Rubio wants to crack down on military sales to Bahrain

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right GOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization MORE (R-Fla.) is moving to crack down on the flow of U.S. military arms to Bahrain in the wake of the State Department's lifting of restrictions earlier this year.  

Rubio, who is running for president, has introduced legislation with Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenWant a clean energy future? Look to the tax code Democrats brace for toughest stretch yet with Biden agenda Lawmakers lay out arguments for boosting clean energy through infrastructure MORE (D-Ore.) that would ban the sale or transfer of certain military weapons unless the country's government improves its human rights record. 
Rubio said that the U.S. government "should not be providing weapons which could be used to suppress peaceful dissent until the government adopts meaningful political reforms." 

“The Bahraini government’s ongoing repression of its citizens is unacceptable," he added. “The State Department has made a grave error in looking the other way on human rights in Bahrain, and Congress should reverse this decision.”

John Kirby, a spokesman for the State Department, said earlier this year that the U.S. government was lifting the ban on arms sales even though "we do not think that the human rights situation in Bahrain is adequate." 

"We believe it is important to recognize that the government of Bahrain has made some meaningful progress on human rights reforms and reconciliation," he added. 

But Wyden called the State Department's decision "deeply troubling." 

The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, established to study a crackdown on peaceful protestors, released 26 recommendations for how Bahrain could improve its handling of human rights, with the government in capital city Manama setting up a website to highlight its work on the issue.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) is expected to introduce a similar bill in the House later this year.