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"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
Jeff Abramson

Cluster Munitions Treaty Nears 10-Year Mark


October 2019
By Jeff Abramson

States-parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions for the first time in September addressed requests to extend treaty-mandated deadlines as they prepare for next year’s review conference.

Components of a cluster munition are displayed at a UN peacekeeper camp in 2007. The cluster munitions treaty will hold its second review conference in 2020, 10 years after its entry into force. (Photo by Mark Renders/Getty Images)At the ninth meeting of states-parties, held Sept. 2–4 at the United Nations in Geneva and chaired by Aliyar Lebbe Abdul Azeez of Sri Lanka, delegates welcomed Gambia and the Philippines as the newest states-parties. There are 107 states-parties and 14 signatories. Twenty nonsignatories also attended as observers, but not the United States, which has consistently chosen not to participate. (See ACT, October 2018.)

The treaty, which entered into force in 2010, bans the use, production, and stockpiling of cluster munitions, the weapons that deliver smaller submunitions that often fail to explode as intended, at times detonating years later. The majority of NATO members, as well as countries in the Americas and sub-Saharan Africa, have joined the treaty. But China, Russia, the United States, and many states in the Middle East and North Africa have yet to do so. The convention calls for states-parties to destroy any stockpiles they have within eight years and clear contaminated land under their jurisdiction or control within 10 years.

During the meeting, states congratulated Botswana and Switzerland for completing destruction of their stockpiles ahead of their deadline for doing so and granted Bulgaria its first extension to this requirement. Research published by the independent Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor program before the meeting found that 99 percent of stocks declared by states-parties had already been destroyed, a collective total of nearly 1.5 million cluster munitions and more than 178 million submunitions. The report noted, however, that Guinea-Bissau, which had never filed a report indicating the size of its stockpile, failed to complete destruction by May 2019 and was in violation of the convention.

The report also noted that there were no reports or allegations of use of cluster munitions by any state-party since the treaty was adopted, but continued to find that the weapons were being used in Syria, although not as frequently as in recent years. While noting challenges in access and data disaggregation, the report also found a decline in casualties in the country, identifying 80 people killed or injured during cluster munitions strikes or by explosive remnants in 2018, down from 187 in 2017. The conflict in Syria has resulted in 3,343 of the 4,128 cluster munitions casualties recorded by the group from 2009 to 2018.

As in prior years, states-parties adopted a final report that “condemned any use by any actor” of cluster munitions. A proposal by New Zealand to specifically mention the use of cluster munitions in Syria was withdrawn after a small number of states indicated that they could not accept naming individual countries. That topic may be revisited next year at the treaty’s second review conference, to be held in November in Switzerland. At the first review conference held in Dubrovnik, Croatia, in 2015, a declaration was adopted in which seven countries were specifically named.

None of the roughly two dozen countries still contaminated with cluster munitions completed clearance in 2018, but a separate report published by the Mine Action Review found that at least 128 square kilometers of cluster munitions-contaminated land was cleared in 2018, the highest annual total recorded. At the meeting, Laos, one of the world's most contaminated countries, was granted a five-year extension to its 10-year clearance obligation, with the recognition that it still faces significant challenges. Germany was also granted a five-year extension to clear a former military training area.

States-parties to the cluster munitions treaty marked milestones in destroying the lethal weapons that have taken thousands of lives.

Senate fails to override Trump's veto of Saudi arms deal in new setback for kingdom's critics

Venda de armas a sauditas direciona politica de Trump para reeleicao em 2020

News Source: 
O Estado de S. Paulo
News Date: 
July 21, 2019 -04:00

Saudi Arms Sales Hit Hurdles in U.S., UK


July/August 2019
By Ethan Kessler and Jeff Abramson

U.S. and UK leaders received rare rebukes on the same day in June to their plans to sell conventional arms to Saudi Arabia, highlighting the challenges that Riyadh’s top two arms suppliers face in justifying their support for the kingdom and its allies.

