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Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
Cluster Munitions

Information about cluster munitions.

Thailand Accused of Cluster Munitions Use

The Cambodian government and two nongovernmental organizations have accused the Thai military of using cluster munitions against Cambodian forces in clashes that began on Feb. 4 over disputed territory near the Preah Vihear temple.

Xiaodon Liang

The Cambodian government and two nongovernmental organizations have accused the Thai military of using cluster munitions against Cambodian forces in clashes that began on Feb. 4 over disputed territory near the Preah Vihear temple. The incident is the first reported use of such weapons since the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) came into force in August 2010. Neither Cambodia nor Thailand is a party to the CCM.

In a Feb. 14 speech at the United Nations, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said two soldiers were killed and eight injured by Thai cluster munitions.

The Cluster Munition Coalition and Norwegian People’s Aid have conducted on-site investigations and concluded that Thai forces fired dual-purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICM). The coalition says the Thai ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva confirmed this finding in an April 5 private meeting.

In an April 8 press release, the Thai government admitted using DPICM, but said they were not cluster munitions and that the coalition had “misrepresented” the conversation by categorizing them that way. The Bangkok Post, citing an army source, reported that the Thai military has suspended use of the artillery and shells involved in the February incident.

The coalition stated in an e-mail that DPICM are “without any doubt” a type of cluster munition. The CCM defines a cluster munition as a “conventional munition that is designed to disperse or release explosive submunitions each weighing less than 20 kilograms,” with certain specified exceptions. An October 2004 report to Congress by the U.S. Department of Defense listed DPICM, including artillery shells containing M42 and M46 submunitions, as cluster munitions. Submunitions of those types were found near Preah Vihear.

In the April 8 press release, Thailand said it used the DPICM “in self-defense” to respond to Cambodia’s use of “multiple-rocket launcher systems, which struck at targets indiscriminately.”

Fighting along the Thai-Cambodian border began again on April 22, and the Cambodian government has since made unverified accusations that “poisonous gas” was fired by Thai artillery.


Letter to the Editor: Cluster Munitions and the CCW: Is There a Happy Ending?

Lou Maresca

As highlighted by François Rivasseau (“The Past and the Future of the CCW,” March 2011), review conferences have been important landmarks in the evolution of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). The conferences have been used by states-parties to adopt new protocols, strengthen existing provisions, and decide on proposals for work on new weapons issues. They also have adopted tools to facilitate compliance and implementation and to promote universalization. The conferences have added important protections to the fabric of international humanitarian law.

Nonetheless, these meetings also have struggled at times to find agreement on important issues. Despite three years of intense negotiations, CCW parties in 2006 were unable to finalize a protocol to improve the rules on anti-vehicle mines. As a result, 25 states committed themselves to new national standards on anti-vehicle mines similar to those proposed for a new protocol. Dissatisfaction with the modest amendments adopted for Protocol II (on mines, booby traps, and other devices) in 1996 led to a process to develop a treaty outside the CCW to impose a comprehensive ban on anti-personnel mines.

As Rivasseau suggests, there is a risk that the 2011 CCW Review Conference could have a similar outcome, namely, that CCW parties again will fail to reach agreement on rules for a weapon about which there is widespread concern or, if they do agree, that the rules adopted are likely to be criticized and viewed by many states and organizations as inadequate. This time, the issue is cluster munitions. After deciding not to negotiate rules on cluster munitions in 2006, parties later changed course and have struggled over the past four years to develop a protocol to address the humanitarian impact of these weapons.

The CCW’s work on cluster munitions is complicated by the fact that 73 out of 114 CCW parties already have signed or ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), which prohibits the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of these weapons. The proposals currently under consideration in the CCW are far less comprehensive than those of the CCM and would allow the continued use, production, and transfer of models of cluster munitions known to have severe consequences for civilians. It is difficult to predict at this stage if a CCW protocol on cluster munitions will be adopted. Yet, a protocol based on existing proposals is likely to be widely criticized for having weak standards and for “relegitimizing” weapons that many CCW states deemed to cause “unacceptable harm” to civilians when those states signed the CCM in 2008.

Underlying Rivasseau’s points on cluster munitions is the often-asked question of whether the failure to conclude a new protocol on cluster munitions would undermine the CCW’s credibility and the success of the upcoming review conference. It should be noted that the CCW does not seem to have been harmed by its failure to conclude a protocol on anti-vehicle mines in 2006. Few outside CCW circles mention it today, nor is it a critical issue in discussions with nonparty states considering adherence to that convention. On the other hand, the amendments agreed on by CCW states in 1996 on anti-personnel mines, which are weaker than those of the Mine Ban Treaty, are often raised as a matter of concern. States that are not parties to the CCW regularly question the value of adhering to a convention that contains obligations weaker than those already binding on it from other instruments.

Thus, assessments of the CCW’s credibility should consider whether parties should settle for a protocol that may not be effective in addressing the humanitarian problem at hand if they are unable to agree on clear and strong standards. Such assessments also should include other measures. Rivasseau is right to highlight the valuable lessons that can be drawn from the 2006 review conference and the approach it took on anti-vehicle mines. If it is not possible to adopt strong standards for cluster munitions at this year’s review conference, states not party to the CCM could still make a contribution through national action such as transfer prohibitions, the elimination of old stockpiles, and vigorous implementation of the CCW’s Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War, which was adopted in 2003.

