Canada’s own Stephen Gowans has written just now on the importance of international law in reducing tensions over Syria.
First Step to Resolving Syria Crisis: Distribute Copies of the UN Charter to Washington, London and Paris
A draft resolution, defeated at the UN Security Council on April 14, demanded that the United States and its allies immediately refrain from the use of force in violation of international law.
“It also would have expressed grave concern that such acts had taken place at a time when the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)” had begun a fact-finding mission “to collect evidence in the Syrian city of Douma” of an alleged chemical weapons attack, which formed the ostensible basis of the US, UK, and French (or tripartite) aggression on Syria of the day before.
The representatives of Russia, China, Bolivia and Syria argued for the resolution. Since Western media have given ample coverage to the views of the representatives of the three aggressor states, but only token, superficial coverage of states in opposition to the attacks, I’ve summarized below the arguments of the states in support of the resolution, as reported by the United Nations Press Office.
At the meeting, Vassily A. Nebenzia, Russia’s representative, expressed grave concern that “the United States, supported by its allies, had launched air strikes against Syria” without “a mandate from the Council and in violation of the Charter and international norms,” which prohibits military intervention except in self-defense or with Security Council authorization. The US-orchestrated attacks constituted “an aggressive” and illegal “act against a sovereign State,” Nebenzia charged.
The Russian representative also noted that the aggression had been carried out despite the “OPCW dispatching experts to Syria” to investigate the allegations which the United States, the UK, and France had cited as the basis for their action.
China’s representative Zhaoxu Ma echoed the point, arguing that “the Council must launch an impartial investigation of the suspected chemical weapons attack. Until then, no party must prejudge the outcome, he said, stressing that there was no alternative to political settlement.” He advocated “support for the United Nations as the main mediator” of the dispute, in preference to US-led unilateral efforts conducted outside the framework of international law.
Arguing that the three countries that carried out the attack are “constantly tempted by neo-colonialism”, Russia’s Nebenzia said it “was shameful that, in justifying” its “aggression” the United States had invoked “an article of the United States Constitution”, reminding the US representative that “the international code of behaviour regarding the use of force” is “regulated by the Charter”, not US law.
Nebenzia observed that the attack by the three Western countries had led to the destruction of “scientific facilities in Syria” that “were used for peaceful activities, notably to enhance economic performance. ‘You want Syria to have no economy at all?’ he asked. ‘Throw this country back to the stone age’ and finish off what sanctions had not yet achieved?’”
As to concern for the “suffering of Syrians” the Russian representative accused US, UK and French authorities of “shedding crocodile tears.” “The conflict could end within a day,” he said, if only “Washington, London and Paris” ordered “their hand-picked terrorists to stop fighting Syrian authorities,” a reference to Western countries funding, arming, and equipping Islamist insurgents to wage war on the Syrian government.
Sacha Sergio Llorentty Soliz of Bolvia “decried the air strikes, which” he observed “represented an attack against the OPCW fact-finding mission and the Council’s duty to maintain international peace and security,” to say nothing of “the Charter and the entire international community.” He added that “Bolivia understood that the United States had powerful aircraft carriers, satellites, smart bombs and a huge nuclear weapons arsenal,” but at the same time has “nothing but scorn for international law.”
Syria’s representative Bashar Ja’afari observed “the Secretary-General was exactly right when he had said on 13 April that the cold war was back. Everyone could recall, after the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the books titled The End of History and The Clash of Civilizations, the gist of which was that the peoples of the world could either follow the United States or be attacked by that country.”
Syria’s representative argued that the “aggressors had decided to intervene directly” in his country to avenge “the defeat of their proxies in eastern Ghouta,” adding “that their actions sent a message to terrorists to continue to use chemical weapons not only in Syria, but elsewhere as well.”
Ja’afari denounced the “United States, United Kingdom and France” as “liars, spoilers and hypocrites who were trying to exploit the Council to justify a policy of interference and colonialism. They had demonstrated their conviction,” he charged, “for the law of the jungle and the law of the strong.”
Alluding to the fact that the three aggressor states had attacked targets they said were involved in the production of chemical weapons, Ja’afari wondered why, if they knew the location of chemical weapons production facilities, “they had not shared” this “information beforehand with OPCW or its fact-finding mission.”
In response to Britain’s and France’s proposal to the Secretary General that a plan of action be developed and implemented to resolve the conflict in Syria, Ja’afari made the following proposal. First, he suggested that “copies of the Charter” be distributed “to the representatives of the United States, United Kingdom and France” to remind them that in “launching 110 missiles against” Damascus “and other targets” in Syria they had conducted “a flagrant violation against Syria’s sovereignty.”
Next, he proposed “an immediate halt to support to armed terrorist groups in Syria by the United States, the United Kingdom and France” followed by “an end to lies” to “justify aggression against his nation.”
Western aggression against Syria, Ja’afari reminded the Security Council, includes the “direct United States military occupation” of “a third of his country”—a violation of “Syrian sovereignty” by “a permanent Council member.”
The illegal occupation was announced in January by then US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said that US troops would remain in Syria indefinitely to block Syria from recovering its territory east of the Euphrates, which includes most of Syria’s oil and gas resources. The illegal US occupation is accompanied by Israel’s illegal occupation of Syrian territory on the Golan Heights.
Stephen Gowans’ blog, What’s Left, is available here:
Be sure to mark your calendars for May 14, when Stephen is visiting Hamilton to discuss his new book on Korea!