HAMAD BIN ISA AL-KHALIFA
Record: Bahrain's Sunni monarchy launched a massive crackdown on mainly Shiite protesters during the Arab Spring with the help of troops from its Sunni allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 30 people died in protest-related violence and hundreds more were wounded. While Bahrain lifted its state of emergency in June, the rights group explained in July, "hundreds of those arrested remain in detention and scores have been put on trial in military court."
U.S. Interest: The U.S. Navy has its Fifth Fleet stationed in Bahrain and the Gulf island kingdom is backed by America's staunch ally Saudi Arabia, which serves as a regional counterweight to Shiite-led Iran.
U.S. Support: Shortly before the Arab Spring, Hillary Clinton praised Bahrain for embarking upon a "democratic path." Obama has since called on Bahrain's rulers to implement reforms, but he's held back from speaking out as forcefully against the crackdown as he did with countries like Libya and Syria. The Obama administration is currently delaying a $53 million arms sale to Bahrain until an "independent" Bahraini panel issues a report on alleged human rights abuses during the uprising. Bahrain's foreign minister sat down with Foreign Policy yesterday to discuss the standoff.
Above, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates visits Khalifa in Bahrain in December 2008.
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