Lou Maresca is a legal adviser at the International Committee of the Red Cross.


Cluster Negotiations Again Extended

The parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons were unable to reach agreement on a new protocol addressing cluster munitions, but they committed to continue the mandate to do so.

Jeff Abramson

Although again unable to reach agreement on a new protocol addressing cluster munitions in 2010, states-parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), meeting last November in Geneva, committed to continue the mandate to do so while preparing for the treaty’s review conference later this year.

Spurred by the controversial use of cluster munitions during the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese conflict, the international community concluded the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) and saw it enter into force in 2010, banning the use of treaty-defined cluster bombs. A CCW group of governmental experts also has sought an accord to address the humanitarian impacts of the weapons. (See ACT, December 2009.)

The CCW, which entered into force in 1983, now has 114 parties and contains five protocols that encompass, in order, weapons with fragments undetectable by x-rays, landmines and booby traps, incendiary weapons, blinding lasers, and explosive remnants of war. Cluster munitions are bombs, rockets, and artillery shells that disperse smaller submunitions over broad areas that sometimes strike civilians or fail to explode initially, later injuring or killing military forces and noncombatants. Although cluster munitions fall under the definition of Protocol V on explosive remnants of war, the inadequacies of that protocol to address cluster munitions have contributed to the call for a cluster munitions-specific Protocol VI.

The United States, which rejects the CCM, remains a key supporter of a sixth CCW protocol. In her Nov. 25 statement to the 2010 CCW states-parties meeting, U.S. delegation head Melanie Khanna said, “We recognize, especially with the Convention on Cluster Munitions’ recent entry into force, that some delegations and NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] may view these negotiations as being unnecessary. We strongly disagree.” In a Dec. 23 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Khanna said that because many countries that maintain or produce cluster munitions are not parties to the CCM, “[w]e can work together to achieve a protocol [to the CCW]…or we can do nothing in the CCW, in which case it is likely that approximately 85 percent of the global stocks of these weapons will go unregulated for the foreseeable future.”

Forty-nine countries have ratified the CCM and 108 have signed, including more than two-thirds of NATO members, but China, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States are key countries still outside the accord. (See ACT, December 2010.)

Differing Definitions

The definition of cluster munitions remains one of the key differences between the CCW and the CCM. Under the CCM, cluster-like weapons are excluded and therefore not limited by the treaty if they have explosive submunitions meeting all of the following characteristics: fewer than 10 in number and each with a weight of more than four kilograms and less than 20 kilograms, designed to detect and engage a single target and equipped with an electronic self-destruct mechanism and an electronic self-deactivating feature. A draft CCW protocol presented by the group’s chair also would exclude those weapons. It also would exclude those that fail to explode as intended 1 percent or less of the time, which matches U.S. policy. (See ACT, September 2008.)

That draft CCW protocol, which will “inform” this year’s meetings, includes a ban on the use and transfer of some cluster munitions produced before 1980.

For many states supportive of the CCM, the draft CCW protocol is not acceptable. At the November 2010 meeting of CCW parties, German delegate Hellmut Hoffmann said that “the latest draft protocol…pays a lot of attention towards military considerations but unfortunately has very little humanitarian effect on the ground.” He added, “[T]he current-draft protocol before us is not the solution for the mandate we have given ourselves,” citing as one reason the differing definitions between the CCW draft and the CCM. Instead, Germany and other countries suggested the CCW should take up work on an immediate ban on the transfer of all cluster munitions.

At their yearly meetings, CCW members adopt a mandate for the group of governmental experts for the coming year. As in previous years, the countries did not include a comprehensive transfer ban in the official mandate for 2011. They did agree to identify their work as being on a “protocol,” in part due to Canadian insistence. In past years, Russia had rejected using that term, and previous mandates simply used the term “proposals” to describe what was being considered in the work of the group of governmental experts.

This may be the last year the CCW grapples with a cluster munitions-specific protocol. Australian delegation head Peter Woolcott said Nov. 25, “[T]his negotiation has occupied us for a number of years and cannot continue indefinitely.” The upcoming review conference, which is to meet Nov. 14-25, “will be a natural time to conclude these negotiations,” he said.

The CCW group of governmental experts, to be led again by 2010 chair Jesus Domingo of the Philippines, will meet Feb. 21-25, March 28-April 1, and Aug. 22-26. At those meetings, the group also will conduct preparatory work for the review conference.

Incendiary Weapons Amendment

During the November meeting, the international NGO Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic presented a memo calling for amendment of CCW Protocol III, which deals with incendiary weapons.

That protocol was the source of some controversy last year when 17 states objected to a U.S. policy clarification stating that Washington has “the right to use incendiary weapons against military objectives located in concentrations of civilians where it is judged that such use would cause fewer casualties and/or less collateral damage than alternative weapons.” The protocol text does not include such a formulation in its limits on attacking military targets located within civilian concentrations. (See ACT, April 2010.)

Although delegates did not raise the U.S. example specifically, a number did speak in favor of giving careful consideration to the memo, which rejects the U.S. policy. It also calls for changes to the way the protocol defines incendiary weapons and how it distinguishes between air- and ground-launched weapons. In particular, it advocates including white phosphorus weapons under the protocol.

