WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Tom Malinowski, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, is expected to arrive in Bahrain Tuesday, five months after Manama declared him persona non grata for meeting with a political opposition leader.
On July 7, Bahrain's Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused Malinowski of "flagrantly" intervening in Bahrain's internal affairs and asserted that by meeting with the opposition leader of al Wifaq, the assistant secretary was "contravening diplomatic norms and flouting normal interstate relations."
Secretary of State John Kerry supported Malinowski's attempts to meet with Bahrain's political opposition parties and called his Bahraini counterpart at the time to complain about Manama's response. In the intervening months, the U.S. suspended some arms sales to Bahrain's Defense Ministry and halted assistance to the Interior Ministry.
While relations have cooled, they still continue.
Bahrain, host to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, has deployed some of its F-16s in the U.S.-led operation Inherent Resolve to target Islamic State militants inside northeast Syria and in northern and western Iraq.
Malinowski will be accompanied by Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson. The two senior diplomats are scheduled to meet with government officials and civil society representatives during their three-day visit "to discuss bilateral and regional issues."
Their assessment of Bahrain's election process and human rights situation is expected to factor into President Barack Obama's determination whether or not to end the partial suspension of arms sales.
Bahrain recently concluded its parliamentary and municipal elections. The State Department concluded that the elections fell short of full participation, noting that the electoral process "did not enjoy the full spectrum of Bahrain's mainstream political societies."
"We continue to believe that Bahrain's long-term security and prosperity is best achieved through an inclusive and pluralistic political process that enfranchises all of the citizens of this richly diverse nation," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Sunday.