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United States Draws Criticism for Sale of 1300 Cluster Bombs to Saudi Arabia

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The strong reaction that the US has had towards Syria’s use of chemical weapons seems incongruous to many advocates of arms control. While certainly these groups abhor chemical weapons, they tend to be more worried about weapons of war that are used much more often, cluster bombs. The Department of Defense or DOD has recently announced that it will be building and selling 1300 cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia.

Cluster bombs are explosives that break open shortly before impact and release dozens of submunitions—adorably called “bomblets”—that scatter and explode individually. However, because many of the bomblets fail to detonate, they have created an exploded ordnance crisis that is at least as dangerous as landmines, if not more so.

The United States last used these weapons in 2003, most of which were deployed during the “Shock and Awe” campaign that began the Iraq War. Many of the civilian casualties in Iraq were the result of bomblets that only detonated after being handled.

According to Time, the Cluster Munitions Coalition or CMC recently condemned both the U.S. and Syria for the use of the weapons in the past. They urged the international community to “not let the US use cluster munitions in an attack,” despite the fact that the US will most likely use a Tomahawk cruise missile launched from the sea to hit any Syrian targets.

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The CMC is a group of 39 nations that signed an agreement to ban the construction, stockpiling, and the use of these weapons. While US allies like Germany, Great Britain, and France have all signed the treaty, the US has not and neither has Russia or China. Interestingly, President Obama voted to sign the treaty during the 2008 campaign, while his opponents Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain voted against adopting the measure.