Tag Archive | "use of force"

ISIL fighters marching in Raqqa, Syria.

Uncertainty of U.S. Government Intervention over ISIS

One of the predominant issues in recent world news has been the current actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and the tensions that the U.S. and Syria now face in response to those actions.  The issue is not new, especially since the ISIS group has prospered since U.S. troops left the Syria and Iraq region in 2011, but the conflict has been escalating this year to a breaking point.  This article will explain the origins of ISIS, detail the current state of affairs in Syria and Iraq, and explain the current political struggle the U.S. has in addressing this threat, including the legal implications of taking action against the group in Syria.

As background, the Islamic State in Iraq was created by Abu Ayybu al-Masri in 2006, and was originally a part of al-Queda.  The current leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, took over control after Abu Ayyub al-Masri was killed in 2010.  The group then absorbed another militant group in Syria in 2014 and changed their name to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in April 2013.  In February 2014, al-Queda renounced all association with ISIS in due to months of infighting, and because ISIS was considered too violent. In March, ISIS started its military campaign by first taking over the Syrian city of Raqqa, and now currently controls territory in both Iraq and Syria.  ISIS continues to terrorize parts of northern and western Iraq as well as parts of Syria.

ISIL fighters marching in Raqqa, Syria.

This undated file image posted on a militant website on Jan. 14, 2014, shows fighters from the al Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria. Image Source: ABC News, AP.

One of the unique tensions with ISIS is that many of their fundamental principles go beyond those held by other Muslims.  ISIS believes that all of the Muslims in the world should live under one Islamic state which shall ruled by sharia rule.  The goal for ISIS is to create its own Islamic State in the region between west and northern Iraq and eastern Syria. Their ruthless tactics have not only created tensions with Western States and Syria’s President Assad, but have also created tensions with other al-Queda jihadists groups like the Jabhat al-Nusra group who is now clashing with ISIS, and starting to fight against ISIS to slow down their progress.

Despite efforts by Jabhat al-Nursa to slow progress, ISIS has continued to expand into Iraq and Syria.  They have recently taken Mosul, Iraq’s second most populated city, as well as an oil field in Syria.  Although the ISIS’ movement across the land is of significant concern to President al-Assad, the concern that impacts the U.S. is the mass casualties and humanitarian violations that ISIS commits every time it conquers another region.  Some of the crimes included killing captured Syrian soldiers, killing Kurds in Iraq, and recently the beheading of American journalist, James Foley, which occurred in Syria.  UNICEF estimated that the ISIS in now responsible for the displacement of up to 25,000 Yazidis and the death of 40 children.  As a result of the tensions in Iraq, the U.S. has lunched airstrikes into Iraq to slow ISIS’s progress, but have yet to launch airstrikes into Syria because of the potential political and legal repercussions.

One of issues with the U.S. potentially deciding to launch airstrikes in Syria is the potential legal ramifications.  One of the issues is that Syria may not be able to fight the ISIS on their own, because their counter-attack is based only a mutual dislike of the ISIS by certain groups, like Jabhat al-Nursa.   At this point, the U.S. does not have a stated policy on how they will proceed, but some now believe that the U.S. may choose to use force for Syria.  One of the questions for an U.S. action may be whether there is a justification for use of force under international law.   Part of the justification may be that the U.S. is using the threat to come to the aid of Iraq.  Another justification would be to either use a Security Council Resolution or receive consent from Assad to use force.              Depending on the political ramifications, the U.S. may decide to use either justification.

At this point there situation appears to be at a standstill.  President Obama appears to be weighing the potential of expanding the airstrikes into Syria.  Part of the issue would be if the U.S. decides to strike that action could be considered an act of aggression against Syria.  On the other hand, if Obama decides to work with President Assad it may be considered an act of support of Assad, something which could be difficult considering the allegations the Assad has been turning a blind eye to al-Queda fighters using Syria as a base camp for training.  Regardless of what President Obama decides, this is an issue that will continue to be prevalent in world news until resolved.  The key will be resolving the issue in manner that both protects the citizens at risk and ensures that tensions between the U.S. between Syria do not rise more than that in a manner that is legally justifiable.

Katelin Wheeler is a 4L at the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, and Business Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.


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Critical Analysis: U.S. Naval Ship Fires on Indian Pleasure Boat

USNS Rappahannock (The National)

A U.S. Navy supply ship fired at a small boat in the Persian Gulf on Monday, injuring three people and killing one. United Arab Emirates officials reported that the casualties were Indians on a small, white pleasure craft.

Before the incident, which some are calling a reflection of rising tensions in the region, the small boat had appeared to be heading for the Dubai port of Jebel Ali, the UAE’s main container port and a spot where U.S. vessels often stop to refuel. According to preliminary reports, the U.S. ship gave a verbal warning and warnings by radio and light signals to the boat when it was just over 1,000 yards away.  The naval ship then fired one warning shot, before finally firing the disabling shots.

