Asked yesterday whether he was embarrassed that British weapons had been sold to the Bahrain regime, which this week violently suppressed a peaceful protest, the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, sought safety in evasion, saying: "We have no evidence they have used that equipment."Ok, not so shocking a story but the immediacy of the Bahraini regime's viciousness to its street dissidents has led to an embargo on the export of arms to Bahrain from the UK:
This sums up perfectly the moral blindness of Britain's official attitude towards arms exports. Early on Thursday, Bahraini security forces fired on unarmed protesters in the capital, Manama. The ferocious assault – with tear gas, rubber bullets and shotgun pellets – killed four people and injured hundreds.
It is true we have no evidence that the arms they used in this particular operation were provided by Britain. But given that British firms were granted licences last year to export a plethora of crowd-control weapons to the Gulf state, that is a reasonable assumption.
The Foreign Office revoked 24 licences used by individual firms to export to Bahrain, as well as a further 20 open permits. A further eight licences for arms exports to Libya have also been stopped. The barred licences are understood to be linked to crowd-control measures. Other licences in the region are also under review.So if the embargo goes global, who will fill the gap? My bet is on Israel.
UPDATE: (two minutes later) lest I be called naive, I should point out that Israel could well have been arming the Bahrain regime for years.