Outgoing US President Donald Trump awarded the King of Bahrain the Legion of Merit with the Degree of Chief Commander yesterday. King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa was given the award "in recognition of his remarkable efforts to strengthen Bahrain-US friendship relations and solid partnership," state-run Bahrain News Agency reported today.
The decoration is awarded regularly to foreign leaders by the US president in recognition of close ties between the respective states and for outstanding achievements. Trump praised King Hamad's decision to normalise ties with Israel.
"His decision has ushered in a new era of economic and security cooperation between the United States' most important partners in the Middle East," said the president on his penultimate full day in office. "King Hamad has challenged old assumptions about the possibility for peace in the region, and in doing so, positively reshaped the landscape of the Middle East for future generations."
Trump added that he hopes ties between the US and Bahrain will continue to be strengthened under the next administration. Bahrain's monarch thanked the president for the prestigious award, saying that his country is proud to work with the US.
The award comes soon after Morocco's King Mohammed VI was honoured similarly. The late Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait was granted the award in September, just ten days before he died.
Furthermore, Bahrain and the UAE were designated as "major security partners" by the US on Saturday. The previously unheard of status is currently unique to the UAE and Bahrain. It is obviously linked to the Gulf States' normalisation of ties with Israel last year. Both also host major American military operations. The island Kingdom, for example, is home to the US Navy's 5th Fleet.
"[This designation] recognises our exceptional security partnership, exemplified by their hosting thousands of United States soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, and the commitment of each country to countering violent extremism across the region," explained White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. "It also reflects [the two countries'] extraordinary courage, determination and leadership in entering into the Abraham Accord [with Israel]."
The award also comes after Bahrain, the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia agreed to end their blockade of Qatar imposed in mid-2017. The diplomatic, trade and travel embargo on Qatar followed accusations that Qatar supported terrorism. Aided by Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, negotiations achieved a breakthrough which ended the blockade earlier this month.