Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 30, 2013

A "NATO Mandate" For War Would Be Illegal

Daniel Larison quotes from a (paywalled) Wall Street Journal report on the discussions inside the U.S. administration on a more open war on Syria. This point sticks out:
Lawyers at the White House and departments of Defense, State and Justice debated whether the U.S. had a “clear and credible” legal justification under U.S. or international law for intervening militarily. The clearest legal case could be made if the U.S. won a U.N. or NATO mandate for using force. Neither route seemed viable: Russia would veto any Security Council resolution, and NATO wasn’t interested in a new military mission.
There can be no legal NATO mandate for using force. NATO is not an organization that can wage war if some committee decides to do so. Unless a NATO member is illegally attacked NATO has exactly zero legal authority to fight a war. While a case can certainly be made that Turkey is attacking Syria by harboring, training and supplying illegitimate forces that fight the Syrian state, no case can be made that Turkey is attacked by Syria.

Asides from the natural right of self-defense there is only one other source that could legitimize a war. That is, and only under certain circumstances, the UN Security Council.

That U.S. administration lawyers would even consider something like a "NATO mandate" shows that there are still a lot of neoconned minds with a quite false understanding of international law.

Posted by b on March 30, 2013 at 10:55 AM | Permalink



Are you trying to say there are still international laws that apply to "us"?
Aren't those laws there to give us the chance to show they don't pertain to "us"?


Making legitimate a destructive action does not seem to be a major obstacle when the wish to do it is strong

Posted by: mrd | Mar 30, 2013 11:24:24 AM | 1

Correct, also Assad is extra careful not to retaliate Turkey, so NATO wouldnt have an excuse to invoke Article 5.

Ironically, Syrias retaliation on Turkey (or at least persecution of terrorists in Turkey's territory) would be legal under international law, much more so than Turkey's bombing of Kurd rebels in Iraq.

It all boils down to a simple truth - jungle law prevails (might makes right), and fair International law in reality is non-existent. If NATO (or US) would decide to attack Syria, they WILL, its not like US ever cared what laws they break. So far they didnt have stomach for that yet, but obviously terrorists are attacking air-defense bases (and being sacrificed in thousands) for a reason. Ground is being prepared for invasion, if someday US and co would choose to do that. Fake pretexts are easy to manufacture (and its being done as we speak).

Posted by: Harry | Mar 30, 2013 11:43:25 AM | 2

In both Bosnia and Kossovo NATO was employed, by the last Democrat admiistration, in preference to the UN as a figleaf for imperialism. It would be entirely consistent with Obama's tactics to confirm the doctrine that NATO (representative as it is of the "civilising" mission of euro-imperialism) has the right ("indeed the duty, Mr Speaker!") to intervene on behalf of humanity.

Nothing could be more appropriate than a Presidential figurehead of the Chicago mob to insist on the legitimacy of a protection racket. For that is what Syria is the victim of: having turned down US offers to make it a protectorate it is being shown why buying protection from the mob makes sense. No doubt the offer remains open: "Do as we say and we will rid you of the invaders we are arming and financing. And to ensure that they don't come back we will build bases."

b is right a NATO attack would be illegal. Indeed it could be argued that that particular line was crossed long ago, the current attacks being illegal too. On the other hand the pretence of imperial hegemony was also dispensed with some time ago, all that remains is dominance by military force. "Whack a mole -the Global Edition."

Posted by: bevin | Mar 30, 2013 12:16:28 PM | 3

That U.S. administration lawyers would even consider something like a "NATO mandate" shows that there are still a lot of neoconned minds with a quite false understanding of international law.
And that neocon disease seems to have spread to France ... and to Germany? The governments that is. It was always well-represented in the UK.

Posted by: john francis lee | Mar 30, 2013 1:11:18 PM | 4

If China sought an SCO mandate to intervene in Mali it would be laughable, but with the US-EU warmongers old colonial habits die hard. It does get amusing when the US mandates support from European lackeys, and then calls their kowtowing a mandate from them.

