program is not a cover for a nuclear weapons program. led to the suspension of this deal. Still. The March 2009 comments of Nateq Nuri. particularly if they sense that the conference will feature U. 2010.S. Iranian officials have sometimes been known to cancel their travel to the meeting on short notice. At times. July – September 2010.S. However. Bahrain has supported the U. Bahrain’s Minister of Oil and Gas Abd al-Husayn Mirza said talks on the deal would “resume soon. In connection with its own concerns about Iran. Security. 22 CRS conversations with foreign diplomats. law signed on July 1.L. reportedly have become reticent to continue supplying gasoline to Iran because of the U. 2010. position that Iran is not fully cooperating with U. including in Kuwait. it stated forthright that “when it comes to taking that [nuclear] power.” although the 2011 unrest and withdraw of mutual ambassadors clouded the prospects for the deal. and we can never live with in this region. Bahraini officials said in June 2011 that the prospective deal has not been cancelled outright.22 21 Department of State. discussed above.N.S.Bahrain: Reform. On October 21. No U. so as not to provide Iran a pretext to pressure Bahrain. action. which presumably would be the source of the gas that Bahrain would import. although such meetings have not taken place in practice. 2010—the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions. An example is the one-day suspension in 2009 of the newspaper Akhbar al Khaleej (Gulf News) for running an editorial by a Bahrain Shura Council member who criticized Iranian leaders. Energy market observers say that Bahrain energy firms are still supplying gasoline to Iran. but some Arab governments sharply criticized the Nateq Nuri comments.

2011. March 23. is a GCC monarchy. Qatar expressed disappointment over the ruling but said it accepted it as binding. Bahrain has not been as significant a mediator or broker as have its larger neighbors in the Gulf or broader Middle East. like Bahrain. at least symbolically joined the GCC military deployments to Bahrain on the side of the government.S. when the ruling families of both countries controlled parts of the Arabian peninsula. where some members of the Al Khalifa family were long buried. 2001. and took some Bahrainis prisoner. as noted. That reef was awarded to Qatar in the ICJ ruling. Qatar. Dossier: The Bahrain-Qatar Border Dispute: The World Court Decision.S. However. The resolution of the dispute has partly removed these tensions as an issue for U.-based bank assets. as evidenced by its turn to Saudi Arabia to help it deal with the 2011 unrest. Other Foreign Policy Issues Bahrain has close relations with the other GCC states. Kuwait’s Prime Minister visited Bahrain on July 5. as Bahrain does). Kuwaiti Shiites in Kuwait’s parliament have argued against Kuwait’s siding firmly with the Al Khalifa regime. and several have substantial Shiite minorities (although not majorities. The ICJ ruled in favor of Qatar on some of the issues. but the central dispute—over the Hawar Islands—was decided in favor of Bahrain. prevent U. Because of historic property and other ties between their two royal families Kuwait was briefly touted as a potential mediator in the Bahraini political crisis. The Bank remains in operation.S. The territorial disputes were referred to the ICJ by Qatar in 1991 after clashes in 1986 in which Qatar landed military personnel on a man-made reef (Fasht al-Dibal) that was in dispute. Bahrain has not taken a leading role in recent See The Estimate. Saudi Arabia’s Shiites (about 10% of the population) are located mostly in the eastern provinces. policymakers. 2001. Qatar-Bahrain relations have improved since an International Court of Justice ruled on March 16. The sanctions. and U. 23 Congressional Research Service 20 . However.Bahrain: Reform. however. This linkage partly explains Saudi concerns about the unrest shaking the royal family in Bahrain. which is why the BahrainQatar territorial dispute was closely watched by U. Part 1 and Part 2.S. Virtually all the GCC states have political structures similar to that of Bahrain. Janan and Hadd Janan. Department of Justice sanctioned Future Bank. across a causeway constructed in 1986 that connects the two countries. and April 6. 2001. and the two have since muted mutual criticism and cooperated on major regional issues. the ICJ ruled against Bahrain’s claim to the town of Zubara on the Qatari mainland. under Executive Order 13382 (anti-proliferation). headquartered in Bahrain. Security. and in favor of Bahrain on others. Gulf policy. Policy In March 2008. were ruled not part of the Hawar Islands group and were awarded to Qatar.S. their relations have been sometimes acrimonious because of territorial disputes with roots in the 18th century. because it is controlled and partially owned by Iran’s Bank Melli. the U. the Kuwaiti government has.S. on the disputes. Saudi mediation in the 1986-1991 period proved fruitless. in particular Saudi Arabia. Two smaller islands. Qatar Territorial Disputes23 The United States cooperates closely with both Qatar and Bahrain. Arab-Israeli Issues On the Arab-Israeli dispute. citizens from participating in transactions with Future Bank and require the freezing of any U.

