As global tensions remain high we have been repeatedly asked for our position on the unrest within the Middle East. To repeat a phrase from an opinion issued during the revolt in Libya,
"We have watched the various rebellions in the Middle East with the sadness that comes from having predicted the events years ago and realizing that these revolts are in response to the natural desire for a proper, personal government based upon joint moral obligations and that successful rebellions may, in the long term, be worse than the status quo because the rebels only know what they do not want"It brings us no joy to see our predictions proven correct in Libya, Egypt, and other, similar, nations. We are no champion of dictators, but the current chaos was too predictable to make the time, methods, and actors of change more palatable.
Syria is slightly different. Assad does not embrace the core concepts of Edan, but the forces that have been fighting to overthrow him are, again, no more palatable. The recent apparent use of chemical weapons has attracted increased foreign scrutiny of this terrible conflict, but no more clarity and certainly no greater moral standing on any side.
Before continuing, let us make clear a few points. Edan currently has no citizens within the borders of Syria unless they are currently travelling; Edan has no level of diplomatic exchange with Syria; Edan has no economic interests in or related to Syria or the Syrian government.
The Assad regime is the recognized legitimate government of Syria by international treaty, diplomatic relations, and UN membership. According to the Montevideo Convention (to whom the United States is a signatory but Syria is not) which in article 3 states that,
“The state has the right to defend its integrity and independence, to provide for its conservation and prosperity, and consequently to organize itself as it sees fit, to legislate upon its interests, administer its services, and to define the jurisdiction and competence of its courts.”and in article 8 states,
“No state has the right to intervene in the internal or external affairs of another.”Together these show that the United States is bound to treat the Syrian government's defense of its own integrity against either internal rebellion or outside subversion as legal and internal and to not interfere in this conflict unless the Syrian government requests it.
The United States being bound by this convention could be argued to not apply to Syria, which is not a signatory. However, the United States, France, and Syria are all members of the United Nations and signatories to the UN Charter, which has the legal power of a treaty. The UN Charter repeats the provisions of the Montevideo Convention in slightly different language including article 2, paragraph 4 which states,
"Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”And in article 51 states,
“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self- defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations”Together, these clearly state that unless the United Nations Security Council authorizes such intervention no UN member can legally do the things being publicly debated by various members of the UN, including 'limited strikes' or 'regime change'.
There are some claims that [paraphrase] 'the use of chemical weapons allows [some nation or group] to directly intervene in the absence of UN Security Council approval'. We assume this is a reference the the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) which permits slightly more broad action of its signatories.
This is, bluntly, false. The CWC only permits assistance and cooperation between signatories, it does not allow various signatories to pursue unilateral international actions against other members who violate the treaty. Further, even if it did, it only permits actions by and between entities which are members of the CWC - and Syria is not a CWC signatory.
Let us be clear; we are not so naive as to think that 'international law' is more than a vague hope for some and a thin screen for realpolitik for others. At the same time, however, treaties are meant to be as binding as internal laws upon their signatories. This is certainly the conceit of the United States as it attempts to use treaties to force internal change upon other nations in its pursuit of American tax revenue. If the United States demands that other signatories cleave to the letter and spirit of a tax treaty, should they not be expected by other nations to do the same regarding the UN Charter, the Montevideo Convention, etc?
Certainly the United States is not alone. Great Britain was eager to likewise violate a variety of its treaties, as France remains.
Thus, before we even grapple with the uncertainty of who is at fault for the origin of Syria's internal strife, who performed the chemical weapons attacks (and there have been at least 4), or the moral standing of any of the parties involved we must understand that this is, in the end, Syria's war to fight.