The use of those weapons has been controversial. Because they also serve a marking and illumination purpose, some states have argued that white phosphorus weapons are not covered by the protocol, which addresses weapons that are “primarily designed” to set fire to objects or cause burn injuries.

In the Dec. 23 e-mail, Khanna defended U.S. policy and said, “We do not support the Human Rights Watch proposal to re-open Protocol III. It is not yet clear whether others will pursue this in a serious way.”


Saudi Arms Deal Moves Forward

Matt Sugrue

A $60 billion U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia passed a key deadline last month without legislators blocking the deal although 198 House members signed a letter raising questions about it.

The letter, coordinated by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the panel’s ranking member, was sent to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates nine days before the expiration of the legally required congressional review period.

In the Nov. 10 letter, legislators questioned “the rationale for a sale of such magnitude” to Saudi Arabia, citing concerns about the sale’s impact on regional stability and its challenge to Israel’s “qualitative military edge” (QME).

The letter also indicated doubts about Saudi Arabia’s proliferation credentials. “What steps has Saudi Arabia taken to support U.S. counterproliferation efforts, and to substantially improve their own non-proliferation record?” the letter asks.

Clinton and Gates responded to the questions in a letter dated Nov. 16, defending Saudi counterproliferation efforts. They argued that Saudi Arabia “has been responsive to UNSCR [UN Security Council Resolution] 1540 reporting requirements” and pointed to Riyadh hosting a December 2010 Gulf Cooperation Council workshop devoted to Resolution 1540 issues. That 2004 binding UN resolution requires member states to take effective measures against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

They described Saudi cooperation on nuclear energy as positive, identifying a 2008 memorandum of understanding that “contains a statement of intent by Saudi Arabia to rely on the international market for fuel cycle services as an alternative to the pursuit of enrichment or reprocessing capabilities.”

Gates and Clinton also identified border and trade control issues as an important area of ongoing cooperation. In January 2011, a senior Saudi delegation is expected to visit Washington to discuss the next steps on these topics, according to the letter.

The secretaries’ response addressed concerns that the U.S.-Saudi sale will undermine Israel’s QME. “We concluded, as required by law and after a thorough interagency assessment, that this sale will not negatively impact Israel’s security interests or its QME,” the letter states.

The Obama administration provided formal notification to Congress on Oct. 20, which marked the start of the 30 calendar days mandated by the Arms Export Control Act for legislators to review such deals.

On Nov. 18, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) introduced a joint resolution (H.J. Res. 99) in an attempt block the sale. Congress did not act on the resolution, which had two co-sponsors, Reps. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) and Christopher Carney (D-Pa.).

The deal includes 84 F-15SA tactical fighters, the upgrade of Saudi Arabia’s existing fleet of 70 F-15Ss to the F-15SA configuration, 70 Apache Longbow attack helicopters, 72 Blackhawk helicopters, and additional light attack helicopters and trainers.

The sale also includes munitions: 500 AIM-120C/7 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles, 1,000 joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs), more than 2,000 additional laser- and GPS-guided bombs, more than 4,000 Hellfire missiles, and 1,300 cluster bombs. The export of the sensor-fused cluster bombs in the sale are permitted under U.S. policy, but prohibited by the Convention on Cluster Munitions. (See ACT, September 2008.) Neither the United States nor Saudi Arabia is a party to that treaty.

During an Oct. 20 press briefing announcing the sale, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro stated that the “final amount of the sale may well be less than the not-to-exceed estimate” of $60 billion.

Iran and Yemen

Shapiro and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Alexander Vershbow also told reporters that Yemen and Iran factored into the negotiations over the sale.

Vershbow said some of the helicopters included in the deal have “potential roles” against a rebel group, the Houthis, that has been fighting the Yemeni government since 2004. Saudi Arabia has launched military actions against the group, which is based in northern Yemen. Yemen has claimed that the Houthis receive support from outside sources, primarily Tehran. Iran and the Houthis have denied that Iran provides funding to the rebel group.

In their letter, Clinton and Gates said, “Saudi Arabia faces an Iranian threat, including destabilizing actions in the region, and in the past year has faced Houthi attacks along its border with Yemen.”

Congress can block an arms sale by passing a joint resolution of disapproval, which prohibits the executive branch from issuing a formal letter of offer.

For most countries, including Saudi Arabia, congressional notification is required if the sale involves $14 million or more in “major defense equipment,” $50 million or more in “defense articles or services,” or $200 million or more in “design and construction services.”

After the 30-day notification period has passed, Congress can intervene in the arms sale by passing laws that block parts of the sale or the entire sale.

Previous Sales Challenged

Although Saudi Arabia has been a top customer for U.S. arms, its purchases have a history of spurring congressional resistance.

The Bush administration notified Congress in January 2008 of its intention to sell Saudi Arabia 900 JDAM bomb guidance kits. A joint resolution of disapproval was introduced into the House and the Senate, but did not pass.

The Senate resolution was introduced after the 30-day notification period for the JDAMs and encompassed three other U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia. It tied them to Riyadh’s oil production, stating that, “despite the refusal of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to increase its oil production, the Administration continues to reward Saudi Arabia with lucrative arms deals.”

