Measure to ban transfer of cluster bombs to Saudis defeated in US House of Representatives

The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly defeated a measure to ban the transfer of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia. The vote was 204 for and 216 against. The vote against the measure was made up of 200 Republicans but only 16 Democrats.

The Obama administration had urged Democrats to vote against the measure. The closeness of the vote shows the growing opposition against Saudi Arabia's conduct of the war which shows that cluster bombs were used several times and fragments show that some at least came from the U.S. This vote comes just as the Obama administration is reported to have quietly put a hold on transfer of cluster bombs to the Saudis.
However, the administration is obviously dead against a ban on sending the weapons to the Saudis. Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, chair of the House Committee on Defense Appropriations, said during debate:“The Department of Defense strongly opposes this amendment, They advise us that it would stigmatize cluster munitions, which are legitimate weapons with clear military utility.”
The munitions scatter hundreds of thousands of miniature explosives over large areas often the size of several football fields. Some fail to explode leaving mine-like explosives that can kill civilians long after a battle. There is an international ban against cluster munitions as described in Wikipedia:The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) is an international treaty that prohibits the use, transfer and stockpile of cluster bombs, a type of explosive weapon which scatters submunitions ("bomblets") over an area. The convention was adopted on 30 May 2008 in Dublin,[6] and was opened for signature on 3 December 2008 in Oslo. It entered into force on 1 August 2010, six months after it was ratified by 30 states.[2] As of April 2016, 108 states have signed the treaty and 100 have ratified it or acceded to it.[3]
Neither the United States, China, Russia, nor Israel have signed the treaty. Neither, have Yemen nor Saudi Arabia.The U.S. position is that they are militarily useful but should not be used in densely populated areas. Representative Hank Johnson from Georgia spoke in favor of the amendment saying: “Earlier this year, the Saudi-led coalition dropped cluster bombs in Yemen’s capital of Sanaa, specifically targeting known civilian neighborhoods. One of the buildings hit was the al Noor Center for Care and Rehabilitation for the Blind, which also has a school for blind children. The destruction of the school and the injuries sustained by the children was unbearably gruesome.”
The vote came just one day after Mohammed Bin Salman, the defense minister as well as Saudi deputy crown prince met with US lawmakers to discuss among other items "the threat posed by Iranian aggression in ..Yemen and the broader Middle East." The closeness of the vote encouraged, Sunjeev Bery, of Amnesty International who said: “This is a big deal for the U.S.-Saudi Arabia alliance, More and more members of Congress are clearly getting tired of selling Saudi Arabia bombs when it is dropping them on civilians in Yemen.”
While Canada is a signatory to the ban on cluster bombs, four Canadian financial institutions have invested $565 million in companies that manufacture the bombs. This information is revealed in the report released in Ottawa by the Dutch Peace Group PAX. The four are among a total of 158 companies worldwide that have invested a whopping $28 billion in companies connected to the weapons from June 2012 to April 2016. Paul Hannon, director of Mines Action Canada wants the Canadian government to issue guidelines to ban such investments by Canadian institutions. Hannon said:"These are inhuman and indiscriminate weapons and no financial institution should be investing in them. Whether it's because they don't realize that they're doing this, whether it's because they're such huge corporations, and one arm doesn't realize what the other arm is doing, that's fine. But they now need to understand."
Named in the report are the Royal Bank of Canada(RBC), Manulife Financial, Sun Life Financial and CI FInancial. CI claims it no longer holds any shares in the US company cited in the report. Royal Bank invested $132 million and Manuflie $48 million in the US firm Textron that manufactures the bombs. RBC said:"RBC is a responsible lender and practices a high level of due diligence prior to lending funds..Our policy prohibits directly financing equipment or material for cluster munitions. We are currently working towards extending this policy beyond lending."Manulife and Sun Life did not respond to a request to comment. Suzanne Ooserwijk, author of the report noted that the Royal Bank had taken positive steps to ban investments in cluster munitions but that their policy contained loopholes. As the appended video shows some of the cluster bombs used in Yemen by the Saudis come from the UK rather than the U.S.


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