American, British and French ships and airplanes fired over 100 missiles at Syria Saturday morning, claiming it was in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Damascus suburb of Douma. The three countries did not wait for UN authorization, or even for evidence from the scene: the international team of experts from the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had just arrived in Syria to investigate when the missiles began to fly.
As US President Donald Trump triumphantly declared “mission accomplished,”his French colleague Emmanuel Macron called for the UN Security Council to step in and pick up the pieces.
“It is now for the UN Security Council to unite and take initiative on the political, chemical and humanitarian questions in Syria,” the French presidency said in a statement after Macron’s teleconference with Trump and British PM Theresa May on Saturday.
During the emergency session of the Security Council on Saturday, Russia proposed a resolution urging the US and its allies to “immediately and without delay cease the aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic and refrain from further aggressive acts in violation of the international law and the UN Charter.”
Russia, China and Bolivia voted in favor of the resolution. Four other members abstained, with Ethiopian representatives saying there’s no point in voting for a resolution that would be vetoed anyway. The US, the UK and France ‒ all permanent members with veto powers ‒ voted against, killing the proposal. Apparently, when Macron spoke of unity at the UN, he meant unity behind the actions of London, Paris and Washington.
Willy Wimmer, a former member of Germany’s ruling CDU party, compared the behavior of the UK, the US and France to “the same attitude, which [was] used by Adolf Hitler in 1939 to enter into World War Two.”
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel quickly endorsed their allies’ attempt to take the law into their own hands.
European Council President Donald Tusk likewise cheered on the intervention, saying the EU “will stand with our allies on the side of justice.”
NATO also endorsed the bombing in a statement on Saturday, declaring that the alliance “considers any use of chemical weapons by state or non-state actors to be a threat to international peace and security.”
— NATO (@NATO) April 14, 2018
Dissent in Europe
One notable dissention from the EU and NATO position came from Italy. Rome would not allow the use of NATO bases on its soil for the airstrikes, but agreed to provide “logistical support” to the UK, the US and France.
“Now is not the time for escalation, it’s time for diplomacy to give Syria democracy and pluralism after seven years of horrible conflict,” the outgoing PM, Paolo Gentiloni, said.
However, his potential replacement, Matteo Salvini, the leader of the Northern League party, did not mince words when condemning the attack.
“We are still looking for Saddam’s ‘chemical weapons,’ we are still paying for the crazy war in Libya, and someone with a quick trigger finger is insisting on ‘smart missiles,’ only helping the nearly defeated Islamic terrorists. Total madness, stop it,” he posted on Facebook.
The head of Germany’s Left Party (Die Linke), Sahra Wagenknecht, described the missile strike as “another military violation of international law.”
“Since the illegal war against Yugoslavia in 1999, they [the US, the UK and France] want to have their own international structure,” Wimmer, former vice-chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, told RT. “They are no longer interested in having an international organization which can work. And, therefore, they do their utmost to create their own world, where they can do what they want to do.”
Macron’s decision to blindly follow the US was a “big mistake,” Alain Corvez, a former adviser for the French ministries of defense and interior, told RT. “As a French patriot I am very disappointed with the loss of credibility that we had in the world.”
The US, the UK and France set out to “wreck international law without approval from UN and their own parliaments,” Corvez said. They launched a “small strike without big consequences, because they understood that Russia would not let them crush Syria.”
Concern among neutrals
Sweden, which is a member of the EU but not of NATO, also called for the Syrian question to be resolved within the framework of the UN charter and international law, careful not to bring up the fact that both have been violated by the US, the UK and France.
It was pointless to discuss whether the US-UK-French strikes were legal, said Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström. “They happened. Now we need to talk about what to do next.”
Latin American leaders also called for solutions within international law. Peru, which currently chairs the Security Council and is hosting the Summit of the Americas in Lima, called for moderation from all parties and backed a “political solution” for Syria, according to its foreign ministry.
“It’s time to find permanent solutions based in the international law to a war that has been going for far too long and ended too many lives,” Brazilian President Michel Temer told the leaders at the summit.
President Mauricio Macri of Argentina also called for everyone to work “in the framework of existing international commitments.”
The bombing of Syria reminded Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic of the NATO attack on his own country in 1999.
“Being on the side of power does not mean being on the side of morality and justice,” Vucic said, emphasizing Serbia’s current military neutrality.
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