In 1986, Congress voted 73-22 for a joint resolution of disapproval (S.J. Res. 316) blocking the sale of Sidewinder, Harpoon, and Stinger missiles to Saudi Arabia. President Ronald Reagan vetoed the resolution, but agreed to remove the controversial Stinger missiles from the sale. Congress then voted 66-34 to override the veto, one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed.

This June, the Congressional Research Service reported that, between 1950 and 2006, the United States supplied Saudi Arabia with $62.7 billion worth of “weapons, military equipment, and related services through Foreign Military Sales.”

In the Nov. 10 letter, the legislators cited a September Government Accountability Office report that said the Department of State and the Department of Defense “did not consistently document how arms transfers to [Persian] Gulf countries advanced U.S. foreign policy and national security goals.”


Cluster Munitions Treaty Enters Into Force

Hailed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as “a major advance for the global disarmament and humanitarian agendas,” the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) entered into force Aug. 1.

Valerie Pacer

Hailed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as “a major advance for the global disarmament and humanitarian agendas,” the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) entered into force Aug. 1.

Cluster munitions are weapons that disperse smaller submunitions, sometimes a few and sometimes hundreds, that are supposed to explode on impact. However, these submunitions often fail to detonate promptly; if they explode later, they can injure civilians and combatants. The treaty is the result of the so-called Oslo process, led in part by Norway, in response to the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese conflict that left up to 1 million unexploded submunitions. (See ACT, July/August 2008.)

The convention has been signed by 108 countries and ratified by 39. (See ACT, March 2010.) Since the countdown to entry into force, which began with the 30th country submitting its instrument of ratification Feb. 16, nine new countries have ratified the convention: Antigua and Barbuda, Comoros, Ecuador, Fiji, Lesotho, Mali, Samoa, Seychelles, and the United Kingdom. Among those absent from the list of signing and ratifying states are a number of major stockpiling and producing countries, including China, Russia, and the United States. Although data on stockpiles are incomplete, the United States is believed to have the world’s largest cluster munitions stockpile with approximately 5.5 million cluster munitions and more than 700 million submunitions.

Instead of the new convention, the United States has sought agreement on potential limits on cluster munitions use within the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). A CCW group of governmental experts has been meeting for a number of years but, despite numerous meetings, has failed thus far to reach consensus on a text for a potential new protocol dealing with cluster munitions. The group is scheduled to meet again Aug. 30-Sept. 3 in Geneva. (See ACT, December 2009.)

In 2008, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that, after 2018, U.S. cluster munitions must have an unexploded ordnance level of less than 1 percent and that until then, munitions failing to meet that standard could be used only after authorization by a combatant commander. The 1 percent ceiling was also established by Congress in 2007 as a requirement for any military sales or transfers of cluster munitions, effectively banning export of the vast majority of U.S. cluster munitions. Critics of the 1 percent level point out that the threshold uses ideal conditions as its standard and that, under field conditions, the percentage is higher. The critics argue instead for using criteria created by the CCM.

Under that treaty, countries are banned from using cluster munitions, except for certain cluster-like weapons that contain fewer than 10 submunitions, each of which weighs more than four but less than 20 kilograms, is designed to detect and engage single targets, has an electronic self-destruct mechanism, and can electronically self-deactivate. (See ACT, December 2008.)

Under Article 1 of the CCM, parties agree not to use cluster munitions nor “develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer [them] to anyone, directly or indirectly.” States are required to destroy their existing stockpiles of cluster munitions within eight years of entry into force or if incapable of doing so, seek an extension of up to four years to complete the destruction.

States are allowed to retain “a limited number of cluster munitions and explosive submunitions for the development of and training in cluster munition and explosive submunition detection, clearance or destruction techniques, or for the development of cluster munition counter-measures.” The treaty does not provide absolute limits on the number of munitions and submunitions a country can retain.

Divestment Efforts Continue

A global effort is underway to divest from companies that produce cluster munitions and to stop financial institutions from supporting them.

New Zealand has joined Belgium, Ireland, and Luxembourg in passing national legislation banning cluster munitions investment. Other countries including Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland are discussing similar legislation, and the French government, without legislation, recently declared such investment illegal.

Individual companies and civil society also have been involved in divestment efforts. The three largest Japanese banks announced July 30 that they would no longer finance cluster munitions projects but that the ban would not extend to the companies themselves as they could make products other than cluster munitions. On Aug. 11, Deutsche Welle reported that the German government was under pressure after buying body scanners for the Hamburg airport that come from a subsidiary of a U.S. company, L3 Communications, that produces self-destruct fuses for submunitions.

In an April report, “Worldwide Investments in Cluster Munitions: A Shared Responsibility,” authors from nongovernmental organizations IKV PAX Christi of the Netherlands and Netwerk Vlaanderen of Belgium found a “double standard” whereby CCM parties can neither produce nor assist in producing cluster munitions but investment in cluster munitions has continued from their financial institutions.

The report, which updates the version that came out last October, considers the seven largest producers of cluster munitions and their ability to secure loans and other financing. It concludes that since May 1, 2007, 146 financial institutions have invested a total of $43 billion in the companies. Despite the divestment effort, the producing companies have not been “hampered in [their] search for financial means.” (See ACT, December 2009.)

