Humanitarian concerns about the Saudi Arabian military intervention in Yemen are creating more pressure on Saudi Arabia (KSA). According to an investigative effort by the US news magazine Foreign Policy, the White House recently decided to put a hold an all cluster munitions exports of the CBU-105 Type, fabricated by Textron, to the KSA.
Thereby the US government indirectly confirms the accusations of international Human Rights organizations like Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI), which have been saying for months that the KSA is deploying cluster munitions near civilians in Yemen.
Up until recently these accusations did not draw much attention onto them. Saudi Arabia, the second largest weapons importer, is an important client of the American, British and French arms industries. The USA delivered the last cluster munitions order for KSA between 2013 and 2015.
According to international law the use of cluster munitions is illegal since the ratification of the convention against cluster munitions in 2010. Cluster munitions consist of a container, which upon activation distributes up tp 2000 sub munitions or bomblets over a large targeted area. Some of these bomblets fail to explode and thereby act as landmines that pose a serious and lasting danger to civilians, notably children.
Although the USA never signed the convention, they passed a law in 2009 that prohibits the use of US-made cluster munitions by the recipient near civilians and that the failure rate (of unexploded bombs) needs to be below 1% to qualify for export. Ken Roth, director of HRW, tweeted recently that even the modern technology of Textron, used in Yemen, shows that even the most evolved cluster munitions have a failure above 1%.
However, more dangerous are those cluster munitions the KSA has acquired over the years (since 1970) from Western arms industries. HRW and AI found a number of duds (unexploded munitions) manufactured in the US or the UK that were distributed by cluster bombs carrying approx. 650 sub munitions each and that have a failure rate of about 20%. HRW and AI were able to identify at least 54 casualties from cluster munitions in about 23 locations.