State Department Policy
Issued on March 29th, 2017

Policy Summary

On March 29th, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson decided to proceed with a sale of F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain without human rights stipulations. The deal, which was proctored by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, originally included conditions to release political opponents from prison and to suspend harsh crackdowns of pro-democracy advocates in the country. The United States regularly requires its allies to meet certain political or economic guidelines in order to receive aid. Bahrain is a critical ally of the United States with a strategic position in the Middle East, and the nation hosts the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet. LEARN MORE


Removing human rights requirements for Bahrain is dangerous and counterproductive. Because the State Department no longer holds briefings, many analysts and experts can only speculate on the impacts of this deal. This new policy endorses political crackdown and discredits our reputation abroad. There are very few indications that this will increase security in the Middle East, and there are some implications of possible bias from Tillerson’s former company or connections to Lockheed-Martin. Finally, as the State Department begins to relax on some restrictions, we can only expect that similar policy will be taken in Yemen or Saudi Arabia, two other nations with abysmal human rights records. LEARN MORE 

Engagement Resources

  • Human Rights Watch — An organization which works to report on human rights violations and protect individual citizens across the globe.
  • Reprieve — A group of lawyers and investigators who defend the legal rights of many people suffering human rights’ abuses.
  • Amnesty International — Amnesty International conducts international research, advocates on behalf of the oppressed, and carries out campaigns to protect the vulnerable from human rights’ infringements.

This Brief was compiled by Jacob Malinowski. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief please contact



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