Of the top five institutions that provide investment banking services or loans to cluster munitions producers, three are U.S. businesses.


News Briefs

U.S. Cluster Munition Use Alleged in Yemen

Jeff Abramson

Pictures released last month raised questions about possible U.S. use of cluster munitions in Yemen. On June 7, Amnesty International released photographs that appeared to show a U.S.-manufactured cruise missile and cluster munitions that struck the southern Yemeni community of al-Ma’jalah in December 2009, killing 55 people, including 14 alleged al Qaeda members, according to the organization’s press release. If the incident is confirmed as involving U.S.-fired weapons, it would be the first U.S. use of cluster munitions since 2003 in Iraq. Thus far, Washington has not responded to questions about the weapons. Whether they could have been transferred to Yemen and used by Yemeni forces is also unclear, but unlikely. The version of the U.S. Tomahawk cruise missile identified in the photos, the BGM-109D, is not known to have been transferred to Yemen or any other country and is designed to be launched from ships or submarines that Yemen does not have, Amnesty International arms control researcher Mike Lewis said in an interview. Neither the United States nor Yemen has signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which enters into force Aug. 1 and bars the use of the weapons in question.


IAEA Questions to Syria Remain Unanswered

Daniel Salisbury

Questions posed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to Syria about past nuclear-related procurements and activities still have not been answered, according to an agency report released May 31.

The report called for Syria to “cooperate with the agency on these issues in a timely manner.” Syria has provided some information, which the agency is currently assessing, the report said. The outstanding questions include previously unreported uranium-conversion activities using undeclared quantities of uranyl nitrate and yellowcake, a uranium concentrate, that the agency uncovered at a facility housing Syria’s Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR). (See ACT, December 2009.) Uranyl nitrate is a substance that is covered by safeguards and must therefore be declared to IAEA inspectors. Yellowcake, an early precursor for civil and military nuclear efforts, does not require safeguards.

The IAEA report says that the agency is still awaiting results of analysis undertaken using samples recovered during a physical inventory verification at the MNSR in March.

Syria’s initial explanation for the material in June 2009 was not supported by IAEA sampling, the agency said in a report last November. (See ACT, December 2009.) In November, Syria said the particles originated from domestically produced yellowcake. Syria has said the undeclared conversion experiment took place in 2004 and that the resulting uranyl nitrate was to be used in irradiation experiments. Conversion involves changing yellowcake to uranium hexafluoride gas, required for enrichment.

Syria has still not resolved “outstanding issues” related to the presence of chemically processed uranium at the Dair al Zour site, the IAEA report says. Israel bombed that facility in 2007, and Syria subsequently bulldozed over the site. (See ACT, November 2007.)


IAEA Board Discusses Israeli Nuclear Program

Daniel Salisbury

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors last month discussed Israel’s nuclear program during its quarterly meeting, the first time since 1991 it had done so.

The June 10 discussion, described on the meeting’s agenda as “Israeli Nuclear Capabilities,” was initiated by the Arab Group and Iran. A statement by Sudan on behalf of the Arab Group said, “Israel continues to defy the the international community, through its continued refusal to accede” to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

In a statement to the board, David Danieli, deputy director-general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, said that Israel had “always maintained a responsible policy in the nuclear domain.” He added that the 18 states had sought to “bring up the name of Israel along with the names of Iran and Syria,” whose nuclear programs are under investigation by the IAEA.

Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, said his country “regrets that this issue has been brought to this Board.” Davies said that Israel had “broken no agreements under the purview of the Agency” and that the agenda item “represents a distraction from other pressing issues before the IAEA.”

Israel is widely believed to have a nuclear weapons program, but has never openly declared it.


Open Skies Members Look to Future

Valerie Pacer

The parties to the Open Skies Treaty agreed last month to focus on adapting the treaty to the demands of the 21st century while keeping in mind the financial and technological constraints that many member states are facing.

In the conference’s final document, the parties agreed to consider working individually or with other countries to move away from film cameras and instead consider the technical and financial aspects of moving to digital sensors and cameras. “The requirement to plan financially for this transition now is imperative,” the document said.

Participants in the June 7-9 conference in Vienna also discussed the acquisition of newer, more modern aircraft for Open Skies flights. In addition, the final document considers expansion of treaty membership to more Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) countries as a way to “enhance the effectiveness and…provide the opportunity to broaden the security benefits” of the treaty. Currently, all treaty parties are OSCE members.

The treaty, which entered into force in 2002, allows its 34 parties to conduct overflights of the entirety of a member’s territory as a confidence-building mechanism. The treaty requires member countries to make data acquired during their flights available to all parties on request, thus giving all parties equal access to information. According to the final document, there have been more than 670 flights since Russia conducted the first one on Aug. 5, 2002.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia Celeste Wallander, co-chair of the conference, identified the “cooperation and transparency” that the treaty provides as “one of the pillars of conventional arms control and military transparency in Europe.” In its opening statement, the Russian delegation referred to the treaty as “a unique and unparalleled multinational instrument for strengthening confidence and security in a huge region.”

According to the final document, the treaty members “recognize that the Treaty might serve as a model for aerial monitoring regimes in other regions of the world.”


