The U.S. is set to build and send 1300 cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia, the Department of Defense announced this week.
The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have refused to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits use and transfer of the weapons noted for their harm to civilian populations years after they are dropped as unexploded submunitions become de-facto landmines wherever they land, and whose appearance has at times caused them to be confused with toys or food aid packages.
The $640-million contract, expected to completed by 2015, was given to Textron Defense Systems, which touts its Sensor Fuzed Weapon Cluster Bomb Unit as having “greater than 99 percent reliability,” meaning less than 1% remain as unexploded ordnance.
Therein lies a loophole that allows the U.S. to sell these weapons abroad. A 2007 U.S. export moratorium prevents the U.S. from transferring the weapons to a country unless they are shown to have a 99-percent reliability rate, and the importing country has pledged not to use them in civilian areas.
However, as the London-based Action on Armed Violence points out, even a small failure rate means a huge threat to civilians:
“Cluster munitions have been banned by more than half the world’s nations so any transfer goes against the international rejection of these weapons,” stated Sarah Blakemore, director of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), a campaign that works to ban the weapons and prevent the harm they cause to civilians.
Further, stated Blakemore, “This transfer announcement comes at a time when Saudi Arabia and the US have joined international condemnations of Syria’s cluster bomb use.”