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Pentagon announces U-turn on use of depleted uranium in Iraq and Syria

Since the decision to deploy 12 A-10 Thunderbolt II gunships to the Middle East as part of Operation Inherent Resolve last December, concerns have been raised that the US would once again use DU in Iraq – already the world’s most DU contaminated country. Just months before the deployment was announced, Iraq had called on [] the United Nations for technical assistance in dealing with the legacy of the 404,000kg DU that was fired by the US and UK in the conflicts in 1991 and 2003. Iraq also argued in favour of a global treaty ban on the weapons.

In spite of Iraq’s clear and highly visible position against DU weapons, in October a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed [“>had said that 30mm DU ammunition would be loaded onto the A-10 gunships and used as needed: “If the need is to explode something — for example a tank — [depleted uranium] will be used.” However, in a remarkable change in policy and in response to questioning from Joe Dyke, Middle East editor of IRIN, the Pentagon has now Combined Joint Task Force can confirm that US and Coalition aircraft have not been, and will not be, using depleted uranium munitions in Iraq or Syria during Operation Inherent Resolve.”

PAX’s Wim Zwijnenburg welcomed the US U-turn, arguing that the conflict is complex enough: “The further use of these chemically toxic and radioactive munitions would have been yet another burden on the Iraqi population. They are already facing a humanitarian crisis and have grave concerns over the health legacy of historic DU use. The Iraqi government is still struggling with the clean-up of past US DU use, with Iraqi workers and civilians at risk of exposure.”

Depleted uranium isn’t becoming any more acceptable

Since last October, campaigners and parliamentarians in Belgium, the Netherlands and UK have urged their governments to challenge the US on the issue. The decision to deploy the A-10s came days before 150 countries backed a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for international assistance to states affected by DU and for greater transparency over past use to allow clean-up.

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