Monday, December 7, 2015

Just for the record: US-Led Coalition Are Bombing Syrian Troops, Not ISIS In Violation of International Law

Damascus Says US-Led Coalition Is Bombing Syrian Troops, Not ISIS

Assad's government has accused the US-led coalition of targeting Syrian army positions

Just for the record: Any NATO plane operating in Syria is a violation of international law.
Just for the record: Any NATO plane operating in Syria is a violation of international law.
Although it will be easy for the United States to deny, the latest accusations from Damascus sound not only plausible, but almost obvious
Syrian President Bashar Assad's government accused the U.S.-led coalition of bombing an army camp and killing three soldiers. A spokesman for the coalition denied the claim on Monday.
The Syrian government said three soldiers were killed and 13 were wounded in the attack, which it called an act of aggression. The jets fired nine missiles at the camp in Deir el-Zour province on Sunday night, Syria's Foreign Ministry said in a statement flashed on state television.
It is the first publicly declared incident of its type since the United States and allied countries began bombing the ISIS in Syria more than a year ago.

Syria's foreign ministry sent letters to the U.N. secretary general and to the head of the U.N. Security Council condemning the “flagrant aggression … which goes firmly against the aims of the U.N. charter,” state news agency SANA said.
It urged the United Nations to take “immediate action and take the necessary measures to prevent a repeat” of the incident.
But Col. Steven Warren, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, denied the government's claim. “We did not hit them,” he added.
The US and its allies could be bombing sand dunes for all we care — it would still be a bold-faced violation of international law. NATO does not have any kind of international mandate, or even the flimsiest legal footing, for bombing anything in Syria. Period. The very fact that US warplanes are operating in Syria is criminal
It's amazing how presumptuous the west has become: “We have the right to invite ourselves to bomb any nation of our choosing, for any reason.” Is this really a sustainable international order?

Rogue Action: US-Led ‘Coalition’ Has No International Legal Basis For Airstrikes in Syria

Are any of the US-led ‘Coalition’ airstrikes in Syria actually legal under international law?
Theo Farrell of Kings College London is one of many authorities on the subject who doesn’t think so. He asks:
Most western observers would accept that America is right to use military force against this hideous non-state armed group, which has committed war crimes on a mass scale, displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians, and plunged the region into crisis. But is it legal to do so?
If today’s western leaders understood history, then they would know that the harsh lessons of Nuremberg and undeclared wars of aggression ultimately lead to a state of international lawlessness and anarchy, which in turn, leads to World War. British Prime Minister David Cameron would serve himself and his people well to seriously consider this important piece of modern history, and perhaps take a sober pause in his ecstatic excitement this week to take his country into yet another illegal international military adventure.
Below, international relations expert and global affairs correspondent Sharmine Narwari lays out one of the most thorough breakdowns on this topic published to date – covering most, if not all of the contentious sticking points in this fundamental argument which sits at the core of Washington DC’s so-called “Anti-ISIL Coalition”…
‘ANTI-ISIL COALITION’: In reality, the US and its allies have no legal basis for bombing in Syria (Image: Wikicommons)
Sharmine Narwari
The war drums are getting louder in the aftermath of ISIS attacks in Paris, as Western countries gear up to launch further airstrikes in Syria. But obscured in the fine print of countless resolutions and media headlines is this: the West has no legal basis for military intervention. Their strikes are illegal.
“It is always preferable in these circumstances to have the full backing of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) but I have to say what matters most of all is that any actions we would take would…be legal,” explained UK Prime Minister David Cameron to the House of Commons last Wednesday.
Legal? No, there’s not a scrap of evidence that UK airstrikes would be lawful in their current incarnation.
NO RESOLUTION: US and NATO bombing in Syria is in clear violation of International Law (Image: Wikicommons)
Then just two days later, on Friday, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2249, aimed at rallying the world behind the fairly obvious notion that ISIS is an “unprecedented threat to international peace and security.”
“It’s a call to action to member states that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures against (ISIS) and other terrorist groups,” British UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters.
The phrase “all necessary measures” was broadly interpreted – if not explicitly sanctioning the “use of force” in Syria, then as a wink to it.
Let’s examine the pertinent language of UNSCR 2249:
The resolution “calls upon Member States that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures, in compliance with international law, in particular with the United Nations Charter…on the territory under the control of ISIL also known as Da’esh, in Syria and Iraq.”
Note that the resolution demands “compliance with international law, in particular with the UN Charter.” This is probably the most significant explainer to the “all necessary measures” phrase.  Use of force is one of the most difficult things for the UNSC to sanction – it is a last resort measure, and a rare one.  The lack of Chapter 7 language in the resolution pretty much means that ‘use of force’ is not on the menu unless states have other means to wrangle “compliance with international law.”
What you need to know about international law
It is important to understand that the United Nations was set up in the aftermath of World War 2 expressly to prevent war and to regulate and inhibit the use of force in settling disputes among its member states. This is the UN’s big function – to “maintain international peace and security,” as enshrined in the UN Charter’s very first article.
There are a lot of laws that seek to govern and prevent wars, but the Western nations looking to launch airstrikes in Syria have made things easy for us – they have cited the law that they believe justifies their military intervention: specifically, Article 51 of the UN Charter. It reads, in part:
“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”
So doesn’t France, for instance, enjoy the inherent right to bomb ISIS targets in Syria as an act of self-defense – in order to prevent further attacks?
And don’t members of the US-led coalition, who cite the “collective self-defense” of Iraq (the Iraqi government has formally made this request), have the right to prevent further ISIS attacks from Syrian territory into Iraqi areas?
Well, no. Article 51, as conceived in the UN Charter, refers to attacks between territorial states, not with non-state actors like ISIS or Al-Qaeda. Syria, after all, did not attack France or Iraq – or Turkey, Australia, Jordan or Saudi Arabia.
And here’s where it gets interesting.
Western leaders are employing two distinct strategies to obfuscate the lack of legal justification for intervention in Syria. The first is the use of propaganda to build narratives about Syria that support their legal argumentation. The second is a shrewd effort to cite legal “theory” as a means to‘stretch’ existing law into a shape that supports their objectives.

