By John T. Bennett - 11/09/11 06:06 PM EST
Two prominent senators want Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to steer talks on an international weapons ban away from a plan they say would harm U.S. defense firms that manufacture cluster weapons.
At issue are efforts to secure a new global pact on cluster munitions that will take place next week in Geneva. Two competing proposals will be in play, but GOP Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Richard Lugar (Ind.) warned Clinton they are concerned efforts to strike a sixth cluster-weapons agreement “may be at an impasse.”
Kyl and Lugar support the so-called Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), which they wrote “would impose meaningful requirements on the countries that are the major users and producers of cluster munitions and which possess approximately 90 percent of the world’s stockpiles.”
The draft protocol the duo urges Clinton to push at next week’s conference “contains critical provisions relating to assistance to victims, transparency standards and technical requirements for the development and production of new weapons in order to minimize harm to civilians.”
A State Department fact sheet describes the CCW as a “treaty [that] aims to provide rules for the protection of military personnel and civilians from injury or attack by particularly injurious weapons such as landmines and booby traps which often kill or wound non-combatants long after a conflict is over.”
But the lawmakers are leery about “a number of troubling developments,” namely that a “handful of states and NGOs whose sole intent is to block adoption of the protocol as a stratagem for advancing” a different pact.
The alternative plan, known as the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), was negotiated outside the United Nations, and the United States and other cluster munition-possessing nations have not signed on to it.
“Activists and some governments have used [the alternative plan] as a tool to intimidate and pressure suppliers, investors and insurers of U.S. defense companies, undermining national security by jeopardizing our industrial base and contractual commitments to U.S. allies,” the senators wrote.
The CCM “fails to address 85 percent of the world’s cluster munitions stockpiles,” and is designed to permit the production, stockpiling and use of cluster weapons, the lawmakers wrote. “As such, it discriminates against U.S. manufacturers instead of promoting solutions that can effectively address the humanitarian issues associated with unexploded ordnance.”
Kyl and Lugar said the alternative plan “relies on arbitrary and unscientific metrics.” What’s more, it “arbitrarily bans weapons that are far safer than some of those it allows,” they wrote.
What is needed from the Obama administration to keep the alternative plan from being adopted is “high-level U.S. diplomatic engagement” that promotes agreement on a sixth CCW protocol, Kyl and Lugar wrote.
“A sixth protocol to the CCW remains an achievable goal. The Senate has provided its advice and consent to the CCW and its previous protocols, most recently in 2008,” they wrote. “It is our view that a sixth protol would receive support in the Senate.”