Syria Has Violated International Law, But Also Benefits From Its Protections

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said today that it is almost certain that the government of President Bashir al-Assad was behind the August 21 chemical weapons attacks.

In a bitter irony, the same day Syria sent a letter to the United Nations request intervention to protect it from “aggression” taken against it.

“The Syrian government calls on the UN secretary general to assume his responsibilities… And to make efforts to prevent any aggression against Syria,” wrote Syria’s UN representative Bashar al-Jaafari, according to The Business Insider.

Syria conflict exposes the cloudy realities of laws governing international relations. While the United Nations is the only body which can approve action against Syria for its violation of international law, the current makeup of the U.N. Security Council with Russia as a permanent member essentially ensures no action will be taken.

On Monday, China emerged from its relative silence to urge the US not to intervene, the Associated Press reports. And with no clear threat to its neighbors, many international law experts say there is no legal basis for armed intervention.

“Even for a relatively limited strike of cruise missiles, President Barack Obama “must have Security Council authorization. That’s a major use of military force, and the U.S. has no grounds of self-defense,” Mary Ellen O’Connell, professor of international law at Notre Dame tells The Wall Street Journal.

Craig Martin of The Huffington Post offers additional background on international law in reference to Syria.

Reflecting the split in international opinion is The Jerusalem Post’s Barry Rubin, who argues that intervention will not solve the Syrian crisis and actually could make matters worse.

“Don’t forget that in practice an American intervention would not  be on the side of easing the lot of Syrian civilians but on the side of an extremely oppressive and unstable future government. In other words, it  is not that there are no easy answers, but that there are no good answers,” Rubin contends.

Marc Jacobson, a fellow at The German Marshall Fund of the United States, concurs that even limited airstrikes will not solve the Syrian crisis. In fact, Jacobson posits, President Obama may face a greater challenge garnering support for action on the domestic front.

Saying that comparisons of Syria to Kosovo and Libya are misleading, he says the real challenge is preventing Assad from repeated use of chemical weapons.

“This is not about regime change but about behavioral change — deterring or preventing the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime — whatever the rationale for doing so. The operational challenge is to ensure that strikes are significant enough to destroy Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons without backing him into a corner where he feels he has no choice but to use them.”

Who Is Leading Europe?

Dan O’Brien writes in The Irish Times that with the UK stepping away from its leadership role, and Paris and Rome adrift, that it is time for Germany to step into the leadership vacuum, at least in terms of economics.

“With Britain outside the euro zone and increasingly detached from Europe as the probability increases that it will exit the EU altogether, its voice in Brussels and in national capitals has never been listened to less on matters of continental importance.

“But it is not only the relative weakness of others that has changed the power dynamics in Europe. Germany has many fundamental strengths. It also has fewer weaknesses than Europe’s other big economies,” O’Brien maintains.







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