The Rule of Law in Syria: US Actions Violate “the Law” While Claiming to Enforce It

“A Syria without Assad could be a Syria in which all Syrians are subject to the rule of law.” — Statement by President Obama on Syria, February 4, 2012.

There is no legal basis for the United States to be in Syria, either under international law or under US law. US actions in the country are in violation of international laws regarding unprovoked attacks against sovereign nations, and Congress never authorized the use of force in Syria. Yet without any legal basis at all, in October 2015, the Obama administration sent special forces to Syria. Now, the administration threatens a no-fly zone, meaning that Syria could not fly over its own airspace. Despite the complete lack of legal basis to send in troops or to impose a no-fly zone, Congress and the mainstream media are silent.

“Assad must go” has been the rallying cry since the start of the US intervention in Syria. US involvement began with providing funding to Syrian insurgents trying to overthrow Assad. After destabilizing the region, ISIS (also known as Daesh) gained a foothold in Syria, providing the US with its current reason for attacking — allegedly to fight ISIS. Some argue that the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force permits US actions, but this weak argument is refuted by the several failed attempts to gain Congressional authorization for actions in Syria.

From the start, Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration have taken steps to destabilize Syria. In 2012, Clinton killed peace efforts because the plan would have kept Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power. The leaked John Podesta emails show that in 2014, Clinton knew Saudi Arabia was funding ISIS in the region.

Since the first (and real) reason for US intervention was to remove Assad, this raises the question: Why do Assad’s alleged violations require US intervention, but not the clear human rights violations of Saudi Arabia or Bahrain? Why must Assad go, when Clinton had knowledge that Saudi Arabia is funding ISIS? Because Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are allies of the United States, while Syria is an ally of Russia. Clinton said so herself in the last presidential debate, stating that a no-fly zone would give the US “leverage” over Syria and Russia.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

While the US talks the good talk about freedom, justice and democracy, its actions show disrespect for the law and a distinct lack of democracy. Or rather, US actions show preferential respect for thelaw — laws that support US hegemony are to be enforced, while laws that limit the United States’ use of force are to be ignored.

No Legal Basis for the United States to Be in Syria

In 2013, there was much talk about Congressional legislation regarding Syria. However, nothing came of these bills. They were not passed into law, and thus have no effect at all. On theinternational side, there are only two legal reasons to invade a sovereign nation: (1) self-defense (if an armed attack has occurred); or (2) if the United Nations Security Council authorizes it.

Why Violate the Law?

The Obama administration, with all the lawyers and legal advice at its disposal, is not violating USand international law without some reason. However, the mainstream media turn away and refuses to look at the facts or engage in any real analysis.

The logical conclusion is that US actions are based on geopolitical reasons, and not humanitarian reasons. If Assad is removed, the Syrian state will likely break apart and become much weaker. This will strengthen the US position in the Middle East, while diminishing Russia’s influence. But statements of naked power are unappetizing to the American public. So the militarization in Syriais couched as a humanitarian intervention, with a key point of removing Assad from power because of his alleged violations of international law. Meanwhile, a huge humanitarian crisis has unfolded, with millions of Syrians fleeing, both externally and internally, the violence.

In contrast, Russia has not invaded Syria in violation of international law. The Syrian government requested military aid from its ally Russia, and Russia responded to that request.

The US now seeks a no-fly zone, a zone that would allow US to fly its planes over Syria, whilepreventing Syrian and Russian jets from flying therein. Notably absent from US cries for a no-fly zone is any legal justification for such action, while the continued silence of the corporate media is palpable.