Newspeak is the fictional language in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, written by George Orwell. It is a reduced language created by the totalitarian state as a tool to limit free thought, and concepts that pose a threat to the regime such as freedom, self-expression, individuality, peace, etc.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Mar 30, 2013 1:15:32 PM | 5

Syria and Korea. The US seems to be "blinking" at the opportunity of a new war in Korea. To me this can best be explained by the obsessive priority of getting control of Syria and then Iran, and from there of the arc of countries from Lebanon to Pakistan. An attack on North Korea and that country's response would be so devastating for the region, and for wider US interests, that any planned Syria intervention would have to be put off for quite some time -- while the Assad government would be able to consolidate its control of the country. N. Korea probably took all this into consideration when deciding to face up to the US. Something like: "If you want to get control of the ME then you'd better get off our back".

Posted by: John lsEar | Mar 30, 2013 2:04:30 PM | 6

It's all a distraction meant to impress, while Obama gives a wink and a nod to congressional hawks to limit opposition. The secretive CIA is the predominate foreign policy of the US now, supplanting the Pentagon in all combat zones including old ones like Iraq.

The US CIA along with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Turkey are already sending tons of weapons to the Syria rebels, and AQI has a lot of them. The new way of conducting war is to use contract help, and there are plenty of jihadists willing to die for the cause. A Chechen commander has recently formed an 'Army of Emigrants,' including Syrian groups. Tunisians, Swedes, Americans, Iraqis -- there's no limit to the manpower available and now they have the weapons, with supply coordinated by CIA.

What they don't have -- and Assad does have -- is unity of command, modern weapons and public support, nor do they have any viable political alternative. Is Khatib, who proposed negotiations, in or out? And what about the American Hitto, with his Muslim Brotherhood baggage so despised by the hawks?

Posted by: Don Bacon | Mar 30, 2013 2:22:13 PM | 7

You guys should know by now this is all the pretext before the US/NATO takes out Assad. Legal justifications? Come on now, this is the US Military, and no one can stand up to them. The attack on Assad is coming soon, and none of you should be surprised.

B, I hope you have your eulogy for Assad already written.

Posted by: Death to Assad | Mar 30, 2013 2:25:21 PM | 8

This cuts off one of my news sources. is no longer available.
This site has been archived or suspended for a violation of our Terms of Service.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Mar 30, 2013 2:33:41 PM | 9

Saddam Hussein was captured by American forces on December 13, 2003.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Mar 30, 2013 2:36:47 PM | 10

So let me get this straight...The US/NATO needs legal justification from their own courts before they can get involved in the internal matters of other sovereign countries???right....

Why don't they cut through the BS and just get on with it instead of going through all that kabuki theatre just to look legally good in the eyes of the world??? as if the world gives a shit what do???
I mean, Bush personally appointed a "judge" that pretty much rubber-stamped everything illegal he wanted to do in the name of fighting terrist and bringing democracy to them heathens..

From the way I see it, this shit will surely hit the fan soon. They'll soon realize that their BS laws for intervening in other sovereign countries' internal affairs is not recognize by the real international community and that their actions have consequences..

Sometimes I just feel sorry for the average American..Their leaders keep spending BILLIONS to fight for their freedoms in foreign lands yet they keep getting poorer and poorer and they don't complain or connect the dots..I guess sheep will always be sheep ;)

Posted by: Zico | Mar 30, 2013 3:31:46 PM | 11

DKos diary:

Obama now global head of Al-Qaeda

May be snarky, but, well, apt.

Interesting to see how many new diaries there are critical of Obama at Daily Kos. It used to be solidly pro-anything Obama, but now some objectors are allowed.

Posted by: jawbone | Mar 30, 2013 5:20:49 PM | 12

oops. The diarist at DKos is actually saying the article posted is, well, flat wrong. My bad.

I thought the article made sense. But then I was driven out of DKos during the 2004 election cycle when I didn't have the epiphany and see the light of the Great Obama.

Posted by: jawbone | Mar 30, 2013 5:23:24 PM | 13

Syria rebels have opened a new front. Whereas people, supplies and weapons have been coming south from Turkey for some time, now the rebels are consolidating advances in the south with weapons brought in from Jordan.

The influx of weapons from Jordan opened up as a new route for the weapons late last year, with more powerful weapons such as Croatian-made anti-tank guns and rockets. The goal is for rebels to have the necessary means to advance from different fronts — north from Turkey and south from Jordan.

