More information about Bahrain is available on the Bahrain Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
The United States established diplomatic relations with Bahrain in 1971 following its independence from the United Kingdom. The U.S. Embassy in Manama was opened on September 21, 1971, and a resident ambassador was sent in 1974. The Bahrain Embassy in Washington, DC opened in 1977. The American community in Bahrain traces its origins to the arrival of missionaries from the Dutch Reformed Church in the 1890’s. The school and the American Mission Hospital they established in 1903 continue to operate in Bahrain, more than a century later.
The U.S. designated Bahrain a Major Non-NATO Ally in 2002. Bahrain plays a key role in the regional security architecture and is a vital U.S. partner in defense initiatives. Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, and participates in U.S.-led military coalitions, including the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Bahraini forces have supported the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, providing perimeter security at a military base. Bahrain was the first Arab state to lead a Coalition Task Force patrolling the Gulf region and has supported the coalition counter-piracy mission with a deployment of its flagship. In August 2019, Bahrain was the first country in the Gulf region to announce publicly that it had joined the U.S.-led International Maritime Security Construct to promote freedom of navigation in the region.
The U.S-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement entered into force in 2006, generating additional commercial opportunities for both countries. In 2018, bilateral merchandise trade reached $3 billion, with an additional $1.2 billion of trade in services.
Bahrain has a popularly-elected lower house of parliament, the Council of Representatives (COR), and an appointed upper house, the Shura Council. Bahrain held elections for the COR and municipal councils in November and December 2018. The United States supports Bahrain’s efforts to develop the parliament’s institutional capacity and encourages inclusive and transparent governance.
U.S. Assistance to Bahrain
U.S. assistance enables the Government of Bahrain to continue to obtain the equipment and training it requires to provide for its own defense and to operate alongside U.S. air and naval forces. U.S. assistance strengthens Bahrain’s interoperability for regional security and counterterrorism cooperation; boosts Bahrain’s maritime defenses against smuggling and terrorism; and improves Bahrain’s ability to counter terrorism in a manner consistent with Bahrain’s international human rights obligations and commitments.
Bilateral Economic Relations
Bahrain’s economy remains heavily dependent on oil and gas resources but has diversified in recent years. In 2018, oil and gas accounted for 17.8% of Bahrain’s GDP, followed by financial services (16.5%), manufacturing (14.5%), and government services (13.2%). The Government of Bahrain has targeted five sectors for future growth: tourism, financial services, manufacturing, logistics and information technology. The first Gulf Cooperation Council Member State in which to discover oil in the 1930s, Bahrain currently sources its oil and gas from two fields: onshore Bahrain Field and Abu Sa’fa, an offshore field Bahrain shares with Saudi Arabia. The April 2018 discovery of large unconventional oil resources off the Kingdom’s western coast, as well as significant gas reserves discovered onshore, carry the potential to reinvigorate the sector.
The banking and finance sector is the largest non-oil contributor to Bahrain’s economy. Bahrain is home to 382 financial institutions and the second largest Islamic finance hub after Malaysia, with over $27.8 billion in assets under management. Aluminum manufacturing accounts for the bulk of Bahrain’s manufacturing sector, and contributes 12 percent of GDP. Aluminum Bahrain (ALBA), the state-owned aluminum smelter, recently became the largest single-site aluminum smelter in the world with the November 2019 inauguration of its expansion.
Due to relatively limited energy reserves, Bahrain has been diversifying its economy away from oil and gas production and provides a climate that is seeking to attract foreign investment and businesses. The primary U.S. exports to Bahrain include aircraft, machinery, and transport material. The leading U.S. imports from Bahrain include aluminum, oil, textiles, and plastics.
Bahrain’s Membership in International Organizations
Among other regional and international organizations, Bahrain is a member of the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Gulf Cooperation Council, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Arab League and World Trade Organization. Bahrain is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council for the term 2018-2021.
The U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain is Justin Siberell; other principal U.S. Embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.
More information about Bahrain is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here: