US defense sales to Bahrain rose before crackdown

By the Associated Press | June 11, 2011 | 3:44 AM EDT

Bahraini Shiite Muslims chant slogans to free prisoners during a sermon Friday, June 10, 2011, in Diraz, Bahrain, when Sheik Issa Qassem, Bahrain's top Shiite cleric, said Bahrain should free political prisoners and that the nation's reputation is being damaged by prosecuting doctors, teachers, youths, women, clerics and other professionals arrested during the crackdown on anti-government protesters. Many Shiite Muslim clerics, including Sheik Ali Salman, leader of the largest opposition party, attended midday prayers in Diraz, an unusual move to show their solidarity with Qassem. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new State Department report shows the U.S. approved $200 million in military sales from American defense firms to Bahrain in 2010, months before the autocratic regime there was rocked by instability and a harsh crackdown on protesters.

The approved sales to Bahrain in the 2010 fiscal year included aircraft, military electronics and $760,000 in rifles, shotguns and assault weapons. The tumult spurred by popular uprisings has since prompted the Obama administration to review its defense trade and freeze some transactions to the Mideast and North Africa.

The State Department report shows that U.S. military sales surged by $112 million to Bahrain between the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years. U.S.-licensed defense exports around the world have remained mostly steady over that period.