UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sept. 3 questioned the legality of the US plan to strike Syria. Ban stated that the use of force is lawful only in two very limited circumstances: (1) when used in self-defense according to Article 51 of the UN charter or (2) when the UN Security Council (UNSC) approves such action. Ban questioned whether the planned use of force would solve the situation in Syria, adding that such use would cause more damage. Ban noted that UN inspectors are deployed to investigate whether chemical weapons have been used in Syria. According to Ban, the UNSC would be able to overcome its differences and take action once investigations are done. A potential US strike has been opposed by Russia. President Vladimir Putin on on Sept. 4 warned the US and its allies to take any unilateral action. However, he stated that he may support the UN action once investigations confirm use of chemical weapons.
The Syrian government is currently using cluster munitions in its ongoing conflict, according to a report issued Sept. 4 by the Landmine and Cluster Munition Moniter (LCMM), an organization co-founded by Human Rights Watch (HRW). Cluster munitions are banned under two separate treaties, in 1997 (Mine Ban Treaty) and 2008 (Convention on Cluster Munitions). The latest report identified more than 200 cluster munition sites in Syria, charging: "Syria is persisting in using cluster bombs, insidious weapons that remain on the ground, causing death and destruction for decades... Meanwhile, other countries around the world that have joined the treaty are showing a strong commitment to get rid of cluster bombs once and for all." Neither Syria nor the US have signed either treaty.
We noted over a year ago that the increasingly poorly named "anti-war" movement (more of a gaggle than a "movement," and highly selective in being "anti-war") was betraying the Syrian people by failing to even acknowledge Bashar Assad's atrocities, and portraying the opposition as all CIA pawns or al-Qaeda jihadists or both. Now that Assad is apparently escalating to genocide and the US threatens air-strikes, is there any sign that the "anti-war" forces have been chastised into a more honest appraisal? Sadly, no.
Since the Syria war began over two years ago, we have been seeking voices of the civil resistance within Syria, which supports a democratic and secular future for the country. Although marginalized by utterly ruthless armed actors that have come to dominate the scene, such a civil resistance continues even now to exist in war-torn Syria. The "anti-war" voices now mounting in the US have displayed very little awareness of these progressive voices in Syria, or even interest in whether they exist—much less their perspectives on the looming military intervention, or the opposition to it. Today, three pieces appeared on the Internet addressed to "anti-war" commentators in the West—two by Palestinians with family connections in Syria, one by a Syrian. They contain some harsh admonitions...
Days after it was reported that Lebanese authorities are barring entry to Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria, The Guardian tells us of the sudden flight of Syria's "well-heeled elite" into Lebanon—predictably meeting no interference from authorities. With nearly 2 million already in refuge beyond Syria's borders according to the UNHCR (up from 1.4 million just four months ago), and hundreds of thousands more internally displaced, many facing hunger and harsh conditions for well over a year now, it is almost satisfying to see the pain get passed around to the regime's favored lackeys. But the threat of US air-strikes which has sparked this exclusive exodus also looms over Syria's commoners—as we saw in Libya, "smart bombs" and "surgical" targeting still have a habit of wiping out civilians. And yes, there is something utterly perverse about the world sitting and watching, arms folded, as Syria escalates to genocide—as in Darfur. But the threat is very real that US intervention will internationalize the conflict, and set off a regional or even global conflagration...
Palestinian refugees fleeing the violence in Syria have been refused entry into Lebanon for three weeks now. Since Aug. 6, according to Human Rights Watch, the Lebanese government has turned back Palestinians, who had originally sought refuge in Syria when they were forced from their homes in 1948 and 1967, and are now fleeing once more with their descendants, this time from the conflict in Syria. A source at the Lebanese General Security confirmed to IRIN news agency that the government is no longer letting Palestinians from Syria into Lebanon. Makram Malaeb, program manager for the Syrian response at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said exceptions would be made for "humanitarian cases."
The Israeli air force struck the compound of a Palestinian militant group in Lebanon Aug. 23—hours after a different organization claimed responsibility for four rockets fired into northern Israel from Lebanese territory, causing some damage but no casualties. Israel's military said, "The pilots reported direct hits to the target." Lebanese media said the target was a position of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), whereas the rocket salvo was claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an Islamist group that similarly claimed rocket fire on Israel in 2009 and 2011. Israeli army spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai actually said the rockets were "launched by the global jihad terror organization"—standard Israeli military lingo for the al-Qaeda network. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened retaliation after the rocket strikes: "Anyone who harms us, or tries to harm us, should know—we will strike them." Yet the retailiation didn't strike "them." (AFP, Lebanon Daily Star, Aug. 23)
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights posted to its Facebook page Aug. 21 claims, based on witness reports, of a chemical gas attack on the eastern Damascus suburbs. Dozens were reported killed and hundreds injured in the towns of Erbin, Zamalka, Ein Terma and East Ghouta. Al Jazeera puts the death toll at "at least 100," and notes that Syrian authorities dismissed the reports as "baseless." The Syrian National Coalition is apparently putting the toll at 650 lives. The claims coincide with a visit to Syria by a 20-member UN team to investigate three sites where chemical weapons were allegedly used over the past year. Al Jazeera and Russia Today report Moscow's rejection of the claims. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the timing of the claimed attack "makes us think that we are once again dealing with a premeditated provocation." Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich charged that "biased regional media have immediately, as if on command, begun an aggressive information attack, laying all the responsibility on the government."