Recent reports are that a major city in southern Syria is falling to the rebels. According to Matthew Barber for Syria Comment:

Syrian MP Waleed Zoubi has asserted during a session of parliament that large areas within the muhafiza (governorate) of Dera’a have fallen under the control of rebels, and that the presence of regime forces is dwindling.
His remarks indicate that Dera’a is in the process of falling, and served as a wake-up call to the Syrian parliament about the shift of control in that region. Zoubi countered reports that the highway (which runs from Damascus to the Jordanian border, through Dera’a) is still secured by the Syrian military, declaring that much of it is under the control of armed militants, who also control much of the Syrian-Jordanian border, including near the Golan. He also said that a number of military positions in the muhafiza have been emptied of regime forces for “unknown strategic reasons.”

The exodus of large numbers of Syrians into Jordan is causing major problems there, on top of other political problems in that misruled kingdom. Dissension is widespread, and the MB is becoming more active. Perhaps Assad has a plan in that regard.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Mar 30, 2013 5:51:30 PM | 14

Jordan is being destabilized to move the Palestinians in, when Israel finally purges the people from their homeland.

Posted by: Penny | Mar 30, 2013 6:41:34 PM | 15

Daily Kos?

that place is still around? Hm.
Tried to post on there way back and I mean way back
however, it was a waste of time. My time.

It promotes the illusory left/ right divide
Which is simply more of that divide to conquer stuff

Posted by: Penny | Mar 30, 2013 6:44:21 PM | 16

Why Nato? UN has changed it's mandate for the first time in it's history with peacekeepers and fire orders, and a intervention force 'Offensive'.

OK, the test ground is not Syria, rather the DRC, but the US own's the UN, it is the largest contributor and has BKM in there pocket. 28 March 2013 – The Security Council today authorized the deployment of an intervention brigade within the current United Nations peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to address imminent threats to peace and security.

The intervention brigade will carry out targeted offensive operations, with or without the Congolese national army, against armed groups that threaten peace in the eastern part of DRC – a region that is prone to cycles of violence and consequent humanitarian suffering.

I see this as a serious shift, the peacekeeping force is ineffective as is, a mix of member states with mixed training, weaponry and equipment. This 'new' brigade force allows a selected force, it could for all intent and purposes be US/Brit/French. This resolution main sponsors were France, and the US, it will also incorporate Drones controlled by the US.

One could look at this as the US writing a check to the UN and the UN outsourcing a 'Force' (Pre-selected). Since this is now a resolution, it opens all doors to intervention...

Posted by: Kev | Mar 30, 2013 9:45:07 PM | 17

re: "Syria rebels have opened a new front. Whereas people, supplies and weapons have been coming south from Turkey for some time, now the rebels are consolidating advances in the south with weapons brought in from Jordan."

What you mean is the invaders have been losing ground badly across the whole country - and, of course, the presstitutes in the West say the opposite. Not to deny the possibility of a major attack with missiles or an Israeli min-nuke going off in Damascus, but the invaders are going to need a different approach. And, as you know, the popularity of NATO's guys is now down in low single digits, which is far worse than at the beginning of this operation.

Posted by: Ozawa | Mar 31, 2013 1:32:22 AM | 18

@Don Bacon

Scratch beneath the surface of Syria Comment and you've got another pro-opposition site. This is why it attracts the sort of people it does in its comments section. The evacuation of Dera'a by Government forces was a tactic adopted some time ago to bolster Damascus defences shortly before rebels launched another offensive to take the city. It was around the time that internet and mobile communication was cut off to leave the rebels high and dry in no-man's land without the ability to call for backup. Much of the Dera'a area has already been razed to the ground.

Anyway, on the subject of Syria, ever since the Russians were said to have suggested a Yemen type scenario, I’ve been certain that Russia sees no place for Assad in any future Government. They certainly wouldn’t engage in a direct military confrontation to keep him in place, as some here might hope. However, they are loath to ask Assad to step aside.

Firstly, to do so would undermine the position that the Russian Government has taken over the last 2 years – insisting that any decision regarding Assad’s future must be made in Syria by Syrians. Secondly, it would in all likelihood be seen as an act of betrayal by Assad and his core supporters, undermining Russia’s interests in a post-Assad Syria. After all, members of this Syrian Government will be present to form part of a transitional Government with the opposition, as stipulated by the Geneva agreement which all sides seem to have agreed to work on.

