- Demand an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting on the Assad regime’s likely chemical-weapons use.
- Engage NATO and regional partners in planning the U.S. response.
- Request that NATO and other allies begin planning for a major multinational refugee relief mission in Jordan.
At least one remarkable feature of these three steps is that they would all be consistent with applicable international law.
What international law regimes are applicable to the range of actions the governments of Syria and its opponents have proposed? The situation clearly constitutes a threat to international peace and security, thus authorizing action under Chapter Seven of the Charter by the United Nations Security Council, but most action has been blocked by China and Russia apart from an arms embargo, publicly and grossly violated by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Russia, Iran and other states.
International humanitarian law is certainly being violated by various parties to the internal conflict, and not only by the Government of Syria. These same parties are also likely in violation of international human rights obligations under international conventions. Some argue there is international law requiring or permitting armed intervention by other states for the purpose of ending the enormous suffering of the Syrian people. Finally, is international law simply irrelevant to this conflict?
We suggest that attention to the applicable international law would go a long way toward structuring a more effective and sustainable response than any advocated by the politicians whose views are reported by Alterman or by most of the permanent members of the UN Security Council thus far.