Syria: who will take responsibility for the «Responsibility to Protect»?

13:43 11.09.2013 • Armen Oganesyan , Editor-in-Chief, International Affairs

In a twitter debate with the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, Alexei Pushkov, the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, observed that:

"He (President Obama) wants to protect the rule of international law prohibiting the use of chemical weapons." This position, of course, echoes recent statements made by U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, in which he has repeatedly stressed that such crimes against humanity cannot go unpunished.

This thesis is essentially indisputable, yes, in fact, no one argues against it. The question is how, when, and based on what criteria can a country be convicted and punished for this offense? It would be too easy for any of these actions to be met with tomahawk missiles and drone strikes.

If it is a crime against humanity, then humanity should be the judge. If someone in the name of humanity carries out a judgment, verifying and enforcing the verdict, which they themselves have made on behalf of humanity, it is absurd from the point of view of the law and dangerous on the basis of the philosophy of such an approach.

With so many protests, reasonable and firm opposition, even from allies, someone's “messianic “action is not legitimized under international law, but is a selfish or collective Inquisition.

As we know, the goal does not justify the means. And it would be absurd to defend the interests of international law, while actually breaking international law, under which the signature of the United States is included.

The truth is, that from time to time you can hear a reference to the fact that the resolution allegedly adopted by the UN, entitled "Responsibility to Protect” gives the right to engage in such attacks. In reality, such a resolution under resolution number 1674 was approved by the UN Security Council. Moreover, it is based on a document was that unanimously approved by all of the states representated at the UN World Summit in 2005. Along with humanitarian, diplomatic and other peaceful means of resolution, it acknowledges the possibility, mind you just the possibility, for decisive collective action ("We are prepared to take collective action").

But all of these decisive actions "designed to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” could be feasible, but only as resolutions declared by the UN.

One must admit that the United States has made a considerable contribution to the development of this resolution. Former U.S. Secretary of State Albright and U.S. President's Special Representative in Sudan Williamson, co-chaired a working group on the resolution "Responsibility to Protect”. The working group headed by them especially emphasized in their report that any action under this resolution should be carried out " in accordance with the UN Charter” , which means that the body that makes the final decision is the UN Security Council .

This document is significant in that, firstly, it does not imply any automatic response, which would be the adoption of military action. Secondly, it eliminates any sole or collective action without the approval of the UN Security Council, which would put them outside of international law.

As rightly observed by British General Lord Dannatt, even the flagrant violation of moral principles in the use of chemical weapons“is not an open invitation for interference in the internal affairs of another country." In this case, the General, of course, tends to assume the use of chemical weapons by the troops of Assad’s government.

However, the United States has not always adhered to the principle of the inevitability of punishment in such cases. Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times reminds us that America, which since 1945 has seen itself as a guarantor of global security, has never considered military intervention to prevent or put an end to a conflict over the violation of human rights. And even more specifically, the United States did not intervene in any way in a situation where chemical weapons were used during the Iran -Iraq war.

There is, however, another legal rule that is common to both national and international law: the presumption of innocence. In this age of our virtual world, to trust in videography and interceptions of telephone conversations is without foundation. The re-enactment of an attack by criminals dressed in Polish uniforms on a German radio station played a tragic role in the outbreak of the Second World War.

One would have to strongly believe in the moral standards of the opposition, to avoid possible manipulation and rigging by Assad’s opponents.

The latest information by German intelligence calls into question the possibility of such action on the part of government troops. In addition, we see complete confusion in assessing the possible motives of such actions on the part of the officials in Damascus. Here, none of the intelligence services, even countries that actively support military action can agree and all versions look extremely illogical and contradictory.

Obviously, there are those who are right to say that the UN inspection does not give an answer to the main question: who has used chemical weapons in Syria? “The author" can, for example, turn out to be one leaked into or infiltrated from, groups of foreign countries, neighboring or distant.

But firstly, all of the arguments for the possible conclusions will be made in public, and, as the saying goes, "laid on the table." Finally, the Security Council could consider the conclusions presented by the Commission, which may in the future form the basis of a resolution on Syria.

Striking before the conclusion of the commission, without a discussion of the results will be insulting to the brave people who have put their lives at risk in the search for truth, and a blunt challenge to the UN and international law.

So the solution for Washington, in fact, confirms the opinion of those skeptics who see behind its actions not a desire to protect morality and law, but a strong desire to further its far-reaching geopolitical plans.

American foreign policy, in fact stands upon a red line, which was not defined by President Obama but by the new Realpolitik. Namely, it is the fact that no one today is a one-man force, or carries "the white man's burden” in relation to the rest of the world.


Unless, of course, we do not want to plunge the world into chaos. Kipling’s times are a thing of the past.


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