Washington was criticized for taking a soft stance against Bahrain as the Sunni-led kingdom cracked down against a Shiite uprising early this year, a response that included Saudi security forces.
The Pentagon in September notified Congress of the proposed sale of armored vehicles and wire-guided missiles to Bahrain, the first since the kingdom was rapped for its response to the uprising.
Maria McFarland, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch, said the proposed sale makes it hard for the international community to take the United States seriously when it speaks of democratic reform in the region.
Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs David Abrams, in a letter to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said the U.S. State Department would review the findings of Bahrain's human rights independent human rights report on the unrest before moving ahead with the $53 million arms sale.
"We will weigh these factors and confer with Congress before proceeding with additional steps related to the recently notified arms sale," a copy of the letter obtained by The Wall Street Journal read.
As many as 30 people died during the Yemeni uprising. The kingdom was also accused of using its hospitals as torture chambers.
Mark Toner, a spokesman for the State Department, echoed Abrams' letter by saying Washington would monitor "the human rights situation in Bahrain as we move forward in this process."
Bahrain is host to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
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