Syria and the Law 160


The legal position is perfectly clear. Syria has a recognised government, that of President Assad, represented at the United Nations. That government is legally entitled to call on Russian military assistance. Russian military action against ISIL is therefore legal.

By contrast, US and French military action has neither the sanction of the Syrian government nor the sanction of the United Nations Security Council. It is therefore plainly illegal.

Neo-con propagandists have attempted in the last fifteen years to promote a new doctrine known as the “responsibility to protect”. This is identical to intellectual justifications of Imperialism from sixteenth century Spain through to Victorian England and Imperial Russia. It holds that misgovernment of less developed nations justifies military action against them by more developed countries out of humanitarian concern. It runs directly to the established international law of non-interference and the need for Security Council sanction of military action. The “responsibility to protect” is not enshrined in any generally accepted international treaty – certainly nothing that overrides the provisions of the UN charter – and is not accepted by the large majority of the countries in the world. It is not customary international law and remains a propaganda phrase, not a legal concept.

Finally, I should add that on precisely the same arguments, Russia’s intervention in Ukraine is, beyond any doubt, illegal.


160 thoughts on “Syria and the Law

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  • lysias

    Could someone commission a poll that shows that the Labour Party rank and file support Corbyn on Trident?

  • Resident Dissident

    Is it really illegal for the Government of Iraq to ask for assistance to deal with ISIS when ISIS is using its presence in Syria to hel stage the attacks on Syria – while it is legal for Russia not is now joining in attacking not just ISIS but the legitimate opponents of the Assad regime in Western Syria before attacking ISIS. If this is true then international law is clearly an ass.

    “Responsibility to protect” is not a new doctrine at all – although the lawyers may have come to it rather late and some not at all including Craig’s friends in the Foreign Office – but there are plenty of decent lawyers who recognise its place in the modern world, particularly given the way in which the veto is exercised in the UN against all the underlying principles of that organisation. Is it illegal to be a member of an organisation and then break its principles by the exercise of the veto – perhaps this is something with which our barrack room lawyers might better engage their remaining grey matter?

  • John Spencer-Davis

    Republicofscotland
    30/09/2015 7:25pm

    I think Corbyn also needs to send out a very simple message to the people of the UK that any person losing their employment due to alterations in the nuclear weapons policy of the UK by a British Labour Government will not be left to sink or swim by that Government, but will be supported until they have found satisfactory alternative employment. There was a fight about this on an earlier thread and I was jeered at a bit for saying that it matters. I think it absolutely does matter, and it’s getting more important as time passes.

    Kind regards,

    John

  • Tim

    Wasn’t Griboyedov exercising R2P in Tehran in 1829? Craig seemed to think he was doing the right thing.

  • fred

    “SIXTY PERCENT OF THOSE ELIGIBLE TO VOTE IN THE LEADERSHIP ELECTION VOTED FOR ME, AND I WAS CLEARLY ELECTED ON AN ANTI-TRIDENT MANDATE.”

    There’s a problem John, Corbyn and Labour don’t have too much say in the matter. The next election isn’t till 2020 and by that time the deal will be done, Britain will be committed, there will be no going back and Labour if they do get power are going to be facing a lot of disgruntled supporters wanting to know why they aren’t going to scrap Trident if they say they definitely will now.

  • Salford Lad

    The outcome of the war on ISIS/DAESH in Syria is not easy to predict, but I do not expect it to last long, 3 months at best.
    Washington and its allies never seriously went after ISIS and were in fact dropping supplies to them. Israel were treating wounded ISIS fighters in their hospitals.
    The pictures of atrocities against Yazidis and other civilians, forced the allies to make token strikes for the TV cameras.
    Now the gloves are off and this ragged arse army will be fleeing into Iraq to be the problem of the US.
    Wars are not won with air power alone. Iranian and Hezbollah forces will assist Assads forces with the boot work on the ground with little publicity of their presence.
    ISIS were Jihadi heroes against unarmed civilians ,women and children. They are in for a rude awakening.
    They have been used past their sell- by date by their Washington Masters and are expendable.
    It is the beehive strategy, all the Jihadists in one place, easy to wipe out with modern warfare.

  • Ishmael

    It helped my health a lot living in Canada, but Uk is a degraded society of fear that makes skinning up a joint, watching porn, etc, not very issue laden things under the circumstances.

    Canada isn’t great but I clearly saw coming back how degraded a society we are, and it’s very hard to escape it. The degrading competition for access to females, and the things authoritarian men put them though, that I know about. These are not isolated incidents they are ‘normal’ functioning of a debased society. Most people I know locally clearly ape this perverted notion of manlyness, and actually see it as some kind of virtue.

    Reminds me of Putin’s ‘Russian’ image. But maybe it’s expected (or not a surprise) under the circumstances. I actually feel Russians i’v met a much softer kinder people…

    They have been through some shit as a society haven’t they.

  • John Spencer-Davis

    Fred
    30/09/2015 7:56pm

    Who says there will be no going back? No Parliament can bind a future Parliament.

