24.09.2013 Author: Vladimir Odintsov

The United States and International Law

34rt8The 68th Session of the UN General Assembly, which opened on September 17, has been particularly long-awaited against the background of the international community’s agonizing wait in the last few weeks to see along which path the Syrian settlement will proceed. It is upon the work of the General Assembly that hopes depend for the implementation of the rule of international law in the consolidation of international efforts to promote peace and security, particularly in the context of crisis response.

In recent weeks, the United States is for the second time in the last 10 years trying to use military force to change the political leadership of an Arab country in the Middle East. In 2003, it was the overthrow of the regime of Saddam Hussein, and this year – plans to forcibly overthrow the democratically elected Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. To achieve this goal, Washington has used a wide arsenal of power and resources, the vast majority of which is in direct violation of international law.

Syria’s purely internal conflict, which worsened in the last two years, was actively used by the United States to deepen and stir up unfounded allegations against the regime on the basis of false and fraudulent statements, to consolidate forces and international opinion on the appropriateness of using military force against Syria. Meanwhile, White House strategists have to remember that, while declaring the protection of Syria’s civilian population to be a goal of the military operation, they were in violation of international law in entering into large-scale military assistance of one side of the internal conflict, which is not allowed by UN resolutions and declarations that have been taken with the active involvement of the United States. In particular, such actions are prohibited in the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, as reflected in the General Assembly resolution 2625 (XXV) of the UN General Assembly on October 24, 1970, which stresses: “No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. Consequently, armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the State or against its political, economic and cultural elements, are in violation of international law.” And also: “Every State has the duty to refrain from organizing, instigating, assisting or participating in acts of civil strife or terrorist acts in another State or acquiescing in organized activities within its territory directed towards the commission of such acts, when the acts referred to in this paragraph involve a threat or use of force.”

We should not forget that, according to international law, the sending by a state of armed bands and groups, irregulars or mercenaries, which carry out acts of armed force against another state, is treated as indirect aggression. And isn’t the recent help, provided by the United States and its accomplices from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey or Jordan to the rebels of the so-called “opposition” of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), subject to these provisions? In particular:

– Participation in December 2012 of CIA instructors in training fighters of the FSA for combat operations against government forces (see news radio station Kol Israël and the newspaper Los Angeles Times 22.06.2013);

– Supply to militants in Aleppo of 102 anti-aircraft missiles and other military equipment from U.S. warehouses in Turkey and Jordan, as well as 250 rockets to Ahrar Al-Sham jihadists (see newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat 17.06.2013).

However, international law prohibits the transfer of arms to rebel groups, and does not allow for assistance to rebel groups to overthrow the legitimate government of a state, even if it was responsible for massive human rights violations. Moreover, Resolution 2625 of the UN General Assembly expressly prohibits the provision of armed assistance to one side in an internal conflict, and Resolution 3314 of the UN General Assembly specifically states that the recognition of a group in an internal conflict as the legitimate authority cannot serve as the basis for such supplies. These examples alone already provide a basis to accuse the United States of being an aggressor in the framework of international law.

Washington’s provision of military assistance to the Free Syrian Army under the guise of an intention to “take all necessary measures … to protect the civilian population and civilian populated areas” also cannot be taken into account by international law, as from a legal point of view, the rebels cannot be considered as civilians.

It is hoped that the upcoming political debate at the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly will apply the correct legal emphases in relation to actions by instigators of planned military action against Syria, and that the international community will protect peace and security in the Middle East.

Vladimir Odintsov, political analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


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