The Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons Against the Syrian People: Does It Justify Forceful Intervention?

AuthorS. Krishnan
Published date01 December 2017
Date01 December 2017
Subject MatterArticles
Seedling School of Law and Governance, Jaipur National University, Jaipur, India.
Corresponding author:
S. Krishnan, Assistant Professor, Seedling School of Law and Governance, Jaipur National
University, Jaipur, India.
The Alleged Use of
Chemical Weapons
Against the Syrian
People: Does It Justify
Forceful Intervention?
S. Krishnan1
The USA continues to deliberate over the use of military force against
the Syrian regime under Bashar al-Assad, after its alleged use of chemical
weapons against civilians. So long as the UN Security Council does not
agree with intervention, any US action is not permissible under the
UN Charter. Even the principle of Responsibility to Protect would not
be justified in this case, as any action is likely to be short, punitive,
and unlikely to end the attacks on Syrian civilians. To determine if
international law permits the launching of US military strikes in Syria,
it is the UN Charter, and not the Geneva Conventions, which must
guide the US government and the American people. Then, there is the
so-called humanitarian intervention, or a military campaign calculated
to stop widespread attacks on a civilian population, including acts of
genocide, other crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
Chemical weapons, responsibility to protect, international law,
humanitarian intervention
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
21(2) 138–159
2017 Jadavpur University
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/0973598417732603
Krishnan 139
On April 4, 2017, the world awoke—once again—to graphic images of
dead and dying Syrian children, their pale, listless bodies bearing no
marks of traumatic injury. These were the innocent victims of a
chemical weapons (CW) attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in
Syria’s Idlib Province—which, according to recent estimates, left at
least 70 people dead and constituted the worst attack since that in the
Damascus suburb of East Ghouta in August 2013, which claimed more
than 1,200 lives.
The Syrian CW attack is being blamed on the Syrian government
without a shred of evidence. This is not the first time that a CW attack has
been used as a ‘False Flag’ with a view to justifying Washington’s alleged
‘war on terrorism’. The East Ghouta False Flag Chemical attack (August
21, 2013) was used to build a pretext by the Obama administration and
its NATO allies to launch a ‘humanitarian war’ against Syria, on the
grounds that the Syrian government was killing its own people. This event
was part of the build up toward the launching of Obama’s bombing
campaign against Syria and Iraq in 2014 on the grounds that it was ‘going
after the ISIS’.
The alleged use of CW by the Assad government in Syria has created
a debate of whether or not to use forceful intervention. The United States
has just launched a missile attack against Syrian air bases, apparently in
response to the Assad regime’s use of CW against Syrian civilians.
(The attack apparently was launched in the middle of President Trump’s
dinner with Chinese President Xi, and it is not likely to make the Chinese
very happy.) What legal authority for the use of force will President
Trump assert under domestic and international law?
As a matter of international law, President Trump does not have
clear authority to use force in response to Syria’s use of CW, and he
may not care whether US actions are lawful under international law.
Under the UN Charter, the United States is prohibited from using
force in Syria unless authorized by the United Nations Security
Council (UNSC) or exercising its right to individual or collective
self-defense. The US government—like most other governments
(with the exception of the United Kingdom and Denmark)—has never
recognized a right of humanitarian intervention under international
law. China and Russia have continued to block UNSC resolutions that
would authorize the use of force to respond to the Assad regime’s

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