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Tuesday, July 10

"German Parliament Report: U.S. Presence in Syria Is Illegal"

"The German parliament is now unlikely to renew the mandate for the anti-ISIS operation. Other countries will likely follow and end their participation in the U.S. coalition."
"While this will not change the situation on the ground in Syria it does change the international political atmosphere. It also 'rehabilitates' the Syrian government in the European public eye as it can no longer be depicted as an enemy." 
The German parliamentary report, dated June 28, 2018, seems to have been made available to the German public on the virtual eve of the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11, which President Trump will attend -- and which is expected to be acrimonious, particularly with regard to his demand that all NATO countries contribute their "fair share" to membership. See this BBC report on the upcoming summit for a chart showing which countries aren't meeting the target contribution; Germany is one.  

But with the German parliamentary report in hand, German officials at the summit can ask the Americans, 'You want us to pay our fair share of NATO membership, but a fair share of patently illegal operations under international law?'

And the report is getting publicity ahead of the Trump-Putin summit on Monday -- not to mention Trump's visit to England later this week. Of course the British are also part of the U.S. coalition in Syria.  

Much thanks to MoA's Bernhard for his translation work and commentary on the parliamentary report's key conclusions. 

German Parliament Report: U.S. Presence in Syria Is Illegal
by "b"
July 10, 2018
Moon of Alabama

The Scientific Services of the German Bundestag are the equivalent to the Congressional Research Service in the United States. Members of Parliament can ask the services to give their neutral expert opinions on legal questions and other issues. Opinions by the scientific services are held in high regard.

Alexander Neu, a Member of Parliament for the Left Party in Germany, requested an opinion on the legality of the military presence and operations by Russia, the United States and Israel in Syria.

The conclusions  (pdf, in German) are quite clearcut:

1.  Russia was asked by the recognized government of Syria to help. Its presence in Syria is without doubt legal under International Law.

2.  U.S. activities in Syria, which are analyzed in two parts:

Regime Change

The provision of arms to insurgents in Syria by the U.S. (and others) was and is illegal. It is a breach of the Prohibition on the Use of Force in international law specifically of 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.
Fight against ISIS

The U.S. argues that its presence in Syria is in (collective) self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter because the Islamic State in Syria threatens to attack the United States. That, in itself, would be insufficient as Syria is a sovereign state. The U.S. therefore additionally claims that the Syrian state is "unwilling or unable" to fight against the Islamic State.

The scientific services finding is that the claim of "unwilling or unable" was already dubious when the U.S. operation started. This for two reasons:
The already dubious legal case for the presence of U.S. (and other 'coalition' troops in Syria) can thus no longer be made. The U.S. presence in Syria is illegal.

3.  Israel's attack on Hizbullah and Iranian units and installations in Syria, as well as against Syria itself, are claimed by Israel to be 'anticipatory self-defense' under UN Charter Article 51. 

  • 'Anticipatory self-defense' could only be claimed if  attacks against Israel were imminent. That case has not been made. The Israeli attacks are thus 'preemptive self defense,' which is not an accepted doctrine under  international law.
4. The service was not asked for an opinion on Turkey's incursion into Syria but it notes that claims of 'self defense', as Turkey makes in its fight against Kurdish entities in Syria, are often abuses for geostrategic purposes.

Thus, the Bundestag Scientific Services opinion. 

The given legal arguments are not new. Others have long reasoned along the same legal lines and come to the same conclusions. 

But Germany is a partner of the U.S. coalition of the willing against ISIS. Its military has flown reconnaissance missions from Turkey and Jordan in support of the U.S. operation under the same legal argument the U.S. made. The German parliament is now unlikely to renew the mandate for the anti-ISIS operation. Other countries will likely follow and end their participation in the U.S. coalition.

While this will not change the situation on the ground in Syria it does change the international political atmosphere. It also 'rehabilitates' the Syrian government in the European public eye as it can no longer be depicted as an enemy. 

[END REPORT]

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