Cluster Convention Set to Enter Into Force

The United Nations received the 30th instrument of ratification for the Convention on Cluster Munitions on Feb. 16, setting the treaty to enter into force Aug. 1.

Cluster munitions are bombs, rockets, and artillery shells that disperse smaller submunitions over broad areas. They sometimes strike civilians or fail to explode initially, later injuring or killing military forces and noncombatants. International outrage at the use of these weapons by Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 led to the so-called Oslo process and ultimately the treaty, which was opened for signature and ratification in December 2008.

Jeff Abramson

The United Nations received the 30th instrument of ratification for the Convention on Cluster Munitions on Feb. 16, setting the treaty to enter into force Aug. 1.

Cluster munitions are bombs, rockets, and artillery shells that disperse smaller submunitions over broad areas. They sometimes strike civilians or fail to explode initially, later injuring or killing military forces and noncombatants. International outrage at the use of these weapons by Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 led to the so-called Oslo process and ultimately the treaty, which was opened for signature and ratification in December 2008. (See ACT, December 2008.)

The convention bars the use of nearly all cluster munitions and obligates countries to destroy stockpiles, conduct clearance efforts, and take steps to help victims. It enters into force on the first day of the sixth month after the month in which the 30th instrument of ratification has been deposited.

Burkina Faso and Moldova provided the 29th and 30th ratifications Feb. 16. Montenegro and Denmark deposited their instruments earlier this year.

Although the United States has not supported the treaty, a number of its allies have. Of the 30 ratifying states, 10 are members of NATO. Ten other NATO members have signed but not yet ratified the treaty. Afghanistan and Iraq have also signed the accord, which allows for military cooperation between member and nonmember states, provided that countries bound by the treaty do not “expressly request the use of cluster munitions where the choice of munitions used is within [their] exclusive control.”

Instead of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Washington has preferred to seek agreement on limiting the use of cluster munitions through the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). A group of governmental experts is scheduled to meet April 12-16 and Aug. 30-Sept. 3 to continue work on a possible sixth protocol to the CCW, led by new chairperson Jesus Domingo of the Philippines. Many of the countries that have committed to the new treaty and are also party to the CCW have stressed that any agreement in the CCW must not weaken controls on the weapons, drawing into question the likelihood of reaching consensus within the CCW. (See ACT, December 2009.)

The 30 states that have ratified the new treaty are Albania, Austria, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, the Holy See, Ireland, Japan, Laos, Luxembourg, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malawi, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, San Marino, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Spain, Uruguay, and Zambia. Another 74 countries have signed the treaty.

In a statement released by his spokesperson Feb. 16, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all states to become party to the treaty. “[T]he Convention’s entry into force just two years after its adoption demonstrates the world’s collective revulsion at the impact of these terrible weapons,” he said.



MEDIA ADVISORY: Arms Experts Urge United States to Reconsider Cluster Munitions Policy as New Treaty Reaches 30th Ratification - Entry Into Force in August



The United Nations received the 30th instrument of ratification for the Convention on Cluster Munitions, setting the treaty to enter into force August 1. Thus far the United States has not supported the accord, but arms experts at the Arms Control Association urged the Obama administration to reconsider its policy on the weapons and move toward joining the treaty.


For Immediate Release: February 17, 2010

Media Contacts: Jeff Abramson, Deputy Director, (202-463-8270 x109).

(Washington, D.C.) Yesterday, the United Nations received the 30th instrument of ratification for the Convention on Cluster Munitions, setting the treaty to enter into force August 1. Thus far the United States has not supported the accord, but arms experts at the Arms Control Association urged the Obama administration to reconsider its policy on the weapons and move toward joining the treaty.

"Just as the global community has moved away from using antipersonnel landmines following the Mine Ban Treaty, we expect the same to happen with cluster munitions as the new treaty enters into force," said Jeff Abramson, deputy director of the Arms Control Association.

"The Obama administration announced a comprehensive review of its policy toward landmines in 2009. It should now do the same with cluster munitions," Abramson added.

"U.S. forces have been moving away from using cluster munitions and antipersonnel landmines-a trend that can and should be accelerated," said Daryl G. Kimball, ACA's Executive Director.  The United States has not used antipersonnel landmines since the early 1990s, and it has not used cluster munitions in Afghanistan since 2002 or in Iraq since 2003.

"The use of weapons that disproportionately take the lives and limbs of civilians is wholly counterproductive in today's conflicts, where winning over the local population is essential to mission success," said Kimball.

Cluster munitions are bombs, rockets, and artillery shells that disperse smaller submunitions over broad areas that sometimes strike civilians or fail to explode initially, later injuring or killing military forces and noncombatants. The Convention on Cluster Munitions, which was opened for signature and ratification in December 2008, bars the use of nearly all cluster munitions and obligates countries to destroy stockpiles, conduct clearance efforts, and take steps to help victims.

The 30 countries that have now ratified the treaty include: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, The Holy See, Ireland, Japan, Laos, Luxembourg, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malawi, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, San Marino, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Spain, Uruguay, and Zambia.

To date, 104 countries have signed the treaty.

