On 10 October 2018, United States Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a joint resolution (S.J.Res.65) to the United States Senate disapproving of arms sales to Bahrain. The resolution was read twice, then referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The measure comes shortly after Senator Paul’s push for a US response to the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, for which he suggested a block on future arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Senator Paul has now raised the stakes and heightened pressure, calling on Congress to formally disapprove of arms sales to Saudi Arabia’s neighbor, Bahrain.

The legislative measure comes just weeks after the United States Department of State decided to approve  the possible Foreign Military Sale of Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System Unitary Rocket Pods and Army Tactical Missiles System (ATACMS) Unitary to Bahrain, amounting to $300 million in sales. On 28 September, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the potential sale, which included not only arms, but also publications, personnel training and training equipment, software development, US government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services, and other elements of logistical and programmatic support. The sale was initially proposed as a means to protect US national security and foreign policy interests in the region and to strengthen Bahrain’s homeland defense.

Senator Paul’s joint resolution aims to target this proposed sale. The resolution states that an offer letter to the Kingdom of Bahrain concerning the proposed sale and export of goods and services provided under Transmittal No. 18–12 is prohibited.  This includes 120 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) M31 Unitary Rocket Pods, 110 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) M57 T2k Unitary missiles, and the aforementioned additional support from the United States government. Prior to the resolution, the proposed sale was to be contracted by Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control in Grand Prairie, TX.

S.J.Res.65 signals an important step in the United States government’s approach to its relationship with Bahrain. Even if it does come as part of a larger objective to penalize Saudi Arabia for its actions against Khashoggi, the resolution may send an important message to Bahrain that the United States government is capable of taking action against severe rights abuses.

Laura Neumayer is an Advocacy Fellow with ADHRB.