joint press conference with the foreign minister. for example. summit on Middle East peace in Annapolis. Bahrain did not experience the construction and real estate “bubble” to the degree that this occurred in. 2007. for example. all GCC states ceased enforcing secondary and tertiary boycotts of Israel while retaining the ban on direct trade (primary boycott). which is controlled by Hamas. Islamist hard-liners in Bahrain have accused the government of trying to “normalize” relations with Israel. In June 2010. 2009.Bahrain: Reform. Without the ample oil or gas resources of its neighbors. Bahrain did not follow Oman and Qatar in exchanging trade offices with Israel. funds-generating Formula One auto race in October 2011. In late October 2009. a bond rating agency. and Saudi Arabia. Bahrain has little cushion to deal with economic downturns.S. 2009. the Arab-Israeli dispute always has the potential to become a political issue within Bahrain. Bahrain has diversified its economy by emphasizing banking and 24 “Arabs Need to Talk to the Israelis. and the Arab states. the elected COR passed a bill making it a crime (punishable by up to five years in jail) for Bahrainis to travel to Israel or hold talks with Israelis.3 trillion cubic feet of gas. estimated respectively at 210 million barrels of oil and 5. downgraded the quality of Bahrain’s bonds. Bahrain participated in the 1990-1996 multilateral Arab-Israeli talks. July 16. on October 1. Israel. In the previously cited December 3. Bahrain dropped the primary boycott and closed boycott-related offices in Bahrain. and it hosted a session on the environment (October 1994). the foreign minister called for direct talks with Israel. Bahrain was affected by the international financial crisis of 2008-2009.N. meetings in September 2007. thereby costing the government more to borrow funds. 2010. In September 1994. Some economic statistics are presented in Table 2. Still.” Washington Post op-ed. Security. Earlier. Bahrain has been hoping the unrest would not force cancellation of a high profile. Turkey. The bill. Sunni and Shiite Islamists in Bahrain held a demonstration to denounced the Israeli seizure of a ship in a flotilla intended to run the Israeli blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. That proposal has not been implemented to date. the foreign minister’s meeting with Israeli officials at U. Congressional Research Service 21 . Crown Prince Salman authored an op-ed calling on the Arab states to do more to communicate directly with the Israeli people on their ideas for peaceful resolution of the dispute. Economic Issues Like the other Gulf states. which has not proceeded to become law (concurrence by the upper house. in May 2011 Moody’s. Bahrain is not inactive on the issue: On July 16. and acceptance by the King). but perhaps to a lesser extent than the wealthier states of Kuwait. It is also apparently being affected by the 2011 unrest. and by proposing (in October 2008) a “regional organization” that would group Iran. 2009. On the other hand. It has the lowest oil and gas reserves of the Gulf monarchy states. but race organizers are said to be considering whether to pull the event from Bahrain.S. citing the government’s sending a delegate to the November 27. Secretary of State Clinton expressed appreciation for Bahrain’s support of Palestinian Authority leaders who are trying to build viable institutions and rule of law in the Palestinian territories. and U. Policy efforts to reconcile Hamas and Fatah to rebuild Palestinian unity. The visit was to obtain the release of five Bahrainis taken prisoner by Israel when it seized a ship bound with goods for Gaza. UAE.-Bahrain FTA. UAE. apparently was a reaction to a visit by Bahraini officials to Israel in July 2009. 24 Following on that idea. In conjunction with the U.