BOMBS AWAY: Presidents Obama and Hollande having fun aboard Airforce One planning their next airstrike (Photo by Pete Souza 2014, Image Source: Wikicommons)
The “Unwilling and Unable” Theory – the “Unable” argument
The unwilling and unable theory – as related to the Syria/ISIS situation – essentially argues that the Syrian state is both unwilling and unable to target the non-state actor based within its territory (ISIS, in this case) that poses a threat to another state.
Let’s break this down further.
Ostensibly, Syria is ‘unable’ to sufficiently degrade or destroy ISIS because, as we can clearly see, ISIS controls a significant amount of territory within Syria’s borders that its national army has not been able to reclaim.
This made some sense – until September 30 when Russia entered the Syrian military theater and began to launch widespread airstrikes against terrorist targets inside Syria.
As a major global military power, Russia is clearly ‘able’ to thwart ISIS –certainly just as well as most of the Western NATO states participating in airstrikes already. Moreover, as Russia is operating there due to a direct Syrian government appeal for assistance, the Russian military role in Syria is perfectly legal.
This development struck a blow at the US-led coalition’s legal justification for strikes in Syria. Not that the coalition’s actions were ever legal – “unwilling and unable” is merely a theory and has no basis in customary international law.
About this new Russian role, Major Patrick Walsh, associate professor in the International and Operational Law Department at the US Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Virginia, says:
“The United States and others who are acting in collective defense of Iraq and Turkey are in a precarious position. The international community is calling on Russia to stop attacking rebel groups and start attacking ISIS. But if Russia does, and if the Assad government commits to preventing ISIS from attacking Syria’s neighbors and delivers on that commitment, then the unwilling or unable theory for intervention in Syria would no longer apply. Nations would be unable to legally intervene inside Syria against ISIS without the Assad government’s consent.”
In recent weeks, the Russians have made ISIS the target of many of its airstrikes, and are day by day improving coordination efficiencies with the ground troops and air force of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies -Iran, Hezbollah and other foreign groups who are also in Syria legally, at the invitation of the Syrian state.
Certainly, the balance of power on the ground in Syria has started to shift away from militants and terrorist groups since Russia launched its campaign seven weeks ago – much more than we have seen in a year of coalition strikes.
The “Unwilling” Argument
Now for the ‘unwilling’ part of the theory. And this is where the role of Western governments in seeding ‘propaganda’ comes into play.
The US and its allies have been arguing for the past few years that the Syrian government is either in cahoots with ISIS, benefits from ISIS’ existence, or is a major recruiting magnet for the terror group.
Western media, in particular, has made a point of underplaying the SAA’s military confrontations with ISIS, often suggesting that the government actively avoids ISIS-controlled areas.
The net result of this narrative has been to convey the message that the Syrian government has been ‘unwilling’ to diminish the terror group’s base within the country.
But is this true?
ISIS was born from the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in April, 2013 when the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a short-lived union of ISI and Syria’s Al-Qaeda branch, Jabhat al-Nusra. Armed militants in Syria have switched around their militia allegiances many times throughout this conflict, so it would be disingenuous to suggest the Syrian army has not fought each and every one of these groups at some point since early 2011.
If ISIS was viewed as a ‘neglected’ target at any juncture, it has been mainly because the terror group was focused on land grabs for its “Caliphate” in the largely barren north-east areas of the country – away from the congested urban centers and infrastructure hubs that have defined the SAA’s military priorities.

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