Bahrain is an island country in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Saudi Arabia with a population of 753,000 and capital city of Manama. Headed by the al-Khalifah family since 1783, the country was a British protectorate between 1861 and 1971. The king is the supreme authority. 
The country is a constitutional monarchy since the 2002 election of a 40-member parliament. "The country has enjoyed increasing freedom of expression, and monitors say the human rights situation has improved. However, opposition groups and campaigners continue to press for political reforms, including greater powers for the elected assembly", reports the BBC.
The BBC says of the country's media:
- Bahrain is keen to promote itself as a regional media hub; the London-based pan-Arab satellite broadcaster MBC chose it as the base for its MBC-2 channel. Most radio and TV stations are state-run. The country's first private radio station - Sawt al-Ghad - launched in 2005, but the authorities shut it down in 2006, alleging irregularities.
Weber Shandwick, the world's largest public relations company, has operations in Bahrain. Its website states, "Weber Shandwick Public Relations delivers reputation management and communications strategies for a host of clients – both local and international. In addition to medial relations, the company provides support in corporate communications, crisis management, public affairs, consumer public relations, investor relations, and community relations." 
U.S. military bases in Bahrain
The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet has its headquarters in the port of Manama, Bahrain, the headquarters of CENTCOM's navy and marine corps leaders. The downtown area of Manama, the capital city, devotes 79 acres of land to the U.S. Naval Support Activity. Elsewhere in Bahrain is the Sheik Isa Air Base. 
The U.S. began its military relationship with the country in 1949 when it stationed three naval warships there. The Federation of American Scientists writes, "Since then, Bahrain has allowed an increased U.S. military presence and facilitated U.S. access to the Middle East in times of crisis, such as the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and Operation Desert Storm. In 1995, Bahrain became the headquarters for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
"The U.S. is the dominant arms supplier to Bahrain; according to the U.S. State Department, over 95% of Bahrain's arms imports from 1995-97 came from the United States.
"The 2000 State Department Country Report on Human Rights Practices describes Bahrain as a "hereditary emirate with few democratic institutions and no political parties," and warns that Bahraini "security forces committed serious human rights abuses." Although national law prohibits torture, the U.S. State Department stated there are "credible reports" that incarcerated prisoners have been "beaten, both on the soles of their feet and about the face and head, burned with cigarettes, deprived of sleep for long periods of time, and in some cases subjected to electrical shocks." Public demonstrations are rarely permitted, and individuals suspected of opposing the government have been detained for long periods without a trial.
"Yet the United States has apparently not used its influence emphatically to advocate reform in Bahrain, undermining the efforts of allies that have pressed for changes. According to HRW's [Human Rights Watch] 2000 report, the U.S. government, “by failing to raise specific abuses with the government, undermined the demarches the British government made about those cases in 1998.” The United States has also delivered or authorized delivery during FY1996-99 of $693,000 worth of small arms, weapons which could easily have found their way into the hands of abusive security forces. Transfers to Bahrain include cartridges, ammunition raw materials and manufacturing equipment, pistols and revolvers, subcaliber weapons, non-military rifles, and shotguns." 
In January 2008, George W. Bush visited Bahrain and the 5th Fleet. The press report from the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command read, "President Bush was greeted by applauding Sailors at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain, home of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT)/5th Fleet headquarters Jan. 13, marking the first visit to the island by a U.S. president. Bush enjoyed breakfast with a representative group of the 25,000 Sailors serving in Bahrain and the 5th Fleet area of operations (AOO). Afterward, he spoke to the troops and took time to greet each individual.
"NAVCENT/5th Fleet's AOO [Area Of Operations] encompasses about 7.5 million square miles and includes the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean. This expanse, comprised of 27 countries, includes three critical chokepoints at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen." 
Joseph Gerson, the Director of Programs for the American Friends Service Committee, writes, "U.S. bases serve interventionist aircraft carriers, destroyers, nuclear armed submarines and other U.S. warships. This includes bases in Spain, Italy, Israel, Bahrain, Qatar, Japan, and "access" agreements in Israel, the Philippines, Singapore, and other countries.
"Bases can function as jumping off points for U.S. foreign military interventions. With NATO's new "out of area operations" doctrine, the U.S. has reinforced its ability to use bases across Europe for launching attacks and wars against North African, Middle East and Central Asian nations. Bases in Okinawa, elsewhere in Japan were essential to the U.S. wars in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf. This is also a function of the U.S. bases in Kuwait, Bahrain, Ecuador, and Honduras.
"Building on both the inherited infrastructure and new bases and installations, U.S. forward deployed forces are to be organized along a three-tiered integrated structure: 1) major hub bases like those in Britain, Italy, Japan, Okinawa, Guam; Qatar and Bahrain 2) smaller centers or "Forward Operating bases" like those in Spain, South Korea, Diego Garcia, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Australia; and 3) "Lily pads", heavily stocked with pre-positioned weapons and munitions, will serve as jumping off points in countries ranging from Lithuania to Tajikistan, and Djibouti to the Andean nations in South America. And, to increase flexibility and augment its bare bones "lily pads," the Navy is exploring the development of essentially unmanned and strategically located floating platforms where munitions can be pre-positioned, and "sea basing" creating "a fleet of large maritime ships capable of launching and sustaining a combat force - either Army or Marine - thousands of miles from shore." 
- Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifah, King
- Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifah, Crown prince, commander-in-chief of Bahrain Defence Force (BDF)
Related SourceWatch articles
- Bahrain Centre for Human Rights
- U.S. military bases overseas
- Ronald E. Neumann - former US Ambassador
- Country profile: Bahrain, BBC, accessed March 2008.
- Bahrain, Weber Shandwick, accessed March 2008.
- David Isenberg, "The ever-growing US military footprint", Asia Times, June 10, 2003.
- Bahrain, Federation of American Scientists, March 2002.
- "President Bush Visits Sailors in Bahrain", Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, January 13, 2008.
- Joseph Gerson, "U.S. Foreign Military Bases & Military Colonialism", American Friends Service Committee, accessed March 2008.
- Robin Lustig, "Bahrain offers dram of democracy", BBC, September 21, 2005.