    Kind regards,

    John

  • MJ

    “I think Corbyn also needs to send out a very simple message to the people of the UK that any person losing their employment due to alterations in the nuclear weapons policy of the UK by a British Labour Government will not be left to sink or swim by that Government”

    He did. You can’t get much simpler than this:

    “But in developing our policy through the review we must make sure all the jobs and skills of everyone in every aspect of the defence industry are fully protected and fully utilised so that we gain from this, we don’t lose from this. To me, that is very important”

    http://press.labour.org.uk/post/130135691169/speech-by-jeremy-corbyn-to-labour-party-annual

  • Habbabkuk (la vita e' bella)

    Our Transatlantic Friend is once again guilty of misrepresentation – perhaps relying on the fact that not many people on this blog who might be tempted to actually read link can read links in Spanish.

    Our Friend writes:

    “A few years after the Kosovo War, Bernard Kouchner of Medecins Sans Frontieres admitted that the claims of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo were lies. http://www.grupotortuga.com/Medicos-Sin-fronteras-pudo-haber

    _____________________________

    Our Friend chooses his words to give the impression that (1) Kouchner himself consciously lied, and (2) there was no ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.

    However, the article to which he links is headed:

    “El fundador de Médicos sin Fronteras reconoce que su campaña para
    sensibilizar sobre la limpieza étnica en Yugoslavia estuvo manipulada”

    The key-word here is “manipulated”.

    That disposes of our Friend’s suggestion that Kouchner was consciously lying.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The only section of the article which quotes Kouchner himself (from his autobiography) makes it clear who was doing the manipulating (and therefore the lying) – ie, the then President of Bosnia:

    Flash-back. Verano del 92, guerra en Bosnia. Bernard Kouchner y sus « Médicos del mundo » difunden en la prensa y en los muros de París una publicidad impactante y cara. El foto-montaje presenta a unos “prisioneros” de un campo serbio en Bosnia. Tras el alambre de espino, Kouchner superpone la imagen de una torre de observación de Auschwitz. Su texto acusa a los serbios de « ejecuciones en masa ».

    ¿Información o propaganda? Propaganda, reconoció Kouchner doce años más tarde. Su reciente libro autopublicitario, Les guerriers de la paix, relata una entrevista con Izetbegovic (el dirigente nacionalista musulmán que en aquel momento estaba en el poder en Sarajevo) en su lecho de muerte :

    – Kouchner : Eran sitios espantosos, pero ahí no se exterminaba sistemáticamente. ¿Lo sabía usted?
    – Izetbegovic : Sí. La afirmación era falsa. Fuera cual fuera el horror de estos lugares, no había campos de exterminio. Yo creía que mis revelaciones podrían precipitar los bombardeos.”

    Moreover, it will be noted from the above that the then President of Bosnia (not Kouchner) admitted that there were in reality no “extermination camps” – but there is no admission by either Kouchner or the President that the accusations of “mass expulsions” (= ethnic cleansing) were invented.

    ++++++++++++++++

    Moral : always read the links carefully and compare what they actually say with the personal strap-line posted by commenters!

  • Tim

    JSD

    As the Greeks found out, you can elect a new government but that doesn’t get you out of a deal. Once it’s signed you’ll have to go through with the contract or at least make good whatever has been so far spent. You could end up paying the money anyway even if you decide not to take delivery

  • Tony_0pmoc

    Craig completely Brilliant except your final sentence.

    “Finally, I should add that on precisely the same arguments, Russia’s intervention in Ukraine is, beyond any doubt, illegal.”

    So if London was Attacking an Independent Scotland (In Every (legal?) way not just Propaganda) and Pulled off a Coup in Edinburgh and Installed a London Government…You and me born in England – but of Scottish Parents and Grandparents returned to Scotland and went up to way above the borders that diplomats like you drew…

    And

    You and Me, Craig in our Suits and Ties (My Mum taught me Well (Windsor Knot) could see These London Cunts Coming…and We Stopped One of Them and Said Mate…If You Go Any Further With That Gun – I am going to Take It Off You and Stick it Up Your Bottom…Would we be breaking the law?

    Well, I suppose a bit..Except is Was Us Common People Who Wrote The Law.

    Tony

  • Ishmael

    Ps,

    Except I guess in realty the manliness of men in the UK is actually an expression of patheticness many are. That’s what strikes me about many, and in so called leadership roles especially. It’s actually not an expression of strength it’s just going along with the US.

    PPs Well said Tony.

  • fred

    “Who says there will be no going back? No Parliament can bind a future Parliament.”

    I’m afraid you are wrong there, they can and they do, a government is legally bound to honour the contracts of it’s predecessors, there would be no long term investments and no international contracts worth the paper they were written on if it were not so.

    If Cameron signs on the dotted line future governments will be obliged to go through with the deal. A future government could still scrap Trident but there is no way they could avoid paying for it.

  • John Spencer-Davis

    Tim
    Fred

    I’m going to step back on this, because international finance and geopolitics are not really somewhere I shine, at all.

    But if it is true that one Parliament can never abrogate a contract entered into by an earlier Parliament, that seems to me to undermine the sovereignty of Parliament altogether. I really do scratch my head over that.