The Russians have no intention to surrender their base in Tartus. Who’s going to make them? It’s an Assad stronghold within an Alawite enclave – whatever happens in Damascus. Could you imagine some puppet opposition figure trying to get the Russians out? Him and what army? That would be the pro-Assad, pro-Russian army.

Russian interests are not dependent on Assad staying. I think the Russians are increasingly trying to develop a position where Assad can see for himself that his position has become untenable.

It was recently reported that a Russian Mediterranean task force would avoid Tartus and refuel in Beirut instead, citing the security situation in Syria as grounds for redirection. There is zero threat to the Russian navy in Tartus, but by docking in Syria it would have given Assad a sense of security and the perception that Russia has his back. Instead the Russians are trying to get Assad to feel the heat. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if these new calls to arm the rebels, which came after Lavrov met Kerry, have the implicit blessing of the Russians - designed to get Assad thinking ‘what if’ because, at the moment, he has good reason to believe that he can stay on.

The Syrian Government continues to oversee all the major towns and cities, bar one in the East. The population is resisting its ‘liberation’ by insurgents and Assad retains an almost God-like status among his core supporters. But could his letter to the BRICS summit, which called for intervention, be a signal of wavering confidence in his ability to maintain control of these areas? If so, he would have been left disappointed by the response, despite his diplomatic efforts to gain support.

If we are honest with ourselves, how can we expect Assad to remain as the Syrian president after so much has been invested, and is being invested, in his downfall? The Iranians, too, have been making contingencies for a Syria without him. Politics rules, and I don’t want the opposition to have the satisfaction of Assad ending up like Gaddafi.

Syria’s largest trading partners come from within the Arab League. Syria is utterly dependent on trade to function as a state. Even if Assad won a presidential election, could you see Erdogan and Obama willing to embrace him? We are faced with a scenario where his election has been made all but impossible by the sponsors of an insurgency who have reduced polling stations to rubble…and who will continue to create an environment where no Syrian Government can claim legitimacy in the polls until those who are creating the chaos have reason to let it stop.

The US, Qatar and the Brotherhood now have their man in Hitto to represent their interests within a transitional ‘Government’. Russia and Iran will have the ear of current members of the regime. With it, they will retain the support of the intelligence services and armed forces - the real power in Syria. Syria is bigger than one man.

Even though a transitional ‘Government’ will be seen to be in charge, the bulk and structure of the present Government will remain to oversee the day to day running of the country. Somebody has to do it.

Assad has been vilified as some sort of Godzilla creature; that if you lure him out into the open and have him eliminated, the country will be free from his tyranny. It’s a childish perception but, ironically, will allow much of the state to remain in its current form when he departs. He alone will provide a disconnect between past and present in the minds of many opposition supporters.

Assad remains the sticking point. He and a few another prominent members could well be sacrificed to create the impression that the regime is clean to do dealings with.

Once Qatar et al have representation in a transitional ‘Government’, continuing to sponsor an insurgency that will achieve nothing but undermine their own interests in a future Syria will cease to make sense.

As for Syria’s future, the strength of any democratic Government will depend on public support. Public opinion can only be denied for so long. It could very well choose to back old alliances.

And what about Al Qaeda in Syria? They are not going to go home once Assad leaves. They have their own ambitions. So I expect to see an Iraqi type scenario repeated. With a central transitional ‘Government’ trying to restore peace, violent and indiscriminate attacks directed by AQ against Syrian civilians will eventually isolate the group in areas they have acquired support. Like Iraq, former Sunni militants (rebels/FSA/whatever) that previously fought alongside the group will start to work with the remaining Syrian Arab Army forces. Perhaps those opposition fighters that the US is currently training in Jordan will serve this purpose – initiating conflict between Al Nusrah and those opposition fighters willing to listen and obey.

If Syria isn’t going to completely disintegrate, with Turkey syphoning off oil from an autonomous Kurdish area in the North, an Alawite state along the coast, and the Brotherhood left with a deformed, resource-poor failed state to manage in the middle, Syrians on both sides will eventually have to work together, but it starts the day after Assad…and it remains to be seen how his supporters will react without him.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Mar 31, 2013 10:02:01 AM | 19

Meanwhile, SNC PM Hitto attempts to represent the popularity and success of rebels based on the number of square metres they control, rather than the number of towns and cities.

