The Trump administration has made a decision to approve a multibillion-dollar sale of F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain without the human rights conditions placed on the sale by the Obama administration.
The United States has lifted all human rights conditions linked to the sale of arms and F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain - and might soon resume selling smart bombs to Saudi Arabia.
Congressional Republicans, including Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, are likely to welcome the State Department's approach. That's due to separating the human rights issues from the transfer of planes, it says.
The decision on Bahrain highlights the Trump administration's outreach to traditional Gulf Arab allies, which the White House sees as a bulwark against Iranian expansion and a partner in the fight against terrorism.
Following the State Department's announcement on the Bahrain sale on Wednesday, the US Senate foreign relations committee has 30 days to review the approval and raise any concerns with the sale. Government forces, with help from USA allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, crushed the 2011 uprising by Shiites and others who sought more political power.
Arms manufacturers - such as Lockheed Martin - have lobbied in favour of the lifting of the conditions on the sale, while human rights advocacy groups wanted them to be kept.
Bahrain also accuses Iran of fomenting unrest among its majority Shiite population.
The US will have to consider what going forward with this sale means for sales of weapons to other countries that have track records of habitual human rights abuses. "Congress should use its authority to correct course and, unless the conditions remain, block the sale", said Sarah Margon, Washington Director at Human Rights First.
According to Human Rights Watch, Bahrain routinely tortures prisoners, silences political opponents via legislation and "arbitrarily strips rights activists and political dissidents of their citizenship", the group said in its 2016 report on Bahrain.
Meanwhile, a series of attacks, including a January prison break, have targeted the island. In prepared remarks before a hearing Wednesday of the U.S. House's Armed Services Committee, the head of the U.S. military's Central Command acknowledged the delay in the fighter jet sale to Bahrain "continues to strain our relationship".