US-Bahrain Secretly Extend Defense Agreement

The Financial Times06.09.2011 Bahrain
US-Bahrain Secretly Extend Defense Agreement

US-Bahrain Secretly Extend Defense Agreement

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The US and Bahrain secretly extended their defense co-operation agreement, which governs the home port of the Navy's Fifth Fleet, by 5 years, until 2016.


The move means Washington can avoid having to renegotiate the deal, which was set to expire next month.

The 10-year defense agreement, inked in 1991 following the first Gulf war, was renewed in October 2001 for 10 years. It was supposed to be up for renewal next month but the Financial Times has learnt that the Bush administration secretly extended the agreement for another 5 years in 2002, pushing it out until 2016.

The Pentagon said the agreement was classified and declined to confirm any details.

Former officials and analysts expressed surprise both that the agreement had been extended by 5 years when it still had 9 years to run, and that the extension was secret, given that the fact and duration of other defense pacts is public, even if the substance is not.

Vice Admiral Charles Moore, who was Head of the Fifth Fleet and the Navy's Central Command in Bahrain until 2002, said the extension was "strange".

"After we got into 9/11, there was a lot of talk about the long war - there was probably a set of actions to extend our presence at the foreign bases that we had," he said. "It was probably one of these bureaucratic things - extend the [defense agreements] for as long as you can get them."

Because it is not a full defense treaty, the agreement did not require approval from Congress, and is therefore not on the public record.

Although 9/11 happened in between the renewal and the extension, officials said that the agreement was extended at the request of the Bahrainis, not the American side.

"If the initiative was coming from the Bahrainis, it would probably have to do with a resurgent Iran," said Michael Rubin, a military specialist at the American Enterprise Institute and a former defense department adviser, adding that Manama would not have wanted Tehran to know about the new agreement.

"We're in a situation where the Bahrain government and the US are becoming ever more reliant on each other," he said.

The agreement gives the US military bases in Bahrain and allows it to preposition military equipment, as well as monitor oil shipping lanes and keep an eye on Iran across the water.

The US's ties with Bahrain have strengthened significantly since 9/11. In 2002, it declared Bahrain a "major non-NATO ally," a designation that opened the gates for sales of more sophisticated arms to the state, giving it priority access to military surplus ranging from rations to ships and allowing Bahraini companies to bid for some Pentagon contracts.

"Bahrain is a long-standing partner and ally, and we are publicly and privately committed to that partnership," said a senior US official. "We have a substantial interest in maintaining that relationship, particularly in light of the regional threats and challenges."


Source: The Financial Times



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