    Kind regards,

    John

  • Habbabkuk (la vita e' bella)

    “Weidenfeld is 95, is funding the rescue of Christians from Syria and is acquiring rights to Philippe Sands’ book.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/jewish-peer-who-fled-nazis-is-rescuing-christians-fleeing-isis-to-repay-debt-10388388.html

    ‘W&N buys title from lawyer Philippe Sands
    September 21, 2015
    Weidenfeld & Nicholson has bought a “uniquely personal exploration of the origins of international law” by international lawyer Philippe Sands.

    __________________________

    Good for Lord Weidenfeld and many thanks to Mary for mentioning Philippe Sands’ forthcoming book, of which I had not previously heard. I shall certainly read it when it comes out.

  • MJ

    “The Labour party are heading for a huge internal collision over Trident, who will prevail the pro or anti Trident faction?”

    Yes, this is Corbyn’s battleground. If the party ends up supporting Trident he will resign. If it ends up opposing Trident all the pro-Trident shadow cabinet members will have to resign. Corbyn probably sees this as his way of galvanising the activists to force out the neo-liberals.

  • Ishmael

    In fact IMO Natalie Bennett showed more balls that the lot of em just saying what she said on these issues…

  • Becky Cohen

    “Finally, I should add that on precisely the same arguments, Russia’s intervention in Ukraine is, beyond any doubt, illegal.”

    Do you feel that Britain’s claim of sovereignty over Las Malvinas/Falklands Islands is similarly illegal too, Craig? In both cases both Cameron and Putin have used the same pre-text for ownership, arguing that the majority collective will of the inhabitants trumps that of geographical location or even the nationality of the original inhabitants.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita e' bella)

    “I’m afraid you are wrong there, they can and they do, a government is legally bound to honour the contracts of it’s predecessors, there would be no long term investments and no international contracts worth the paper they were written on if it were not so.”
    ________________

    Of which the saga of the formal Franco-British agreement to build Concorde is a good example.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita e' bella)

    Becky Cohen

    “Do you feel that Britain’s claim of sovereignty over Las Malvinas/Falklands Islands is similarly illegal too, Craig? In both cases both Cameron and Putin have used the same pre-text for ownership, arguing that the majority collective will of the inhabitants trumps that of geographical location or even the nationality of the original inhabitants.”

    ___________________

    That’s a little silly, isn’t it?

    The UK reacted to an invasion of it territory by another country. Was there an invasion of eastern Ukraine by the Ukrainian govt?

    ++++++++++++++++++

    By the way, have you found any examples of “pro-fascist headlines” in British newspapers in 1940 yet?

    Or at least the names of the British newspapers which carried “pro-fascist headlines” in 1940?

    Thanks.

  • Ishmael

    MJ – 8:21 pm

    Utterly crazy idea, but how about, erm ur…..asking the people? HA, I know, It’s the UK, as if…’British values’…

    ‘You’ll take what your given, sonny Jim, and be thankful.’

  • Habbabkuk (la vita e' bella)

    “The first actual use of the doctrine of humanitarian intervention of which I am aware is the Kosovo War. It was largely based on claims of genocide that turned out, after the fact, to have been mythical.”
    __________________

    I agree with our Transatlantic Friend that the use of the word “genocide” in the Bosnian war was incorrect (mythical if you prefer).

    However, it is beyond dispute that there was a lot of ethnic cleansing, taking the form of mass expulsions (of Bosniacs, Croats and yes, even Serbs).

    Bit like Israel and the Palestinians, I’d say – no genocide but certainly mass expulsions.

  • Mary

    Somehow in the W Indian sunlight Cameron looks even more like a spiv.

    David Cameron says Russian airstrikes in Syria would be a good thing, as long as they target Islamic State (Isis) and not the Free Syrian Army. Speaking in Kingston, Jamaica, on Wednesday, Cameron says that ‘if this is part of international action’ he would welcome the decision. However, the PM adds that if this action is ‘in defence of [Bashar al-]Assad the dictator, then obviously that is a retrograde step’

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2015/sep/30/david-cameron-wary-of-russia-military-involvement-in-syria-video
    26 secs!!

  • lysias

    That the claims of ethnic cleansing (or, even worse, genocide) in Kosovo used to justify NATO’s attack on Serbia is clear from Noam Chomsky’s account: A Review of NATO’s War over Kosovo.

    I remember reading a report in El Pais shortly after the Kosovo War ended of the findings of a Spanish medical team sent to examine the alleged genocide. The team could find no evidence of it.

  • Ishmael

    Dunno about others, but if it came to it. I’d die better knowing we hadn’t helped eviscerate the planet and slaughter millions of people in a most horrid form of death.

    There is nothing boat floating about it.

  • lysias

    I have been talking about the Kosovo War in the late 1990’s all along, not about Bosnia, where I have no opinion on whether genocide was committed. If the Spanish-language article I cited concerns Bosnia, not Kosovo, then I read it too hastily and misunderstood it, and the Resident Invigilator has corrected me.

    Funny that he can now read Spanish, when a few days ago he said he could not, and asked me to translate.

    But of course it’s only strange if we assume that it is always the same person who uses his handle.

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