Additional Resources:

Arms Control Association cluster munitions resource page: http://www.armscontrol.org/subject/115/date

UN Secretary General statement: http://www.un.org/apps/sg/sgstats.asp?nid=4391

Cluster Munition Coalition press release: http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/news/?id=2040

Subject Resources:

News Briefs

Short updates on a range of topics.

W. African Pact on Small Arms Enters Into Force

Andrew Fisher

Signaling further progress on controlling the transfer of small arms and light weapons in Africa, the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announced Nov. 20 the entry into force of the Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials, three years after it was opened for signature in 2006.

In a statement at the ECOWAS Council of Ministers meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, ECOWAS Commission President Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas said the convention “provides for a ban of arms transfer by member states, with possibility of exemption for legitimate defense and security needs, law enforcement and participation in peace support operations” and prohibits “without exception, arms transfer to non-state actors without the approval of the importing country.”

The ban came into force following the Sept. 29 ratification by Benin, which joined Burkina Faso, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo as a party to the treaty. The other members of ECOWAS are Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau. Under the terms of the 2006 treaty, it enters into force on the date of deposit of the ninth instrument of ratification.

The convention replaces a 1998 political commitment to a moratorium on the import and export of small arms.

New CTBT Station Draws Iranian Rebuke

Meri Lugo

Calling the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) a “security and espionage treaty,” an Iranian official said in early December “it is clear” that the purpose of a recently constructed seismic monitoring station in Turkmenistan is “to monitor Iran.”

Abolfazl Zohrehvand, an adviser to Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, made the comments to Iranian state news outlet IRNA; they were reported by the Associated Press Dec. 9.

The seismic station, which operates continuously, was recently completed near Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, a few kilometers from the Iranian border. As part of the International Monitoring System (IMS), it is one of 337 planned monitoring stations around the world designed to verify the CTBT by detecting nuclear tests. More than 250 stations  have already been built and certified and are actively transmitting data, according to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which is responsible for building the monitoring network.

The Ashgabat station is now undergoing testing and is expected to be certified in 2010.

In a Jan. 4 e-mail to Arms Control Today, CTBTO spokesperson Annika Thunborg said Iran “is a very active member of the CTBTO and participates in all its meetings.” All CTBTO member states “have equal rights when it comes to receiving all information registered by the [IMS],” she said.

The construction and establishment of the Ashgabat facility did not differ from those of any other IMS station, Thunborg added. The type and location of the station “were decided already in the treaty negotiations in the mid 1990s in which Iran partook,” she said.

Currently, Iran has three IMS stations within its borders—one certified and two in the testing stages.

Defense Trade Treaties Remain in Committee

Jeff Abramson

Although the current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee expressed more optimism than his predecessor about moving forward on two defense trade cooperation treaties, the pacts remained stalled in the committee after a Dec. 10 hearing. The 2007 treaties with Australia and the United Kingdom provide a framework for licensing exemptions for preapproved defense projects and firms; proponents argue that the accords will help speed development and deployment of counterterrorism and other technology.

But, at a May 2008 hearing on the treaties, then-Chairman Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and ranking member Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) asked for greater detail on how the treaties would be implemented. Some of the questioning focused on changes that might be needed in the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. (See ACT, November 2008.)

Since then, the Department of State submitted draft regulations, which Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) noted as progress in his opening remarks at the December hearing. Kerry said he intends “to move forward in drafting and passing a resolution of advice and consent to ratification.”

Lugar raised numerous questions about the schedule for completing the draft regulations, how the treaty would be enforced, and congressional involvement in monitoring arms trade and implementation of the treaty. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro and Associate Deputy Attorney General James A. Baker said they would try to have additional written answers and revised regulations by mid-January.

Poland, U.S. Sign Agreement for Missile Site

Volha Charnysh

Poland and the United States signed an agreement Dec. 11 to station some 100 U.S. soldiers on Polish territory to install and operate a set of short- and medium-range missile interceptors. According to the U.S. Department of State, the status of forces agreement (SOFA) “will facilitate a range of mutually agreed activities including joint training and exercises, deployments of U.S. military personnel, and prospective Ballistic Missile Defense deployments.”

The signing of a SOFA is a prerequisite for stationing U.S. troops abroad. According to a Dec. 11 report by RIA Novosti, the first troop rotation is expected to arrive in Poland by the end of March 2010 and will service Patriot missiles.

The December agreement strengthens the national security of Poland, Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich said. The Polish news agency PAP quoted Klich as saying that the agreement would enable the United States to meet its commitments under the Declaration on Strategic Cooperation, which was signed Aug. 20, 2008. The declaration allowed parts of a U.S. missile defense system to be stationed in Poland.

The SOFA comes three months after the Bush-era missile defense system plan in Poland and the CzechRepublic was modified. (See ACT, October 2009.) Under the new plan, the United States would deploy a mobile, land-based version of the Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) in central Europe and ship-based SM-3s in the North and Mediterranean seas. The troops to be stationed in Poland under the SOFA are a part of that plan.

Two More Countries Ratify Cluster Convention

Jeff Abramson

Belgium and New Zealand deposited their instruments of ratification to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in December, becoming the 25th and 26th states to do so, while Cameroon became the 104th signatory state. The treaty was opened for signature in December 2008 and will enter into force six months after the 30th state ratifies it. The pact bans the use of nearly all cluster munitions and obligates states to destroy stockpiles, conduct clearance efforts, and take steps to help victims. (See ACT, December 2008.)



