Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. (Hasan Jamali/Associated Press)

The Oct. 27 editorial “ ‘Is this the kind of ally America wants?’ ” highlighted the Obama administration’s myopic policy on Bahrain. The smallest country in the Middle East has manipulated its relationship with Washington for years, continuing to receive political support and military assistance from the United States while rejecting meaningful reform. The State Department has too often appeared paralyzed in the face of the regime’s attacks on moderate opposition and human rights activists, unwilling or unable to effectively respond. This inaction has only encouraged further violations, with all political dissent now effectively strangled.

Washington could change this damaging dynamic with the Sunni monarchy by denying visas to officials credibly linked to human rights violations and chaining further military support to Bahrain to the recruitment of security personnel from the majority-Shiite population beyond what is now an almost exclusively Sunni base.

The court verdict for human rights defender Nabeel Rajab will be a significant indicator of how far the repression is likely to go. The United States cannot afford an increasingly erratic Bahrain in an already unstable region and should act decisively before the kingdom’s political crisis spirals out of control.

Brian Dooley, Silver Spring

The writer is director of
Human Rights Defenders at Human Rights First.