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Now thrive the armourers: unrepentant ‘special friends’, Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United States


Though cluster bombs were banned under international law in 2008, Amnesty International has found a UK-manufactured cluster bomb in Yemen and, according to Defense News, the United States has sold Riyadh cluster bombs and millions of dollars’ worth of training, information gathering, weapons and aerial refuelling support to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

The International Business Times reports that for over a year, Human Rights Watch has recorded attacks on Yemen by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, killing civilians and destroying homes, schools and hospitals. They have used cluster bombs, which scatter explosive ‘bomblets’ across a wide area and eject a stream of molten metal designed to pierce metal armour as they detonate. After this, they explode into thousands of fragments killing and maiming all in the vicinity. If they don’t explode on impact, they become a danger to civilians on the ground. More on the technology here.

Amnesty International calls on the British government, which has rejected claims that the Saudi Arabian-led coalition has violated the laws of war during its conflict in Yemen:

  • to stop the UK selling arms to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition that could be used in the Yemen conflict;
  • to launch an immediate inquiry into how UK cluster bombs ended up in Yemen and
  • to ensure the Saudi Arabia-led coalition destroys all remaining stocks of UK cluster munitions.

Has the Obama administration blocked sales of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia?

A few days later, Defense News and many other media outlets reported that the Obama administration has moved to block sales of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen, amid reports of mounting civilian casualties there. However no link was given and a search for the report in the named journal Foreign Policy found no reference on its site.

(Update, reader Felicity Arbuthnot found a link in another sticle: – subscription only).

This move is said to follow rising criticism by U.S. lawmakers of America’s support for Saudi Arabia’s role in the year-long Yemeni conflict – not because of concern about the civilian casualties and infrastructure damage inflicted, but, it is alleged, due to increasing disappointment at the Saudis’ failure to do more to fight the militants of the Islamic State group in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.




Political loyalties: EU or USA? The red carpet treatment wins the day

cameron red carpet muscat

Saudi Arabia, with Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan led a gulf coalition airstrike against Yemen in March. The Obama administration is supporting the Saudi-led air war with intelligence, air refueling operations and expediting weapons deliveries and other crucial support.

Today a Moseley reader draws our attention to the news reported by the Guardian that – eager to follow suit – David Cameron has extolled the ‘defence’ products made by BAE Systems and assured the company that every effort would be made by the UK government to support the selling of their equipment to Saudi Arabia, Oman and other countries.

This, despite the European parliament’s vote in favour of an EU-wide ban on arms being sold to Saudi Arabia in protest at its heavy aerial bombing of Yemen, which has been condemned by the UN.

According to a BBC report, Houthis – aka Shiite Muslim rebels – are seeking change from weak governance, corruption, resource depletion and poor infrastructure, unemployment, high food prices, limited social services and large-scale displacement.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis have taken to the streets of the capital, Sana’a, to voice their anger at the Saudi invasion.

yemen bombing

Death and destruction: the fruits of Saudi, UK, USA labour


Will vested interest in growing, processing and burning biofuels prevail, here and in the USA?

A few days ago a reader sent a link about miscanthus production for biofuel in this country on the website of the alarmingly misguided Natural England – a ‘public body’ largely funded by DEFRA.
Today the FT reports that the UN has called for an immediate suspension of the production of government-mandated US ethanol – most of which is made from corn.


José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, warns that a US Congress-enacted mandate will divert around 40% of its corn into ethanol despite “huge damage” to the crop because of the worst drought in at least half a century. He foresees that, “With world prices of cereals rising, the competition between the food, feed and fuel sectors for crops … is likely to intensify”. 

State governors, lawmakers, and a coalition of beef, pork, chicken and dairy producers have expressed alarm at surging prices for corn and members of the G20 have also voiced concern about the US ethanol policy. Corn, soyabean and wheat prices have surged between 50 and 30% since June after the US endured the hottest July since temperature records began 117 years ago. The US Midwest farmbelt has seen little rain for months. 

Opposing arguments: 

Tom Vilsack, US agriculture secretary, argues that the US biofuel industry has reduced petrol prices and created jobs. As a former governor of Iowa, he warned that a reversal of the mandate would cause serious economic harm to the region. Un-named analysts add:

  • such a suspension could have a lower impact on food prices than expected;
  • US refiners need billions of gallons of ethanol to meet environmental specifications for their gasoline;
  • ethanol is now a huge component of global energy supplies and the suspension of the mandate could push up oil prices. 
US lawmakers have already cut billion of dollars in subsidies to the sector and officials and lobbyists said several governors planned to join lawmakers next week petitioning the US Environmental Protection Agency, triggering a 90-day legal process that will force the Obama administration to rule whether to waive the ethanol mandate.