Exceptionalism and Legal Issues in Syria: A Country, very fragile, bound by a common solidarity of Statehood entrusted upon them by the Imperial powers over a Century ago, the same powers that still continually seeks to dominate the leadership of this State – Syria! Civil war erupted in Syria after the now famous protests that swept the Arab World and led to a series of ‘Regime Change’ in many Countries across North Africa and the middle east, but the war inside Syria and Iraq has evolved to become a multifaceted war which under international laws guiding armed conflict is regarded as an internationalized armed conflict.
The leadership of the country- Bashar Al Assad is undoubtedly a despot who has held unto power for so long. However, the peculiarities of the Syrian crisis has led many to call out for a political solution. In Iraq, the United States leads an international Coalition that is now battling IS in the city of Mosul using all means necessary (there are reports of phosphorus Usage by Coalition forces there- which is invariably against the Geneva Conventions 1949 and other allied treaties regulating the conduct of warfare). In Syria, the coalition’s operation is limited by the Russian campaign which was legally invited by Syria’s government and which under international law has a sound backing.
Since October 2015 when the Russians deployed forces to Syria, there has been a rollback of Daesh’s momentum in holding territory of their declared Caliphate. The Russian campaign in Syria is bolstered by the Ground Forces of the Arab Republic- Syria, Iran, Hezbollah (Lebanon). However because of the geopolitical games in a polarized international community, there have been sharp criticisms of Russia and its allies’ role in Syria.
Nonetheless despite significant disagreements and sanctions placed on Russia by the Western powers over issues elsewhere (Ukraine and US), there was a line of communication established to ease tension over the Syrian airspace in December 2016. Since January 2017, the United States and partners have carried out direct air-strikes against the legitimate Syrian Armed Forces in contravention of International law and committed stricto sensu acts of aggression which is a breach of the International Criminal Court’s founding Statute- Rome Statute of 2002, particularly article 8.
However, because of the EXCEPTIONALISM of the United State in the international community, there has been little or no fuss about this flagrant violation of international laws by a State. Before you condemn this piece, think to yourself, what would happen if Russia suddenly strikes an Israeli jet in Syria for attacking Hezbollah forces furthermore, imagine what would happen in the Russians suddenly attacks an American jet in Iraq, where it has not been invited by the Government of the Country?
Adherence to international laws of war exist to prevent the outbreak of another war as brutal as the world wars of the past, and to forestall the deterioration of human conditions in hostile environments. Hence, world powers need not be saints in observing some of these laws, while being demons in violating others. If the law were to serve its course, then Aggressors in conflicts would have questions to answer before the International Criminal Court. The family of the Pilot, whose Jet was downed by the US, would be aggrieved about the fact that a foreign country they are not at war with killed their Son in his Country.
Faculty of Law,
Obafemi Awolowo University.