of which 503. and imported $420 million in goods from that country.S. 109-169). At current rates of production (35.25 billion worth of goods to Bahrain. total bilateral trade was about $780 million. the United States exported $1. including other Arab and Pakistani. suggesting that trade has expanded significantly following the FTA. import from it is aluminum.S. The World Factbook. plus about 1. On the other hand.000. $5. but Saudi Arabia shares equally with Bahrain the 300.000 barrels per day produced from the offshore Abu Safa field. the major U. 2006 (P.000 barrels per day of crude oil).L. and U.5% of GDP). Congressional Research Service 22 . appreciation. Some personnel are expatriates. the United States and Bahrain signed an FTA on September 14. In 2010. 9% Christian. Some Basic Facts About Bahrain Population Religions GDP (purchasing power parity) Budget External Debt Inflation Rate GDP Real Growth Rate Size of Bahrain Defense Forces (BDF) About 740. 10% other $28 billion (2009) $5.81 billion revenues. However.000 are citizens 81% Muslim. Aluminum and other manufacturing sectors in Bahrain account for the existence in Bahrain of a vibrant middle and working class among its citizens.S.9% in 2009. Policy financial services (about 25. However.000. To encourage reform and signal U. Table 2.Bahrain: Reform.200 National Guard. these classes are largely composed of Shiites. many Shiites own businesses and have done well economically. the AFL-CIO has urged the United States to void the FTA on the grounds that Bahrain is preventing free association of workers and abridging their rights. and this has made many Shiites envious of the “ownership class” of Sunni Muslims. Security. The United States buys virtually no oil from Bahrain. In 2005. Source: CIA. 2004.86 billion expenditures (2009) $11 billion (2009) 3% (2009) 2. Bahrain’s onshore oil reserves will be exhausted in 15 years. down from over 6% in 2008 About 13. Implementing legislation was signed January 11. in light of the unrest.

0 0. used mainly to enhance BDF military professionalism and promote U. 110-329).661 .651 2.998 0.2 FY2010 19. Congressional Research Service 23 .6 0.S.0 .616 .700 .L. (Named for a section of the FY2006 Defense Authorization Act.3 FY09 8.649 1.0 .54 FY08 3.593 0.L. its coastal surveillance and patrol capabilities.0 .L.500 Notes: IMET = International Military Education and Training Funds. 111117). 111-8). U.L.10 FY2011 request 19.500 16.670 1.600 FY05 18.S. FY2009 funds included funding from FY2008 supplemental (P. P.744 4. De-Mining and Related Programs. Policy Table 3.448 FY04 24. Continuing Appropriations for FY2011. 110252) as well as regular appropriation (P. FY2010 funds are from Consolidated Appropriation (P.5 FY2012 request 25. 109-163. values. and the Consolidated appropriation (P.761 5.3 FY07 14.) FY2008 funds derived from FY2008 supplemental (P. and to develop its counter terrorism assessment capabilities.L.776 24. Security.489 FY06 15.700 1. used to sustain Bahrain’s counterterrorism capabilities and interdict terrorists.L. FY2011 funds are appropriated by P.968 0.L. Assistance to Bahrain ($ in millions) FY03 FMF IMET NADR “Section 1206” 90. 112-10. NADR = Non-Proliferation.847 0.Bahrain: Reform. Anti-Terrorism. and U.S.622 0.5 . Section 1206 are DOD funds used to train and equip Bahrain’s special forces. 110-252).

loc.cia. Policy Figure 1.Bahrain: 7-7612 Congressional Research Service 24 and U. Author Contact Information Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs kkatzman@crs. Security. Bahrain Source: https://www.