30 October 2008
US air forces launched a military assault on Syrian territory that killed eight people on October 26. According to the statements of Syrian officials and witnesses, four US helicopters penetrated eights kilometers into the Syrian territory and targeted a building in the village of al-Sukkariya in the Albu Kamal area near the border with Iraq. Although since the American led invasion of Iraq, the US forces has occasionally crossed the border to chase the suspected foreign fighters; this raid is known as the first unannounced operation in the Syrian territory. While the White House has not released an official statement about the alleged raid, some unnamed US officials confirmed the attack and said that the target was an al-Qaeda leader who was facilitating the foreign fighters to enter Iraq. The movement of foreign fighters from Syria into Iraq has long been a base of contention between the US and Syria. The US officials have always blamed Syrians for not exercising enough control over the border and conniving at foreign fighters’ entrance into Iraq. Syrians on the other hand has replied these allegations by saying that an efficient control can only be maintained by the US technical assistance and cooperation with Iraqi security units.
Even tough the US is trying to legitimize its aggressive acts by introducing world’s well being, namely fighting against terrorism; in actuality many people lose their lives.
In the recent events occurred in Syria and Pakistan, many civilians died as a result of unannounced rush attacks of US forces. The US is not only breaching the fundamental principles of international law but also is contradicting itself through these operations conducted in Syria and Pakistan.
International Law and US Interventions
In international law, the right to use of force is understood in a very narrow sense and it is accepted in extraordinary situations. The UN Charter which was adopted to lay down the basic international law principles to maintain international peace and security constitutes guidance for both member states and non-member states in their rights and obligations. According to the UN Charter Article 2 (4), “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.” Thus the Article does not only bans the use of force against another states’ territorial integrity but also bans the threat of use of force. In this context, the existence of a threat of use of force is accepted when a state declares that it will resort to force if the other state does not comply with its demands. The UN Security Council is empowered to determine whether an act constitutes a threat of force. [i]
First exception of the use of force prohibition is provided in Articles 39-51 of the UN Charter. According to the Article 39, “The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Article 41 and 42 to maintain or restore international peace and security.” While the measures envisaged in Article 41 involve non-military sanctions, under Article 42, the Security Council may take military sanctions “to maintain or restore international peace and security.” These measures may involve blockade and other operations by air, sea or land forces of members of the UN. This measure enables the member states to use a collective armed force. The second important exception of use of force prohibition is “self-defense” which is regulated under UN Charter Article 51. This measure provides the assaulted state to respond proportionally to the immediate and pressing threat if there is no alternative solution. If a state’s national interest such as territorial integrity is under attack, it can use force to avoid that threat. [ii]
To sum up, a state can not intervene in another state’s territory without its consent and/or without a UN Security Council Resolution. Otherwise this violation can result in a reaction of self-defense of the assaulted state. This inherent right is a natural consequence of states’ national sovereignty rights. Such intervention, regardless of its rationale, is accepted as an act of aggression. No matter how strong US’s reasons are, a right struggle is unlawful if it is conducted by violation of law.
US is Contradicting Itself
The US has started to act as if it is the first country which met terrorism since September 11 attacks. However, in the international system there are many countries which have been victims of terrorism. For instance, Turkey couldn’t have received the US’s full support while facing the PKK, Armenian, Marxist and the religionist terrorist attacks. Especially after the September 11 attacks, PKK which was settled in Northern Iraq began to use the Iraq territory as assault base against Turkey. The number of armed terrorists has amounted to 6.000 in Iraq, under the control of the US. The PKK has regularly crossed the Iraqi border and targeted the civilian people in Turkey. The number of the civilian people who were murdered by PKK is over 5.000 since 1983. The US has made very little to combat the PKK terrorists although the PKK is counted as one of the terrorist groups in the US’s terror list. The US has ever killed, wounded or captured a single PKK terrorist in Iraq where it has over 150.000 soldiers. Moreover, the US had opposed to Turkey’s air operation until November 2007. Turkey presented three options to the US:
"1) Let me destroy these terrorists by myself.
2) You destroy these terrorists
3) or you and I destroy these terrorists together."
The US besides avoiding these options for about 4 years, the PKK had received assistance from Northern Iraq local authority. At present, the PKK terrorists are located in mountainous districts where the civilian people live rarely. Thus, it was not true that a probable operation conducted by Turkey would immensely affect the Iraqi internal balances. However, it was experienced that when Turkey set a land operation in this region in March 2008, the US was annoyed and called upon Turkey to end the operation immediately. It is well known that Turkey conducts both air and land operations in contact with the US and the Iraqi Government.
Considering the facts explained above, we can easily conclude that the US’s raid in Syrian territory by using terrorism as an excuse is in contradiction with its own policies towards other countries.
The Civilian Losses
There occurred many civilian losses during both Israel’s cross border attack to Lebanon in 2006 and the US’s operations against al-Qaeda militants. The US air forces have targeted wedding corteges, people getting out of the mosques by claiming that they are terrorists. On the contrary, in Turkey’s cross-border operations againts the PKK terrorists no single civilian was injured or killed. The US, in its last attack in Syria not just breached one of the fundamental principles of international law but also committed war crimes by murdering civilians. Such a careless and unlawful struggle can not be accepted as successful. Through this way, the US can gain neither people’s minds nor their hearts.