A great “news analysis” piece by Somini Sengupta, the UN correspondent for the NYT and an upcoming speaker on the fall speaker series sheds light on the deeper questions on airstrikes that at least among U.S. popular opinion, are gaining traction. (Arab public opinion, however, is not so enthusiastic.)
Question number one: would U.S. coalition airstrikes on ISIS be “legal” under international law?
“Many European governments really are sticklers on international law rules on the use of force, particularly after the Iraq war,” said John B. Bellinger III, a former legal adviser in the Bush administration. “This may look a lot more justifiable, but they nonetheless feel the obligation to have a legal basis.”
Under international law, any country can ask the world for help in defending itself. And any country in the world can heed the call. The same principle applied to strikes against Al Qaeda and its affiliates in Yemen and Afghanistan, for instance, in the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Likewise, France has intervened in Mali and the Central African Republic at the request of its government authorities.
Far more tricky is the question of whether a foreign power can chase its ally’s enemies across a land border, into the territory of another country. The law allows countries to chase pirates on the high sea in what is known as hot pursuit, though not necessarily on land.
via A Host of Possible Objections to Expanded Airstrikes in Syria – NYTimes.com.
And number two: what type of back room diplomatic wrangling would be required to make a Security Council resolution happen?
The diplomatic challenge in Syria has become increasingly evident among American allies. France on Monday hosted a conference of Western and regional Middle Eastern countries to pledge support for the new Iraqi government’s fight against the Islamic State. The statement produced at the conference made no mention of Syria. Germany said it would provide arms and training to the Iraqi Kurdish forces fighting the insurgents. Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain offered military assistance to the Kurds as well, though his government has not said anything about what it is willing to do in Syria.
What is more, American allies say they worry that any aggression against the Islamic State in Syria could strengthen the bargaining power of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, which has spent the last couple of years bashing all Syrian rebels as terrorists and criticizing the West for not taking them on.
Some of Washington’s most crucial partners in the region are reluctant to focus solely on the Islamic State and risk dropping the diplomatic effort to oust Mr. Assad. Their objections are likely to come up at the meetings over the next several days on how to combat the threat of the Islamic State.