"The uprising against Bahrain's Al Khalifa royal family that began in Bahrain on February 14, 2011, amidst other regional uprisings, has not come close to changing Bahrain's regime. However, the mostly Shiite opposition shows no signs of ending its campaign to achieve its stated goal of establishing a constitutional monarchy or, at the very least, winning greatly increased political influence and rights. The crisis has demonstrated that the grievances of the Shiite majority over the distribution of power and economic opportunities were not satisfied by the modest reform efforts instituted during 1999-2010. The government has held dialogue with the opposition to try to address its grievances. A 'national dialogue' held in July 2011 reached consensus on a few modest political reforms. Hopes for resolution were elevated further by a pivotal report by a government-appointed 'Independent Commission of Inquiry' (BICI), released November 23, 2011, which was critical of the government's actions against the unrest. The government asserts it implemented most of the 26 BICI recommendations, but outside human rights groups assessed that overall implementation has been modest. After more than one year of impasse, both sides resumed a dialogue in February 2013, but it has made little concrete progress, by all accounts. […] The United States signed a formal defense pact with Bahrain in 1991 and has designated it a 'major non-NATO ally.' The designation qualifies Bahrain for sales of sophisticated U.S. weapons systems but, partly to address criticism from human rights advocates and some Members of Congress, since 2011 the Administration has held up sales of armored vehicles, anti-tank weapons, and some small arms and light weapons that could potentially be used against protesters. In May 2012 the Administration announced that it would proceed with the sale to Bahrain of other arms that can be used only for external defense."
CRS Report for Congress, 95-1013