Countries Ban Investment in Cluster Munitions

Pursuing what some say is a logical step required for the implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), several countries have taken action at the national level by barring investment in companies that produce cluster munitions.

Andrew Fisher

Pursuing what some say is a logical step required for the implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), several countries have taken action at the national level by barring investment in companies that produce cluster munitions.

That step is backed by the Cluster Munition Coalition, an international group of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that actively supports the CCM. The group maintains that the prohibition on assistance outlined in Article 1(c) of the treaty should be broadly interpreted to include a ban on investments in companies that manufacture cluster munitions. The provision states that “each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited under this convention.” Because “financing and investing are active choices, based on a clear assessment of the company and its plans,” the group argued for the investment ban in a 2007 policy paper.

Currently, Belgium, Ireland, and Luxembourg are the only countries that prohibit investments in cluster munitions producers. Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, and Switzerland are at various stages of considering parliamentary action on investments. In a June 2009 report, Human Rights Watch noted that several other states, including Bulgaria, Lebanon, and Mexico, had voiced support for a broad interpretation of the prohibition on assistance to include investment although they have not enacted laws to prohibit investment in cluster munitions production.

Such efforts by a growing number of states have been endorsed by the NGO coalition, which on Oct. 29 launched a disinvestment campaign aimed at encouraging governments to end investment in the production of cluster munitions through national legislation. The groups supported their case with a report entitled “Worldwide Investments in Cluster Munitions: A Shared Responsibility,” published by coalition members IKV PAX Christi of the Netherlands and Netwerk Vlaanderen of Belgium.

The report shows a clear trend toward action by governments and financial institutions to limit or end involvement in financing cluster munitions production since the beginning of the Oslo process. That process was led in part by Norway and named for the site of the effort’s first global conference on cluster munitions, which took place in February 2007. The process brought together NGOs, UN organizations, and interested governments in a series of major conferences to draft a ban on cluster munitions. (See ACT, December 2008.)

The report lists 136 financial institutions in 16 countries as being involved in the direct or indirect financing of cluster munitions production, with 45 of them in CCM signatory states. One-half of the institutions are in the United States, which has not signed the treaty. Together, they provided almost $5.1 billion in commercial banking services, $4.2 billion in investment banking services, and $11.8 billion in asset management services over the last two years to eight major producers of cluster munitions worldwide: Alliant Techsystems (United States), Hanwha (South Korea), L-3 Communications (United States), Lockheed Martin (United States), Poongsan (South Korea), Roketsan (Turkey), Singapore Technologies Engineering (Singapore), and Textron (United States).

The report shows that there are now 30 financial institutions, nearly all in Europe, with policies on excluding funding for investment in cluster munitions or other weapons. Of those 30, the report considers 14 of them to compose a “hall of fame” of financial institutions that have pioneered disinvestment by establishing transparent and comprehensive policies of exclusion for funding of cluster munitions. Some of the institutions on this list, including banks, government pension funds, and private financial institutions, based their policies on their country’s involvement with the CCM.

The report also listed 16 “runners-up.” Companies in that category have policies on cluster munitions in place, but the authors of the report consider those policies ineffective because of certain shortcomings or loopholes, such as allowing for indirect financing of cluster munitions production.

According to the report, Belgium was the first country to ban the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions in 2006. In 2007 its parliament unanimously expanded an existing law, which prohibits direct or indirect financing in the production of anti-personnel landmines, to ban investment in companies that produce cluster munitions. The law covers banks and funds operating in Belgium.

After the law passed, Reuters quoted the lead author, Sen. Philippe Mahoux, as saying, “The financial groups which invest in or finance cluster bomb manufacturers will be outlawed.” Yet, according to a November report to the United Nations Association of Sweden from Ethix SRI Advisors, a consulting firm, the Belgian government “has yet to publish a list of restricted entities—companies and investment institutions—as set out in the law.”

Ireland and Luxembourg banned investments in cluster munitions production through national laws designed to implement their ratification of the CCM.

The European Parliament indicated its support for banning investment in cluster munitions in October 2007 when, citing the example of the Belgian law, it passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on using, investing in, stockpiling, producing, transferring, or exporting cluster munitions. The resolution calls on EU countries to follow the lead of Belgium, Ireland, and Luxembourg in adopting national measures that fully ban the use, production, export, and stockpiling of cluster bombs.

In the United States, student groups have called on universities to exclude investments in cluster munitions production from their endowments. At the University of Vermont, the board of trustees recently approved a measure to divest from producers of cluster munitions, other weapons, and depleted uranium, according to the student newspaper, the Vermont Cynic. At ColumbiaUniversity, the Columbia Spectator reported on Nov. 17 that the university’s Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing heard a number of proposals from students on divestment, including one on cluster munitions. Students cited the high failure rate and impact on civilians as the reason for their proposal.

Disinvestment campaigns have been used in the past to apply pressure on countries to change their behavior or to achieve certain goals. During the 1980s, state and local governments in the United States were targeted by campaign organizers to disinvest from companies that did business with the apartheid government in South Africa. More recently, state and local governments have been encouraged to divest from companies that operate in Iran. (See ACT, July/August 2008.)


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