Just over 50% of Syria's total area apparently, which is convenient. I suppose that makes it the majority then. A movement with the support of the majority, just in case people weren't, like, totally convinced..

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Mar 31, 2013 11:20:21 AM | 20

NPR this morning covered the new US surge into southern Syria. Mentioned, without any explanation, the linkage between US allowing heavy weapons from Croation to be shipped to Jordan, somehow purchased (from the US or Croatia?) by Saudi Arabia for entry into Syria, using a main road from Jordan to Syria. It was almost a word salad, but since I knew many of the details, it made sense to me.

I imagine for those to whom this is new info it would be confusing. And deliberately so. But now NPR can claim it reported adequately on the issue. Time will tell...if they reference this going forward...or just drop it.

Posted by: jawbone | Mar 31, 2013 2:35:51 PM | 21

This is to his academic brilliant eminence "Death to Assad". You said no one stands up to the US military. Ok what about?
Canada, War of 1812
Micosukee Indian Nation, Florida wars-(never surrendered or signed a peace treaty.
North Korea, Korean War.
Vietnam, Vietnam War
Cuba, Bay of Pigs
Constitutional Army war of the Dominican Republic 1965
Afghan Mujaheddin 21st century.
Iraqui Sunni fedayeen

Please don't talk sh!t and just so you know. Bashar Al Assad, he goes to bed at 10:00pm every night with his wife. Cuz buddy, guess why? He ain't worried he's winning this war. Now Erdoghan, Erdie, I'd say his behind should be worried.

Posted by: Fernando | Mar 31, 2013 7:51:47 PM | 22

surprise surprise:Pro-French Central African R coup leaders scrap Chinese oil deals -

Posted by: brian | Apr 1, 2013 6:22:23 AM | 23

Brian @ 23 -- Looks like AfriCom was a US/EU resource and power grab. It hadn't made sense to me way back when it was established and moved to Africa, but, now, it sure does. D'oh.

Posted by: jawbone | Apr 1, 2013 2:52:41 PM | 24

As my comment #17, the news today United Nations has a project codenamed “Syria – The Day After”. Link:

Posted by: Kev | Apr 1, 2013 11:05:45 PM | 25

Am I the only one who finds it hilarious when one poster working for ZATO has a debate with another? Then they can exchange disinfo all day long.

Posted by: Ozawa | Apr 2, 2013 11:20:01 AM | 26

@PB #19:

I do seriously worry about the quality of the scholarship at Syria Comment especially when I see a series penned by a Fellow from Daniel Pipes' Middle East Forum. Even so, some of the links are useful.

Why should Russia abandon Bashar? Both Russia and Syria like stability. Even if it has no plans of putting boots on the ground, it appears prepared to support him diplomatically through the end of his term in 2014.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Apr 2, 2013 3:00:12 PM | 27

@Rusty #27
I'm not saying Russia should abandon him; just that they could be prepared/preparing to support his departure in the interest of, um, their interests. Putin will never 'abandon' Assad in the sense that Gaddafi was abandoned and left to the dogs. But whether we like it or not, Assad's position has been made untenable by efforts to vilify him. His departure is the last trump card of the Syrian Government if or when they choose to use it. It would send the opposition, who are united by a single issue, into disarray.

Then what? Are they to continue fighting until the last representative of the "brutal" regime responsible for weekly rubbish collection leaves his post? Until every State department has been torn down and its workers dumped out on to the street?
To be replaced by what? It would be nonsensical for them to demand the complete capitulation of the Syrian Government after Assad. The state would collapse.

No, the bulk of a united Syrian Government would remain to deal with a fractured opposition and Russia would have its interests protected. Like I said before, are we then to believe that a transitional Government, supported by Qatar et al, would be subjected to the same destabilising strategy that the present Government is facing as a consequence of Qatar et al supporting an Islamist insurgency? It doesn't make sense.

It's how the Government and Assad's supporters would cope with his departure that could remain the problem. Government support could equally be sent into disarray without the figure that thousands have died protecting. But are these men fighting for Assad or Syria?

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Apr 3, 2013 7:46:27 AM | 28

Pennyforyourthoughts has added part 3, interesting linkages, one should read if you have not been following.

Posted by: Kev | Apr 3, 2013 8:05:35 AM | 29

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