U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration informed Congress Wednesday that it plans to move forward with a sale of fighter jets to Bahrain that had been held up last year because of human rights concerns.
The deal would allow Bahrain to buy 19 F-16 jets from Lockheed Martin for more than $4 billion.
Wednesday’s notification sets off a review process during which lawmakers can ask for more information or raise any concerns. Trump’s Republican Party controls both houses of Congress.
Former President Barack Obama’s administration had stopped the sale, saying Bahrain first needed to address rights concerns such as crackdowns on opposition groups.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker said Wednesday that such conditions were “unprecedented and counterproductive,” as he praised the decision to move forward with the sale.
“There are more effective ways to seek changes in partner policies than publicly conditioning weapons transfers in this manner,” Corker said in a statement.
Rights group Amnesty International objects to the sale, citing a number of concerns about Bahrain’s actions, including its participation in the Saudi-led coalition conducting airstrikes in the conflict in Yemen. The group also cited Trump’s executive order suspending refugee admissions to the U.S.
“It is particularly galling to arm these governments while simultaneously barring those fleeing violence entrance to the U.S.,” said Sunjeev Bery, Amnesty International USA’s Middle East Advocacy Director. “These deals place the U.S. at risk of being complicit in war crimes, and discourage other countries, like Saudi Arabia, from addressing their own human rights records.”