Russian cluster munitions: Now you see them, now you don't?
Jonathan Marcus Diplomatic correspondent
- 5 hours ago
- From the section Europe
A shot that seemed to show a soldier standing next to RBK-500 cluster bomb canisters was later edited out of a news package
Just a few days ago Russian warplanes, allegedly using cluster munitions, attacked a US-backed Syrian opposition group based near al-Tanf - a small town close to the border with Iraq.
The Syrian Observatory for Human rights has released images from the location that appear to show the tail-section of a typical RBK-500 cluster bomb canister. And the Americans - to put it mildly - are far from happy.
It is not just the use of the cluster munitions - which is controversial in itself. But it is also the target of the attack - a strike that the Russians have subsequently denied any responsibility for.
Immediately after the Russian air strikes on 16 June, the US invoked a high-level agreement to exchange views on the incident via a videoconference. For one thing the Americans were clearly enraged that a militia group they support was hit.
But the Pentagon insists that there were serious safety issues as well. US jets were diverted to the area after the initial strike. They tried to contact the Russian pilots and when they withdrew, more Russian jets appeared to carry out a second strike.
US and Russian warplanes operating in close proximity carries obvious dangers.
But not all countries have signed up. In particular two of the major military players, Russia and the United States, have so far refused to sign. The US State Department's website declares that "cluster munitions have demonstrated military utility. Their elimination from US stockpiles would put the lives of its soldiers and those of its coalition partners at risk".