September 2, 2013
For the discerning journalists, editors and citizens
• Any U.S. attack on Syria will be a gross violation of international law, including the UN Charter.
• al-Assad’s admission of UN inspectors obviously was seen by Washington as an obstacle for its war plans.
• An attack will come only as a consequence of deliberately ignored opportunities for professional, impartial mediation and peace-making, the lack of backing of Kofi Annan’s plan of April 2012 in particular.
• An attack can under no circumstances be seen in the light of a responsibility to protect since it will cause even more violence and human suffering throughout Syria.
• Again, we see how the vast majority of people in conflict zones who do not resort to violence are being abandoned.
• Any attack is likely to have grave consequences for the region as a whole.
• For these reasons any attack must be condemned as illegal and counterproductive.
• Governments and citizens everywhere must now use whatever time there is to persuade the U.S. to back down.
1. Immediately after President al-Assad accepted UN inspectors, Washington declared it was ”too little too late”. Secretary of State Kerry said evidence strongly suggested that it was the government that committed a ”moral obscenity” and accused it of covering up its chemical weapons attack. A ”red line” had been crossed. The U.S. report on the chemical attack is conspicuously weak and Pentagon had prepared for a military attack way before it was published. Washington is now about to fall into its own threat trap, one way or the other – no matter President Obama’s latest manoeuvres.
2. Any U.S. attack on Syria will be an indisputable violation of international law, an attack on a sovereign state that has not invaded any other state. An aggression on Syria can only take place in complete defiance of Article 1 of the UN Charter which spells out that peace shall be established by peaceful means and only when every civilian means has been tried and found in vain can an international military action be considered – but then only under command of the UN itself.
3. Any military action must be seen as a consequence of deliberately ignored conflict-resolution opportunities over the last good two years and, in particular, the undermining of Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan that contained e.g. a ceasefire agreement (April 2012) and an inclusive Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate concerns of the Syrian people, humanitarian assistance to the Syrian society. More on Annan’s plan and its fate here.
It is also a consequence of the ill-considered set-up of ”Friends of Syria” in political and military support of the pro-violence rebel opposition in Syria.
4. Furthermore, any attack will fall far outside even a broad definition of the ”Responsibility to Protect” for at least these reasons:
– it will cause more deaths than the chemical attack it is a response to;
– it will make a negotiated solution even more difficult;
– it will prolong the suffering of the Syrian people.
5. This type of military action could have been ruled out if there had been:
a) a space for professional, impartial mediation backed up by leading powers;
a focus on solving problems rather than condemning one or the other side;
initiatives of various types to support the vast majority of Syrians who do not resort to any violence but are squeezed between the government’s and the armed rebels’ violence;
an understanding that complex conflicts won’t go away because single persons or a small elite leave the stage.
6. It must be deplored that the U.S. and its president continue, against the wish of the world and the provisions of international law, to see the U.S. as a global police acting as if it had a superior morality and law on its side and as if its own use of chemical weapons (e.g. Vietnam, Iraq-Iran, Serbia) could be ignored.
7. How grave the regional consequences of an attack on Syria will be is difficult to assess.If it’s president is killed or its government destroyed, the delicate balance of groups in the complex Syrian society will be upset and more violence will follow, most likely for years. Syria’s problems are such that no solution can be found by external military actions and also not be infusing more weapons, ammunition and training into any side.
8. The failed interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya should have taught us the lesson that external military means are likely to do more harm than good. That will be the case in Syria too. There is a broad spectrum of possible actions between wrecking a country and doing nothing. Regrettably, this is still not recognised by governments and, thus, the world continues to be in urgent need of intelligent civilian conflict-management mechanisms and real peace processes in crisis situations.
The Board of TFF
September 2, 2013
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Dr Jan Oberg, TFF director
+46 738 525200