The US on Wednesday (local time) signed an agreement with Bahrain to enhance defence and economic ties, a show of support for the Gulf monarchy that a decade ago faced an arms embargo.
Bahrain — which has tense relations with nearby Iran — is already home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, but the agreement will solidify the relationship both symbolically and by boosting cooperation, including through a commitment to share intelligence.
The agreement will allow “us to even better determine or respond to threats as they arise”, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said before a signing ceremony with Bahrain’s Crown Prince, Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa.
“The heart of the agreement is a shared goal — working together to build a region that is more secure, more prosperous and that’s more connected to the world,” Blinken said.
Dubbed the Comprehensive Security Integration and Prosperity Agreement, the deal will also promote scientific exchanges, investment opportunities and work on renewable energy.
In what Blinken billed as a first-of-a-kind measure, the agreement will commit the two countries to work together on “trusted technologies” — an allusion to avoiding providers, often from China, seen by the US as potentially unsafe.
The agreement will focus “not only on security and defence, which is essential, but also on the economy, on people and on technology, which will be the foundation for a new global architecture”, Prince Khalifa said.
Bahrain came under criticism in 2011 when, backed by fellow Sunni Kingdom Saudi Arabia, it crushed an uprising led by the Shiite community that demanded a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.
Then US President Barack Obama imposed an arms embargo for four years. Bahrain returned to US’s good graces under former president Donald Trump, who hailed Bahrain’s recognition of Israel.
Blinken said the US would raise with the kingdom the issue of human rights with a goal of “ensuring that fundamental freedoms are protected, which contributes to Bahrain’s progress”.
The government and activists on Tuesday reported an end to a prison hunger strike that involved at least 800 inmates and lasted 36 days, following an offer to improve conditions.