US Sending Saudi Arabia Thousands of Cluster Bombs, Despite International Ban

John Glaser, August 23, 2013

Even as they condemn the Syrian regime’s use of cluster munitions, the U.S. is selling Saudi Arabia $640 million worth of American-made cluster bombs. Cluster munitions have been banned in 83 countries on account of their indiscriminate nature and their record of killing children.

Ahmed Kamel, 12-year old Iraqi, victim of US cluster bomb

Ahmed Kamel, 12-year old Iraqi, victim of US cluster bomb

John Reed at Foreign Policy:

These weapons are loathed because in addition to killing enemy combatants, their fairly indiscriminate nature means they can kill plenty of civilians. And not just in the heat of battle. The little ball-shaped bomblets dispersed by cluster munitions don’t always detonate on first impact. Often, they will just sit there on the ground until someone, often a child, picks them up and causes them to explode.

So far, 112 countries have signed an international treaty banning cluster bombs, with 83 ratifying it.

The international ban began to take effect in June 2010, just after a U.S. cluster bomb killed 35 women and children in Yemen, with the Pentagon stubbornly refusing to admit to the wrongdoing despite damning evidence compiled by Amnesty International, which was later corroborated by classified diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

Cluster bombs were used in the initial phases of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and the Obama administration has firmly opposed their prohibition, as have countries like Saudi Arabia, China, and Russia. What’s that old saying about how you’re known by the company you keep?

It’s also worth pointing out how eager the U.S. is to keep giving Saudi Arabia, one of the most horrific, repressive, mysogynist theocracies in the world, all the weapons and money it asks for. Reed again:

The cluster bomb sale is just the latest in a string ongoing arms deals between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia that include dozens of F-15SA Strike Eagle fighter jets, AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, H-60 Blackhawk helicopters and AH-6 Little Bird choppers as well as radars, anti-ship missiles, guided bombs, anti-radar missiles, surface to air missiles and even cyber defenses for those brand new Strike Eagles. It’s a relationship that’s worth tens of billions to American defense contractors. And even though the Saudi and the American governments have recently been at odds over a range of issues — Riyadh recently offered to replace any financial aid to Egypt’s military rulers that the U.S. withdrew —  those arms sales are all-but-certain to continue. If the Saudis want cluster bombs, the U.S. will provide — no matter what the world thinks.

On the one hand, the U.S. is desperate to maintain the geo-political dominance it has held over the Middle East at a time when it seems to be slipping through their fingers. And on the other, one of the strongest lobbies in Washington – the defense corporations – really want to proceeds of these nefarious weapons sales. And you gotta please them.

25 Responses to “US Sending Saudi Arabia Thousands of Cluster Bombs, Despite International Ban”

  1. [...] Print This | Share This | Send a letter to the editor | Letters | Antiwar Forum [...]

  2. [...] US Sending Saudi Arabia Thousands of Cluster Bombs, Despite International Ban ( [...]

  3. [...] Cluster bombs. [...]

  4. As long as its not killing American women and children they will look the other way. Israel littered Lebanon with three million cluster bombs and where was the outcry, there is no stopping the empire.

  5. [...] US Sending Saudi Arabia Thousands of Cluster Bombs, Despite International Ban ( [...]

  6. Great article, but we should note that the statement that cluster bombs "have not been used by the U.S. in over a decade" is demonstrably incorrect. They have been used in at least one cruise missile attack in Yemen in 2009. This suggests that the Saudi government will very likely use their purchases in countries in which the fall of an authoriarian government might be seen as a precursor to the fall of their own authoritarian government.

    See also… for a photo of a U.S. made cluster bomb used in Yemen.

  7. [...]… [...]

  8. [...] Anti-War – by John Glaser [...]

  9. Obama 57Kuducc States= 50+Israeljor+Msr+ksayemen+UAE+IraKWI+QatBah+Oman r free from punishment….long live ZoO.

  10. Remember the popular song heard daily on the news programs during the Vietnam era? "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids have you killed today?" Our leadership is diabolically consistent over time, change presidents but not evil acts of war.

  11. Why am i not surprised

  12. We can stop the empire! All we need to do is revolt, but everybody to revolt. We all need to get together irrespective of our fears of other people, culture, skin colour, international boarders etc… But just get together and revolt. Otherwise nothing ain't going to happen. And that's why nothing is hopping now. Failure of the people to come together and impact.. Impact is lacking. To hell with your jobs/ carrers and pitiful excuses! That's what they want you to think. People need to drop all their anxieties of their neighbour and come together. Got to start working on that in order to build an empire of the people of common ground

  13. As long as its not killing American women and children they will look the other way. Israel littered Lebanon with three million cluster bombs and where was the outcry, there is no stopping the empire.

  14. Well, well.

    202 BLU-97/B Combined Effects Bomb (CEB) shaped-charge fragmentation & incendiary

    Unit Cost List Price: $13,941 [$ FY90]
    ·DoD News Briefing Tuesday, June 22, 1999 — The U.S. dropped about 1,100 cluster bombs. Not all of those were dropped in Kosovo. (ie but other parts of the Yugoslavia presumably)

    So that means between 40 and 50 thousand items.

    Is this just another Saudi sweet deal, buying up otherwise useless war material for storage in the deserts remote from humankind, or are they planning to use these things?
    In what adventure, I wonder? 40 to 50 times as big as Kosovo/Yugoslavia?

  15. Well, that's interesting. Some countries just achieve to shock me each time with their double moral.


    Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan and human rights activist, Craig Murray, has pointed out in a blog postfollow entitled ‘Clusters of Hypocrisy’, that ‘the United States has the largest stocks of cluster bombs in the world’. And lest we in the UK begin feeling smug that our country is a signatory to the convention Murray crucially highlights that, although the UK government signed the ban, Wikileaks documentsfollow reveal that in May 2009 the Foreign Office suggested to the US government that agreement on a clever loophole that would allow the continued storage of US clusters on British soil (the island of Diego Garcia) should be delayed until after the UK Parliament had ratified the ban thus avoiding scrutiny from MPs! In the cable a Foreign Office official states:

    “It would be better for the USG [US government] and HMG [Her Majesty's Government] not to reach final agreement on this temporary agreement understanding until after the CCM ratification process is completed in Parliament, so that they can tell parliamentarians that they have requested the USG to remove its cluster munitions by 2013, without complicating/muddying the debate by having to indicate that this request is open to exceptions.’

    And that is exactly what Parliament was told in April of last year by the then minister for international defence and security, Baroness Taylor of Bolton. What she failed to mention was that most of the cluster bombs are being kept offshore aboard US ships and that this will continue after 2013. Indeed, we learn that Nicolas Pickard, head of the Foreign Office’s Security Policy Group, “reconfirmed that off-shore storage on US ships would still be permitted”.
    Cluster bomb victim Afghanistan

    Cluster bomb victim Afghanistan

    It’s also worth noting that even though the UK is a signatory to the convention outlawing the manufacturing, stockpiling and deployment of these abhorrent weapons, UK banks continue to fund them, either by providing loans, managing assets or giving investments to cluster munitions manufacturers.

  17. [...] US Sending Saudi Arabia Thousands of Cluster Bombs, Despite International Ban ( [...]

  18. [...] Source [...]

  19. really a sad news.

  20. poor childrens. Realy sad..Il dedicate him essay in my school. Let all know…

  21. not a good news. really bad children.

  22. great and awesome post but sorry about the child

  23. A shopping centre on the quay that has everything, so you never have to leave the area and venture to other parts of town. Horse transporters

  24. Thanks for nice sharing :)

  25. have some petty on this guys.