The Middle East, with a population of almost 300 million people, continues to be plagued by legacy landmines, explosive remnants of war, and for some, improvised explosive devices or cluster munitions. Many Middle Eastern countries depend on agriculture and light manufacturing for their populations’ livelihoods. The people in resource-poor countries, such as Yemen, and conflict-riddled countries like Iraq, struggle to make a living, while oil-rich or agriculture-rich countries like Iran, Jordan and Saudi Arabia offer more financial opportunities for their citizens.
Iraq is severely affected by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) from previous and ongoing conflicts, including the 1980–88 Iraq-Iran War, the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and the recent Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003–10). According to the Directorate for Mine Action (DMA), UXO-contaminated land spans 851 square kilometers and landmines cover an area of 727 square kilometers. It is further suspected that cached and abandoned ordnance sites are pervasive throughout the country, thereby posing both a humanitarian risk and a ready source of weaponry for terrorist and insurgent groups.
From FY2003–FY2010, U.S. Government assistance totaled more than $175 million, with the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) investing approximately $79,177,000. Ultimately, the combined efforts of PM/WRA and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad allowed for the establishment of a successful mine-action program, thereby helping to restore land and develop host-nation capacity, in addition to providing humanitarian mine action, UXO cleanup, and small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) and man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) destruction.
In FY2010, PM/WRA provided $24,914,000 as follows:
• RONCO Consulting Corporation—$9.2 million to develop management and operational capability of the Iraq Mine/UXO Clearance Organization (IMCO) as it expands operations and to provide advisory support to IMCO as they introduce mechanical equipment into their demining operations
• MAG (Mines Advisory Group)—$4.8 million to conduct a combination of mine/UXO risk education (MRE), minefield and battle-area clearance operations, explosive-ordnance disposal (EOD), and small arms and light weapons destruction all over the country
• Information Management and Mine Action Programs—$1.1 million to provide prosthetic training and equipment to northern Iraq, as well as information technology support to the government of Iraq to build its own conventional weapons destruction capabilities
• Spirit of Soccer—$325,000 to expand MRE programs for at-risk children through soccer coaching and sports-related activities
• Marshall Legacy Institute—$1 million to continue to train and field mine-detection dogs while expanding operations to southern Iraq and to launch a new Children Against Mines Program
• United Nations Development Programme—$1.2 million to strengthen the inter-ministerial coordination mechanism to develop a sustainable DMA and develop a strategic plan for conventional weapons destruction
The U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Research and Development (HD R&D) Program, in partnership with MAG (Mines Advisory Group)—continued evaluations of several excavator-sifting attachments, a new stand-alone orbital sifter, and a commercial front-loader attachment. The assistance, valued at $300,000, included support to repair and improve a vehicle-mounted portable-sifting system. To date, this equipment has sifted more than 75,000 cubic meters of contaminated soil and uncovered or destroyed more than 1,500 mines and pieces of unexploded ordnance. MAG continues to utilize the equipment in clearing villages and agricultural areas that have been mine-affected for more than 20 years. To learn more about the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Program, visit www.humanitarian-demining.org.
Jordan’s landmine contamination is the direct result of major conflicts over the past 50 years. This contamination is most concentrated along the northern border with Syria, the western border with Israel, and Jordan’s eastern border with Iraq. At one point, military records indicated as many as 305,000 mines covered 60 million square meters, but today, it is estimated to be 200,000 mines mostly along the borders with Israel, Syria, and the West Bank. Ordnance caches left over from the 1970 conflict with the Palestine Liberation Organization are also a major concern.
From FY1996–FY2009, the U.S. Government invested more than $14.1 million in humanitarian mine-action funding, including $8,415,000 from the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA).
In FY2010, PM/WRA spent $2,906,000 for the following:
• National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation (NCDR)—$500,000 to support the Jordan Valley Verification and Sampling project
• North American Treaty Organization Maintenance and Supply Agency—$800,000 to provide support to improve ammunition stockpile management
• Norwegian People’s Aid in partnership with NCDR—$1,000,000 to support mine clearance along the Syrian border
• Polus Center—$606,000 to implement a sustainable victims assistance program
Lebanon faces significant challenges from landmines, explosive remnants of war (ERW), cluster munitions, and other unexploded ordnance (UXO) largely as a result of the 1975 civil war that concluded in 2000. In 2003, a Landmine Impact Survey found that Lebanon had 306 mine-impacted communities affected by 933 mine- and UXO-contaminated sites over 137 square kilometers of land. Additionally, the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 exacerbated the situation, resulting in large levels of new cluster munitions and other UXO contamination.
Since FY1998, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) invested more than $33,593,000 in assistance to Lebanon, $10 million of which was emergency assistance provided in response to the 2006 conflict. U.S. financial assistance has led to the integration of mine-detection dog teams, mechanical flails, and manual deminers in clearance activities by the Lebanese armed forces.
In FY2010, PM/WRA invested $2 million in Lebanon as follows:
• DynCorp International—$1 million for host-nation capacity building efforts and implementation of conventional weapons destruction
• MAG (Mines Advisory Group)—$1 million to deploy five battle-area clearance teams to clear cluster munitions and other conventional weapons
Also in FY2010, USAID’s Leahy War Victims Fund (LWVF) provided $750,000 to Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and World Rehabilitation Fund for two programs. CRS works with a local organization, Arc en Ciel, to raise awareness of business-sector employment issues for people with disabilities and to encourage people with disabilities to seek job opportunities. World Rehabilitation Fund’s program establishes viable business opportunities for victims of war.
Yemen’s landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) are the result of several conflicts, including the 1962–1975 war between republicans and royalists, the 1963–67 war of independence, the 1970–83 war against left-wing guerrillas, and the 1994 civil war. In July 2000, a national Landmine Impact Survey (LIS) revealed that a total of 592 villages in 19 of the country’s 20 governorates were mine/UXO-affected. The LIS also identified 1,078 mined areas covering over 923 square kilometers. Ultimately, contamination affects approximately 828,000 Yemenis.
In addition, small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) are readily found in the homes of Yemeni citizens. A small-arms survey, completed in 2003, estimated there to be 6–9 million SA/LW in the hands of the population.
From FY1997–FY2010, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) invested more than $10 million in humanitarian mine action and SA/LW destruction. In December 2010, clearance had been completed in all 14 Yemen communities highly affected by mines/UXO, except for three minefields subject to permanent marking. Clearance has also been completed in 81 of the 86 medium-impacted communities, and as of December 2010, a total of 89,201 anti-personnel mines, 716 anti-tank mines, and 190,564 items of UXO were cleared from 782.8 million square kilometers of land.
In FY2010, PM/WRA invested $1.065 million to purchase vehicles, demining equipment, and support SA/LW efforts as follows:
• United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)—$500,000 to support the existing mine-action efforts in Yemen, replace necessary equipment, and provide medical care and reintegration support and facilities for landmine/UXO survivors
• UNDP—$500,000 to assist the government of Yemen achieve more cost-effective mine-action field operations, reduce landmine/UXO victim rates, clear and mark suspected hazardous areas, provide medical care, and modify existing mine-action structure
• Marshall Legacy Institute—$65,000 to support a project in partnership with the Yemen Executive Mine Action Center and the Yemen Association for Landmine Survivors to implement a program that will provide vocational training for unemployed landmine survivors and other selected disabled war victims in Yemen