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America’s Catastrophic — And Illegal — Intervention In Syria Must Be Stopped

Toward the end of last year, leaked audio of then-Secretary of State John Kerry went viral across the independent media because it appeared to confirm that the U.S. was watching ISIS and allowing the group to grow in order to exert pressure on the Syrian government, a long-time adversary of the Obama administration.

However, more stunning than this apparent admission was the fact that Kerry confirmed what has been warned about for some time now regarding the legality of America’s Syrian operation. In the leaked audio, speaking to Syrian opposition members at a meeting that took place at the Dutch mission to the United Nations, Kerry stated:

“The problem is that the Russians don’t care about international law, but we do. And we don’t have the basis – our lawyers tell us – unless we have the U.N. Security Council Resolution, which the Russians can veto, and the Chinese, or unless we are under attack from the folks there, or unless we are invited in. Russia is invited in by the legitimate regime – well it’s illegitimate in our mind – but by the regime. And so they were invited in and we are not invited in. We’re flying in airspace there where they can turn on the air defenses and we would have a very different scene. The only reason they are letting us fly is because we are going after ISIL. If we were going after Assad, those air defenses, we would have to take out all the air defenses, and we don’t have the legal justification, frankly, unless we stretch it way beyond the law.” [emphasis added]

As a lawyer who is extremely concerned with human rights and international law, I could have told John Kerry this for free. Though this devastating truth is evident to anyone who has a basic understanding of international legal principles, the fact that the U.S. is still pressing ahead with this strategy despite being informed of the illegality of the operation by their lawyers is quite telling on its own.

It is laughable that before stating this damning fact, Kerry alleged that the Russians don’t care about international law, but “we do” — before he went on to explain that Russia was acting within the bounds of international law while the U.S. wasn’t.

In all likelihood, the real reason Russia and Syria allow American aircraft to fly in Syria’s airspace is not that they are targeting ISIS, as Kerry pondered, but because there is very little that Russia and Syria can do without risking an all-out war with the world’s largest military superpower.

It is almost like saying that Iraq ‘welcomed’ the U.S. invasion in 2003 because there was little that Saddam Hussein’s military could do to stop it. Make no mistake, a country’s inability to drive the U.S. out of its country does not equate to tacit acceptance of its military presence. The schoolyard bully is not welcomed by the silent kids he or she wails upon. In fact, Syria’s president has made it quite clear that the U.S. has invaded its territory, and this alone should be all the knowledge we need to oppose yet another American-led war in the Middle East. Just because the U.S. is targeting ISIL and not Assad does not legitimize America’s operations at all, especially in light of Kerry’s own assessment of the operation as referred to above.

How many countries does the U.S. have to invade illegally before its people decide it’s time to do something about it?


The 2003 invasion of Iraq had no U.N. Security Council Resolution, and the country has been plagued with rampant violence ever since. If the Russians had not been duped out of vetoing the misused U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 with regard to the Libyan conflict in 2011, then Libya would not be the failed state it is today. The Libyan resolution did not authorize regime change and was specifically worded so as to be concerned with protecting civilians on the ground. NATO used the authorization to transform itself into the air force of al-Qaeda-linked rebels and pounded Libya until Muammar Gaddafi had been assassinated.

Under President Trump, the U.S.’ bombing campaign in Syria makes even Obama pale in comparison. The U.N. estimated that in just the first week of America’s ramped up illegal bombing campaign in Raqqa, airstrikes killed 300 civilians.

Even if the U.S. does have some legal justification to bomb Syria, shouldn’t we still oppose military intervention? The U.S. has waged war in a number of countries since the attacks of September 11, and millions of people have died as a result of these American-led conflicts. Terror attacks still run rampant; part and parcel of the vicious cycle of violence responding to violence across the globe.

In areas that have been liberated by the Syrian government, hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians are returning home. In Aleppo, in a Christian-inclined district that was besieged by fanatic rebels who abhor religious diversity, a Cathedral just reopened with a Mozart-inspired concert – something that would have been almost impossible under rebel-held rule.

It is also worth pondering why it is that the U.S., a majority Christian nation, is siding with Islamist rebels against a government that protects the rights of Christians. It makes no sense outside of a geopolitical lens, and Trump supporters who openly profess to be “good American Christians” should take note of this damning fact.

Forget the legality of the war for a minute, forget the mounting death toll that is only able to accrue courtesy of your taxpayer dollars, and take a moment to figure out where we are headed as a species. The U.S. has not only placed itself in a worldwide conflict with no foreseeable end that will continue to line the pockets of the arms-dealing class for centuries to come, but it is also bombing the same territory as another nuclear power with complete polar opposite interests. It is a powder keg that has been waiting a few years to ignite, and the two nuclear powers are becoming ever closer to bombing the exact same location with different ambitions as to which party to the conflict should emerge as the victor.

The potential for this conflict to dramatically escalate should be high enough to warrant a mobilization of effective resistance. If you don’t want your sons, daughters, partners, parents, and friends to go and die in Syria propping up a failing empire concerned only with money and resources, now is the time to act. You can’t afford to wait until body bags of loved ones come parading home before you decide that enough is enough — by then it may be too late.

Before anyone accuses me of sounding the alarm prematurely — and though the corporate media has attempted to accuse Trump of conceding to Putin inside Syria — can anyone name another conflict in which two nuclear-armed powers were bombing the same country with completely different intentions that was also concluded and de-escalated in a timely, safe, secure, and low-risk manner?

Didn’t think so.

The battle against ISIS is still ongoing and involves multiple state actors attempting to hoard as much Syrian territory as physically possible. It is clear that the U.S. has no legal or moral right to be inside Syria in the first place, so does it seem fair to endanger countless more lives in order for the U.S. to gift its proxies a chunk of Syrian territory after ISIS’ downfall?

Darius Shahtahmasebi
Darius Shahtahmasebi is a New Zealand-based legal and political analyst, currently specializing in immigration, refugee and humanitarian law. Contact Darius: Support Darius' work on Patreon:

One Reply to “America’s Catastrophic — And Illegal — Intervention In Syria Must Be Stopped

  1. I don’t want America to ever go into a war just pussyfoot around. Don’t get me wrong I don’t want war, but if we do go to war it should be in for the win by overwhelming force. A country like the country’s in the middle East should be over with in a fairly sort time, if we tell the colonels to go in take the enemy out quickly. No more fighting with gloves on!!

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