The Syrian Intervention: Assessing the Possible International Law Justifications

Author:Michael N. Schmitt
Position:Stockton Professor and Chairman, International Law Department, United States Naval War College
Pages:744-756
 
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International Law Studies 2013
744
T
I
The Syrian Intervention:
Assessing the Possible International Law
Justifications
Michael N. Schmitt
I. INTRODUCTION
he seemingly tangential nature of international law to the debate regard-
ing strikes on Syria is both remarkable and disheartening.
1
With war clouds
looming, the Administration has yet to fully present its legal justification
for military action. Instead, President Obama has merely signaled his will-
ingness to go “forward without the approval of a United Nations Security
Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold
Stockton Professor and Chairman, International Law Department, United States
Naval War College; Professor of Public International Law, University of Exeter. The
views expressed in this article are those of the author in his personal capacity and do not
necessarily represent those of the United States government.
1
. The U.S. operations would be in response to alleged, repeated use by the Assad re-
gime of chemical weapons. On the chemical attacks, see Chairman, United Kingdom Joint
Intelligence Committee, Syria: Reporting Chemical Weapons Use, Aug. 29 , 2013,
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/23509
4/Jp_115_JD_PM_Syria_Reported_Chemical_Weapon_Use_with_annex.pdf. The most
significant event occurred on August, 21, 2013. U.S. estimates are that over 1000 people
died in that attack, whereas the British estimate is approximately 350. Contrast The White
House, Statement by the President on Syria, Aug. 31, 2 013, http://www.whitehouse.gov
/the-press-office/2013/08/31/statement-president-syria, with Joint Intelligence Organisa-
tion, Assessment on Reported Chemical Weapons Use in Damascus, Aug. 27, 2013,
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file /23509
4/Jp_115_JD_PM_Syria_Reported_Chemical_Weapon_Use_with_annex.pdf.

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