22 August 2013

US Export of Cluster Bombs to Saudi Arabia at Odds with International Ban Treaty

The announcement this week that the U.S. has agreed to supply cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia is at odds with the international treaty banning these weapons, said the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) today. Neither the United States nor Saudi Arabia have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits the production, transfer, use, and stockpiling of cluster munitions."We are disappointed with the US decision to export cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia as both countries acknowledge the negative humanitarian impact of these weapons on civilians," said Sarah Blakemore, director of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC). "Cluster munitions have been banned by more than half the world’s nations so any transfer goes against the international rejection of these weapons."

On 20 August, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that a US $641 million contract has been awarded to Textron Defense Systems to supply 1,300 CBU-105D/B cluster bomb to Saudi Arabia as part of a deal that was first notified to Congress in December 2010. The CBU-105D/B cluster bomb, and other variants of this type of bomb produced to date, are known as a "sensor fuzed weapon" and are prohibited under the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which comprehensively prohibits cluster munitions and requires their clearance and assistance to victims.

While the transfer deal is allowable under the US moratorium on the export of cluster munitions as the CBU-105D/B cluster bomb reportedly results in no more than 1% of its submunitions as unexploded ordnance, it is out of step with the growing international abhorrence to these types of weapons. Under the US export moratorium first enacted in 2007, cluster munitions must meet a less than 1% failure rate criteria and recipients must agree that the cluster munitions "will not be used where civilians are known to be present." The US has previously announced sales of CBU-105D/B cluster bombs to India, South Korea, and Taiwan.

Saudi Arabia has used cluster munitions in the past and stockpiles the weapons, but it is not believed to produce or export cluster munitions. According to the U.S. Department of Defense notification, "Saudi Arabia intends to use Sensor Fused Weapons to modernize its armed forces and enhance its capability to defeat a wide range of defensive threats, to include: strongpoints, bunkers, and dug-in facilities; armored and semi-armored vehicles; personnel; and certain maritime threats." "This transfer announcement comes at a time when Saudi Arabia and the US have joined international condemnations of Syria’s cluster bomb use, " said Blakemore. "The US should acknowledge the treaty’s ban on cluster munition exports and reevaluate the criteria for its export moratorium so that no cluster munitions are transferred."Saudi Arabia and the United States were among 107 nations that voted for a 15 May 2013 resolution by the UN General Assembly that strongly condemned Syria’s use of cluster munitions.

More than 100 countries are gathering for the fourth annual meeting of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions in Lusaka, Zambia on September 9-13.

The Cluster Munition Monitor, the civil society monitoring arm of the Cluster Munition Coalition, will launch its 2013 report at the UN in Geneva on 4 September.