The United States, the United Kingdom, and France are gearing up for a renewed assault on Syria and North Korea. Earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron said France will strike Syria if chemical weapons have been used against civilians in the Syrian war in violation of the international treaty banning chemical weapons — even though he admitted he had not yet seen proof this was the case.
“On chemical weapons, I set a red line and I reaffirm that red line,” Macron told reporters. “If we have proven evidence that chemical weapons proscribed in treaties are used, we will strike the place where they are made.”
“Today, our agencies, our armed forces have not established that chemical weapons, as set out in treaties, have been used against the civilian population,” he added.
On Monday, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also argued in the British Parliament that there was a case for “limited strikes” if there was “incontrovertible evidence of further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime or their supporters.”
However, he did indicate that there was “no military solution that we can impose” to bring peace to the war-torn country.
Despite this, he still suggested that the U.S. “did the right thing” when it attacked the Syrian government in April of last year in response to a suspected — though highly disputed — chemical weapons attack.
“I will certainly hope the West does not stand idly by,” Johnson added.
Opposition member John Woodcock appeared to take the pro-war rhetoric even further, stating that the U.N. Security Council “is broken while one of its permanent members flouts the basic laws and systems of order it was created to uphold.”
In case it wasn’t clear, this a reference to Russia, which has backed the Assad government through almost every U.N. Security Council vote. The irony of this, of course, is that it works both ways; the U.S. also regularly uses its veto to protect Israel, a country the U.N. regards as breaking international law in more ways than one.
“In these dreadful circumstances, being cowed into inaction by this strangulated body is a greater violation than seeking to act even without its own authorization,” Woodcock added.
Only a few weeks ago, the U.S. launched a deadly attack on pro-government troops, including Russian mercenaries on the ground in Syria, signaling that the U.S. will most likely not hesitate in striking Assad directly if the wind blows in the right direction.
On Sunday, Middle East Eye reported that there were signs that civilians had been hit by a suspected chlorine attack in Eastern Ghouta. The source of the claim was the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), an outfit run by one anti-Assad dissident in Coventry, England. Multiple outlets have also echoed the claims that Assad’s government has deployed chemical attacks early this year, though none of them seem to question the reliability of the allegations themselves.
Now, multiple outlets are reporting on an unreleased U.N. report that allegedly found North Korea has been providing Syria with supplies that could be used to make chemical weapons. According to the New York Times, the still-to-be-released report claims items including acid-resistant tiles, valves, and thermometers were shipped from North Korea to the Syrian government. The report also alleges that Pyongyang missile experts have been seen working in Syrian chemical weapons and missile facilities.
The report allegedly states that trade between North Korea and Syria poses a serious risk because it appears to allow Syria to maintain chemical weapons and allow North Korea to fund its nuclear program.
Further muddying the waters of truth are reports that previously emerged from Russian state-owned media claiming Russia’s Center for Reconciliation in Syria said it had been warned in advance that al-Qaeda linked terrorists brought in chlorine containers to a village in Syria, where they were to work with the White Helmets to stage “a provocation.”
Whether one wants to believe the Russian media’s claims or not, it is worth reminding ourselves that attacking a sovereign nation that poses no immediate threat to the U.S. and its allies is a major breach of international law unless that action has been approved by the U.N. Security Council. In the case of North Korea, the U.S. will most likely use the justification of what is known as preemptive self-defense to claim the right to protect itself from North Korea’s alleged nuclear program; in contrast, in Syria, the U.S. and its allies are hoping to invoke the “responsibility to protect” doctrine. Clearly, the recent claims about North Korea’s involvement in Syrian chemical weapons attacks suggest the U.S. may hope to bring a strike on North Korea to the table within this same pro-interventionist framework regarding the protection of Syrian civilians from deadly chemical weapons attacks.
However, in previously leaked audio, even former Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that the “responsibility to protect” argument had not yet evolved into a complete doctrine that could justify U.S. aggression towards Syria.
“The problem is that the Russians don’t care about international law, but we do,” Kerry stated behind closed doors to opposition members at the Dutch mission to the United Nations at the time. “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]
Where does that leave us? It should be clear that the U.S., the U.K., and France have no real leg to stand on when it comes to justifying their desire to disrupt the Syrian and North Korean governments. It is also apparent that the U.S. and its allies want us to believe they are concerned with human rights and chemical weapons attacks in Syria, even while the U.S.-led coalition used white phosphorus in the Syrian city of Raqqa – a city they destroyed at least 80 percent of in a ruthless and deadly siege that killed thousands of civilians.