Saudi Arabia: Cluster Bomb Shipments From U.S. Halted Due To Civilian Deaths In Yemen

The United States will reportedly be halting deliveries of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia. The move comes after intense pressure from human rights groups complaining about the indiscriminate use of the devastating weapons in Yemen. Since Saudi Arabia began to deploy airstrikes against the Yemeni people, often using U.S.-provided cluster bombs, numerous civilian casualties have been reported.

RT reports that according to a foreign policy report “based on the publication’s own investigation,” the freeze on deliveries of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia applies to CBU-105 cluster bombs. The impacted cluster bombs are manufactured by Textron System. The freeze on the delivery of the specific cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia is a direct response to Saudi Arabia’s air campaign against Houthi positions in Yemen.

Multiple human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly exposed the use of the cluster bombs by Saudi Arabia in the area.

Cluster bombs are particularly horrific weapons of modern warfare. The each individual one of the munitions holds hundreds of smaller explosives which are distributed over a large area. In many cases, the submunitions don’t detonate right away, and when they don’t they can lie dormant for years or even decades before hazardously exploding without warning.

When it comes to the victims of cluster bombs, they are most frequently children and almost always civilians.

For the last dozen or so years, the United States has been profiting by selling multi-million dollar orders of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia. The true death and casualty toll of these U.S. cluster bombs in Yemen may never be fully calculated.

While it’s been revealed that the U.S. will be freezing shipments of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia, there has been no word on whether the freeze will apply retroactively. That is to say that the media is still unaware whether or not the Saudi Arabia cluster bomb halt will apply to orders that have already been placed but not yet shipped, or if it will only apply to future munitions contracts.

When it comes to delivering weapons orders, the process can take many years from start to finish.

When Textron Systems was approached for clarification, the munitions company refused to give additional details.

“Textron Systems does not comment on delivery dates with our customers.”

Likewise, the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington D.C. also declined to comment on the situation. Social media users, however, have let their opinions be known.

When a senior U.S. official discussed why shipments of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia are being frozen, he confirmed that the Saudi-led coalition has been using these devastating munitions “in areas in which civilians are alleged to have been present or in the vicinity.

He went on to say that both the United States and Saudi Arabia are looking further into the matter, with the U.S. in particular seeking more information.

“Saudi Arabia has also pledged to create an investigations commission to evaluate military targeting, ensure the protection of civilians, and investigate incidents of civilian harm during the conflict in Yemen.”

U.S. Senators took up the matter on Thursday, introducing an amendment to legislation that would allow additional Congress additional oversight when it comes to selling air-to-ground weapons to Saudi Arabia in the future. The newly-introduced amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 would also put new, more restrictive conditions on weapon sales to Saudi Arabia. The U.S. Congress commented on the Saudi Arabia cluster bomb situation in a press release.

“For too long the Obama administration has not been holding countries receiving US military munitions accountable in the Middle East. It is no secret that Saudi Arabia’s record on strictly targeting combatants and legitimate military targets in Yemen has been questionable. The US should halt the sale of air-to-ground munitions to Saudi Arabia until Congress has conducted proper oversight and ensured that such munitions are being used in a way that is consistent with our country’s national security strategy and values.”

As it currently stands, U.S. arms sales are proposed by the State Department before being approved (or not) by Congress. After approval, the White House is responsible for finalizing and implementing all arms transfers. The goal of the newly introduced amendment is to put an additional step in place in the midst of the process. That step would require that “the President of the United States to attest that Saudi Arabia is concretely demonstrating its anti-terror efforts and protection of civilians before Congress can consider the sale.”

Saudi Arabia’s attacks on Yemen have been ongoing since March of 2015. Along with eight other Arab states, Saudi Arabia has been dropping bombs, including cluster bombs, on rebel forces within Yemen’s borders. A ceasefire was agreed upon on April 10, 2016, but it has been nothing more than ink on paper. All sides have repeatedly ignored the terms and agreement and continued to fight amongst themselves. Since Saudi Arabia’s assault on Yemen began, more than 6,200 people have been killed, many with U.S.-provided cluster bombs.

[Photo by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP Photo]