Displaced Yemeni children carry water containers at a camp in the country's Hajjah province on June 23. The U.S. Senate voted June 20 to halt $8.1 billion of arms sales to Saudi Arabia and its partners in the conflict in Yemen. (Photo: Essa Ahmed/AFP/Getty Images)The Republican-led U.S. Senate voted June 20 to block issuing licenses for $8.1 billion in arms sales to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that had been previously promised by the Trump administration. Senators approved two resolutions, each by a 53-45 vote with seven Republican senators in support, and 20 resolutions en bloc by a 51–45 vote with five Republican senators voting in favor. The resolutions came in response to the administration’s use of emergency powers to bypass the normal congressional notification process on 22 arms sales agreements. The House is expected to pass similar resolutions of disapproval.

The legislative action echoes earlier congressional efforts to curb U.S. military support for Saudi combat activity in Yemen as lawmakers have expressed concern about the humanitarian consequences of the war in Yemen and the Trump administration’s muted response to the Saudi killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a commentator for The Washington Post. Congress approved a resolution in March under the War Powers Act to limit U.S. military action in Yemen, but it could not muster enough votes to overrule President Donald Trump’s veto of the resolution. Trump is expected to veto the June resolutions as well. (See ACT, June 2019.)

Aspects of the planned arms sales faced early opposition from Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who placed a hold in 2018 on precision-guided munition sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, acting during a customary informal period that precedes formal notification. (See ACT, September 2018.) On May 24, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo invoked a provision in the 1976 Arms Export Control Act (AECA) to allow the administration to conclude the sales, citing the need to “deter Iranian aggression and build partner self-defense capacity.” The declaration allowed the president to bypass Menendez's hold and a formal 30-day review process, using authority under the AECA to expedite arms sales to foreign governments if the president declares that “an emergency exists which requires the proposed sale in the national security interest of the United States.”

That emergency authority has been used three times in the past, according to R. Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on June 12. He argued the sales sent a “loud and clear message to Iran that we stand by our regional partners.”

At that hearing, Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) flatly declared that “there is no emergency,” saying that “a real emergency would require weapons that can be delivered immediately...not months or even years from now, as these do.” Cooper agreed that some of the sales would take place over a longer time frame, but said that others are “happening now, and actually, it’s happened prior to this hearing.” It appears that precision-guided munitions would be among the first weapons to be delivered.

Menendez also sought to send a message to the region. “If the Senate wants to show the world that even if you are an ally you cannot kill with impunity, this is the moment,” he said before the June 20 vote. He urged his colleagues to “stand up for the proposition that we won’t let our bombs fall upon innocent civilians and have the moral responsibility which will be a blemish on our history for years to come.”

With Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Menendez and five other senators first introduced the 22 joint resolutions of disapproval on June 5. Such resolutions have been rarely introduced, and their passage by both chambers is exceedingly rare. None has survived a presidential veto.

The pushback against arms sales to Saudi Arabia also extended to the United Kingdom, Riyadh's second-largest arms supplier. The UK Court of Appeal determined on June 20 that the government had failed to sufficiently scrutinize the Saudi-led coalition’s adherence to international humanitarian law, in violation of UK and EU law. In a press summary of their ruling, the judges said the UK government “made no concluded assessments” of the Saudi-led coalition’s record in Yemen, nor did it try to do so. Instead, the government had assessed Saudi “attitude” and engaged Riyadh in an attempt to avoid breaches of law and civilian casualties. The court found that approach insufficient and directed the government to reassess past decisions and change this practice moving forward. The court did not ban any arms transfers, but the UK government said June 25 that while it was reviewing the decision it would “not grant any new licenses for exports to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners (UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Egypt) which might be used in the conflict in Yemen.”

U.S. and UK leaders face domestic hurdles to their efforts to sell Saudi Arabia conventional weapons.

Trump War Powers Veto Survives Override

 

The U.S. Senate failed to override President Donald Trump’s April 16 veto of a congressional resolution to assert authority over direct U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen. The 53–45 vote taken May 2 did not get the 67 votes needed to overcome Trump's veto of the War Powers Act resolution, which had passed the House of Representatives on April 4 and the Senate on March 13. (See ACT, May 2019.)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) shown speaking in Texas in April, introduced the resolution restricting the U.S. military's involvement in the war in Yemen, later vetoed by President Donald Trump. (Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images)“The bad news today: we were unable today to override Trump’s veto regarding U.S. intervention in this horrific war in Yemen,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who introduced the Senate resolution, said following the vote. “The good news: for the first time in 45 years, Congress used the War Powers Act to reassert its constitutional responsibility over the use of armed forces.”

