Foreign experts: US air strikes in Syria violate American Constitution and UN Charter
17 April 2017. PenzaNews. International experts and politicians continue to discuss situation around the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR), complicated after the US accused Syrian government of using chemical weapons in Idlib and attacked Shayrat air base with cruise missiles on the night of April 7.
Photo: Alec Perkins, Flickr.com
This operation became the first attack by the United States against the positions of Bashar Asad and Donald Trump’s most radical military decision since his inauguration as the US president.
The Syrian government strongly denied the accusations of using nerve gas, placing responsibility for the incident with chemical weapons on the militants. At the same time, there is no objective data on the use of banned chemical agents, since the investigation was not conducted.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the American attack illegal and stated that the situation related to US missile strikes on Syrian air base should not be repeated.
“We consider it ultimately important to prevent any risks of any more of such actions in the future,” the minister said at the meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Moscow on April 12.
Analyzing the actions of the United States, Justin Bronk, Research Fellow specializing in combat airpower and technology in the Military Sciences team at RUSI, said that the attack on Shayrat airbase using 59 Tomahawks had little to no military value but was intended as symbolic messaging to both the Assad regime, and also larger players in the world such as Russia and China.
“Donald Trump clearly wants to show that he is decisive and willing to use military force when he thinks it is necessary, without waiting for congress, a coalition or a UN resolution. Whilst on that level, he has probably made his point, the fact that he chose to use the low-risk, low effectiveness option of cruise missile strikes against one target, for limited military effect and with significant follow-on consequences in terms of the fight against Daesh [the Islamic State, ISIS; banned in Russia] shows that Donald Trump has little time for strategic thought,” the expert told PenzaNews.
According to him, the attack on Shayrat will have significant consequences for operations in Syria in future.
“Furthermore, Russia has said that it will now enhance the Syrian air defence network which is currently old, depleted and in poor condition. Therefore, any subsequent action against the Assad regime will be even more difficult and complex a task than it was prior to the cruise missile strikes. The presence of large numbers of Russian military personnel in Syria and in particular those embedded as advisors with Syrian government forces means that any Western attempt to remove Assad by force would require Russian consent or risking killing Russian troops which is politically not feasible,” Justin Bronk explained.
In his opinion, in the nearest future there will be little change on the ground in Syria.
“Even though the West would love to see Assad removed from power, the military options for trying to remove him, and the potential outcome scenarios for a post-Assad Syria remain as unappealing as ever,” the analyst stressed.
Meanwhile, Louis Fisher, former Senior Specialist in Separation of Powers at Congressional Research Service, the Library of Congress, pointed to the illegality of Donald Trump’s actions in Syria.
“Syria’s use of chemical weapons against its civilians justified a response to deter such actions in the future. However, the use was not directed at the United States, which would have justified military action for defensive purposes,” the expert said.
According to him, the decision to send missiles into Syria was an offensive action, which makes it unconstitutional.
Louis Fisher reminded that taking the country to a state of war is a power that the Constitution reserves to Congress, not to the President.
Moreover, beyond this constitutional question, there remains many important questions about the purpose and likely effect of the missile attack, he said.
“One need only recall the decision of President Obama in 2011 to use military force in Libya to push Qaddafi from power. It led not to a liberated country but one that remains seriously weakened politically, legally, and economically – certainly not a result that Obama expected and wanted. He has admitted that it was a mistake to have a Step One in Libya without having in place a thoughtful, constructive Step Two,” the analyst said and added that Donald Trump’s Step Two is still unknown.
Hina Shamsi, Director, ACLU National Security Project, also stressed that the use of chemical weapons in Syria does not excuse illegality in response.
“In the face of constitutional law barring hostile use of force without congressional authorization, and international law forbidding unilateral use of force except in self-defense, President Trump has unilaterally launched strikes against a country that has not attacked us […] Doing so violates some of the most important legal constraints on the use of force,” the expert said.
According to her, the fundamental principle of separation of powers lies at the core of the Constitution and is the foundation of the US democratic form of government.
“That is why, although the ACLU does not take positions on whether military force should be used, we have been steadfast in insisting, from the Vietnam War through the wars in Iraq and strikes in Libya and Syria by the Obama administration, that the decision to use military force requires Congress’ specific, advance authorization,” Hina Shamsi explained.
In her opinion, Donald Trump’s arguments in favor of strike do not provide justification for the president to do an end run around the Constitution – the basic law of the state, which has the highest legal force.
“As an initial matter, the hypocrisy of this rationale is galling. President Trump is invoking the Syrian government’s killing of helpless men, women, and children — beautiful babies, as he says — when his own Muslim travel ban would exclude those very people from the refuge of the United States,” the analyst added.
In turn, Demetris Papadakis, Member of European Parliament from Cyprus, stressed to the need to conduct an official investigation into the incident with chemical weapons before making any response.
“The US had to wait and see who was behind this criminal attack with chemicals in Syria and then reply with an attack,” the politician said.
In his opinion, the American attack will have a negative influence on the relations between the major actors as this will increase tense and create further problems in the fight against terrorism.
INF treaty issue may be resolved through open dialogue between Russia and US
“I cannot make a prediction about the further development of the situation because nowadays we want to believe that we are going to have better relations between the two power countries — US and Russia. Surely I wish that a common language can be found for the good of humanity far away from cold war environments,” Demetris Papadakis said.
“I am sure that the only ones who are celebrating with further tense between the relationships of US and Russia are the terrorists,” MEP stressed.
Meanwhile, Pal Steigan, Norwegian politician, publisher, writer, independent entrepreneur in the field of culture and information technology, said the US strike on Syria was an act of aggression in total breach with the UN charter.
“Even if the Syrian Army had used chemical weapons, for which there is no proof, it would not have been the right of US to launch any attack. The UN charter reserves that right to the Security Council,” the expert said.
Moreover, in his opinion, the US attack in Syria also runs counter to the verdict of the Nuremberg Tribunal and is a war crime.
“To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole,” the expert quoted the text of the verdict.
From his point of view, such actions discredit the authorities of the US, because they contradict the provisions of the president’s election campaign.
“The attack is also a breach with the campaign promises of Donald Trump and even an about-face from the position he held even the week before. This act of aggression is therefore also a demonstration of how unreliable the US government is. The other powers must take that into account, not least Syria and Russia. They have no reason to trust any promise given by this administration,” Pal Steigan explained his view.
According to him, this increases the danger of all-out war even between the two biggest nuclear powers, the US and Russia.
“The further development of the Syria war is hard to predict. Syria is winning against the jihadis. This makes the US alliance desperate and they may act in very irresponsible ways. By the time of writing there are signals that the US may deploy as many as 50,000 troops to Syria, another gross breach of campaign promises and yet another huge war crime,” the Norwegian analyst said.
According to him, the world is balancing on the brink of a new world war and needs mass anti-war campaign.
“More than ever since Second World War we need a global anti-war mass movement. As long as the war mongers don’t meet any popular resistance they will go on escalating. This brinkmanship increases even the danger of world war by accident because all military systems now being on hair trigger alert,” Pal Steigan concluded.