The 37-page report raises questions about how the United States can leverage its financial aid to force change in the Middle East. Late last year, two Democrats — Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts — opposed the U.S. sale of spare parts and equipment to Bahrain, arguing that the ruling Sunni monarchy was violating human rights and using excessive force to crack down on protests. The State Department went ahead earlier this year with the sale of some military equipment, saying it was for Bahrain's external defense and support for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which is based in the country.
Bahrain stands as a strategic ally to counter Iran.
The report said the Unites States "should not be quick to rescind security assurances or assistance in response to human rights abuses but should evaluate each case on its own merits. U.S. government officials should use these tools to advance human rights through careful diplomacy ... The United States should make clear that states must not use arms procured from the United States against their own people engaged in peaceful assembly or exploit the U.S. security umbrella as protection for belligerent action against their neighbors."
The report also recommended that the United States promote the development of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League while strengthening bilateral links to the six countries; seek opportunities for burden-sharing on operations such as missile defense, combat air patrol and maritime security; and push for the integration of Iraq into the Arab fold.
The report emphasized that the region is critical as a counterbalance to Iran, whose conventional military includes 350,000 ground forces, 1,800 tanks and more than 300 fighter aircraft. It also has ballistic missiles with the range to target regional allies, including Israel.