The override vote closely mirrored the Senate vote of 54–46 to approve the resolution in March, with the same five Republicans joining Democrats in supporting the resolution. Two senators did not vote on the veto override, one on each side of the issue.

Asserting authority over war on arms control issues was a congressional theme in May as many legislators raised flags about possible U.S. military intervention in Iran. “Congress has not authorized war with Iran, and the administration, if it were contemplating military action with Iran, must come to Congress to seek approval,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on May 15.—JEFF ABRAMSON

Trump War Powers Veto Survives Override

Trump's override of Congress on weapons deals 'is exactly what Iran would want'

News Source: 
Public Radio International
News Date: 
May 29, 2019 -04:00

Furious lawmakers aim to block Trump's Saudi arms sales

News Source: 
The Hill
News Date: 
May 29, 2019 -04:00

There Is No New ‘Emergency’ Reason to Sell Bombs to the Saudis to Drop In Yemen

News Source: 
Bulgarian Military
News Date: 
May 25, 2019 -04:00

The Trump Administration Is Declaring a Fake Emergency to Sell Weapons to Saudi Arabia

News Source: 
The Intercept
News Date: 
May 24, 2019 -04:00

U.S. to Quit Arms Trade Treaty


May 2019
By Jeff Abramson and Greg Webb

The United States will drop out of the Arms Trade Treaty, the 2013 pact designed to regulate the international trade of conventional arms, President Donald Trump announced April 26.

Speaking to the National Rifle Association on April 26, President Donald Trump displays an order he signed during the speech for the United States to reject the Arms Trade Treaty. (Photo Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)“The United States will be revoking the effect of America’s signature from this badly misguided agreement,” Trump told a large audience at the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in Indianapolis. “The United Nations will soon receive a formal notice that America is rejecting this treaty.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry signed the pact in 2013, but the United States has not ratified it. On stage in Indianapolis, Trump signed a message to the U.S. Senate asking it to discontinue the treaty’s ratification process.

International and U.S. treaty supporters decried Trump’s decision. The pact is the third major arms-related agreement from which the United States has withdrawn since he took office in January 2017.

Latvian Ambassador Janis Karklins, who will preside over the upcoming August 26-30 conference of the treaty's states parties in Geneva, said, “I hope that the U.S. administration will reconsider its decision in the future.”

“This is yet another myopic decision that jeopardizes U.S. security based on false premises and fearmongering,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was echoed by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) who said, “It is abhorrent to use international diplomacy for blatant political pandering.”

Although popular today internationally, the treaty was not concluded easily. Measures to curb illegal and define responsible arms sales were discussed for decades, and a special treaty negotiating process failed in 2013 when Iran, North Korea, and Syria refused to join a consensus agreement. Instead, the pact was taken to the UN General Assembly days later and approved there against their “no” votes. It entered into force on Dec. 24, 2014. Today, the treaty has 101 states-parties and another 34 signatories that have not yet ratified.

The treaty is the first global accord to regulate a broad array of conventional weapons. It establishes common international standards that must be met before states authorize weapons transfers. The treaty generally seeks to reduce the illicit arms trade, reduce human suffering caused by illegal and irresponsible arms transfers, improve regional security and stability, and promote accountability and transparency by state-parties concerning transfers of conventional arms.

U.S. negotiators made clear during the treaty-making process that the pact would not threaten the right to bear arms afforded by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It has no authority over national gun control laws.

Nevertheless, U.S. gun-rights organizations, led by the NRA, have alleged that the treaty would impose limits on U.S. domestic gun sales, and Trump repeated those claims in his NRA speech. “Under my administration, we will never surrender American sovereignty to anyone. We will never allow foreign bureaucrats to trample on your Second Amendment freedom.”

Such rhetoric was misplaced, according to Thomas Countryman, the lead U.S. negotiator of the treaty and now the chair of the Arms Control Association board. “The treaty, if ratified by the U.S. Senate, would not require the United States to change anything in its law or procedures,” he said. “The president's action today is yet another mistaken step that threatens to make the world less
safe rather than more secure.”

Trump to revoke U.S. signature of treaty regulating international trade of conventional weapons.

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