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US will use depleted uranium in Iraq again ‘if it needs to’

A US military spokesperson has confirmed that the US will use DU weapons in its fight against ISIS in Iraq if ‘it needs to’ – in spite of Iraq’s recent call for a global ban and for assistance.
29 October 2014 - ICBUW

In the wake of the news that the US has deployed a number of A10 gunships to the Middle East, campaigners and journalists have sought clarification from the US and its allies over their policy on DU use. The decision could see DU used again in Iraq, and in Syria for the first time. Earlier this summer, Iraq, the world’s most DU-affected country, called for a global treaty ban on the weapons. At the UN this month they called for assistance from the international community and for the UN’s specialist agencies to help assess the extent of the problem.

Journalist David Swanson contacted the Pentagon for an article on the story, who advised that the A10s are yet to be assigned a role:

Public affairs superintendent Master Sgt. Darin L. Hubble of the 122nd Fighter Wing told me that the A-10s now in the Middle East along with "300 of our finest airmen" have been sent there on a deployment planned for the past two years and have not been assigned to take part in the current fighting in Iraq or Syria, but "that could change at any moment."

Their spokesperson indicated that if called on for operations, the A10s would be loaded with their standard combat load – a mixture of DU and high explosive ammunition:

The crews will load PGU-14 depleted uranium rounds into their 30mm Gatling cannons and use them as needed, said Hubble. "If the need is to explode something -- for example a tank -- they will be used."

While it is by no means certain that the ageing A10s will be called on for close air support operations in Iraq or Syria, ICBUW believes it wholly unacceptable that a country that has struggled to manage DU contamination for more than two decades should again be facing its further use on its territory. The US’s ongoing refusal to release targeting data from 1991 and 2003 has made clean-up and risk reduction work incredibly challenging and continues to leave civilians at risk of exposure.

UK policy questioned

As reported earlier this week, parliamentarians in the UK have questioned the government’s policy on DU use in joint operations:

Katy Clark MP (Lab) wrote to: ‘ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what discussions he has had with his US counterparts about the use by other forces of depleted uranium in Iraq or Syria.’ Meanwhile Zac Goldsmith MP (Con) wrote to: ‘ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what his policy is on the use of depleted uranium by UK armed forces operating in Iraq and Syria.’

The MoD took some time to respond but eventually helpfully replied that: ‘The UK does not routinely discuss the specific operational use of conventional weapons with partners or allies; these are primarily a matter for the States concerned. 

Katy Clark MP hadn’t been that interested in the MoD’s policy on routine discussions but specifically on whether the UK had discussed the potential for US DU use in the joint operation against ISIS. We hope she will encourage them to answer her first question.