The crew, mostly civilians along with a security team, on the USNS Rappahannock were reportedly acting in accordance with Navy procedures by using a series of nonlethal, preplanned responses to warn the boat. When the warnings failed to deter the smaller approaching boat, the security team on the USNS Rappanhannock fired rounds from a .50-caliber machine gun. By the time the shots were fired, the boat had approached to 100-200 yards away from the U.S. ship. UAE reports state that the boat did not receive any warnings and was moving on its rightful path.

The incident occurred near the Strait of Hormuz, where tensions have been rising as Iranian officials threaten to close the waterway in response to increased U.S. pressure. Navy vessels are weary of other approaching boats, particularly after the October 2000 suicide bombing attack of the USS Cole. The U.S. has also been increasing its military presence in the area. The pending arrival of the U.S.S. John C. Stennis aircraft carrier group will give the Navy two aircraft carriers and associated warships in the region, as well as eight counter-mine ships.

Officials reported that UAE authorities are investigating the event, and that the Emirates’government would follow up after an initial review. United States’ officials have expressed their condolences and stated that they will be conducting an investigation as well.

Aiden Kramer is a 3L at the University of Denver and the Executive Editor of The View From Above.

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Critical Analysis: Tensions Continue After Syrians Down Turkish Warplane

Following the warplane incident on June 22, when Syrian forces shot down a Turkish warplane, Turkish and Syrian relations have become further stressed by additional military response. Yesterday, Turkey responded by scrambling six fighter jets near the Syrian-Turkish border. Turkish officials claim this is a response, not only to the June 22 incident, but three additional incidents which occurred last Saturday, including Syria sending helicopters near the border.  This is not the first action issued by Turkey in regards to this incident. On Friday, Turkey began deploying rocket launchers and anti-aircraft missiles along the border. According to the AP news agency, Syrian helicopters have flown within 6.5km (4 miles) of the Turkish border.

At this time, there appears to be continued confusion amongst nations as to whether the Turkish warplane, involved in the June 22 incident, crossed over into Syrian airspace. While U.S. news source CNN, has reported that “Both Syria and Turkey acknowledged the plane strayed into Syrian airspace, but Turkey said the incursion was accidental and quickly corrected,” Turkish Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan insists that the warplane was international airspace, not over Syria, stating that the Wall Street Journal (which cited an unnamed military source within Turkey) had “unfortunately published a story which was not true.

Regardless, Syrian and Turkish relations appear to be continuously worsening with the threat of increased military action on both sides. Turkish Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan stated that Turkey was changing its military rules of engagement, any hostile border movement will be “treated as a military target” and “will be dealt with accordingly.

Brad Bossenbroek is a rising third year law student at the University of Denver and a Publishing Editor for The View From Above.

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Critical Analysis: Syria Downs Turkish Warplane

On June 22nd, Syrian armed forces shot down a Turkish F-4 Phantom Warplane, which burst into flames and crashed into Syrian territorial waters.  Syrian authorities assert that the aircraft entered its airspace at low altitude and high speed, and that its defense forces acted legally in taking it down. “There was no hostile act against Turkey whatsoever. It was just an act of defense for our sovereignty,” said Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi.

Turkish F-4 Phantom (The Aviationist)

Turkish authorities, however, are singing a different tune over the downing of its fighter jet, whose two pilots remain missing.  Turkey asserts that the plane was shot down over international waters after only very briefly straying into Syrian airspace.  While it plans to wait for further details to emerge before deciding on an official response, Turkish President Abdullah Gül has announced that “necessary steps will be taken,” and that “the consequences could be quite serious.”

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, the Turkish government requested an emergency meeting with its NATO allies, pursuant to Article 4 of NATO’s founding Washington Treaty, which allows any NATO ally to request a consultation.  NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, speaking for the alliance after the meeting, condemned the Syrian attack as “unacceptable.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was harsher in her criticism, calling Syria’s action an “open and grave violation of international law.”

Others, however, are more skeptical of Turkey’s portrayal of the situation.  Some NATO members, including the United States, have privately expressed concerns that the Turkish jet was engaged in more than training exercises, as Turkey claims, and could possibly have been on a spy mission.  Turkey has admitted that the plane was equipped with surveillance equipment, but vehemently denies that it was spying.  And even the doubters note that regardless of the nature of the Turkish mission, Syria’s response was not proper. “When this happens between neighboring countries, you give a warning and then send up interceptors. You don’t just shoot down the plane,” said one source.

The Syrian attack comes at a time of great general instability in Syria and dissatisfaction with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.  Turkey in particular has been a harsh critic of Syria’s treatment of its own citizens, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s personal relationship with Assad is reportedly very cold.  With Turkey already an apparent safe haven for rebels intent on overthrowing Assad, the Syrian attack on the Turkish jet will only diminish an already contentious relationship.

Thomas Scott is a rising third year law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Senior Staff Editor of The View From Above

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University of Denver Sturm College of Law

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