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The Fight against the ‘Islamic State’ in Syria and the Right to Self-Defence

Islamic State is killing Islam

Khartoon! Islamic State is killing Islam not helping it

This article was originally published byE-International Relations on 5 February 2016.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, organised networks have spread out across borders, overtaking cities. The most famous of these is the ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL), more commonly known as ‘Islamic State’ (IS) (Flasch, 2015: 3). Militants of IS now control wide portions of territory in Iraq and Syria as well as an area in Libya. IS has killed and injured thousands of people and IS-related violence has led to the displacement of over a million people. Atrocities committed by the IS have extended to several other countries in the Middle-East, in West-Africa, and in Europe (Zerrouky, Audureau and Vaudano, 2015).

In response to attacks of IS, Iraq has requested that the United States and its allies assist it in defending itself against the group. Since September 2014, Iraq, together with the United States and several other states, has been using force against IS in Syria without the consent of the Syrian regime. Iraq acts on the basis of its right to individual self-defence and the other intervening states intervene on the basis of the right to collective self-defence. Self-defence, as well as the use of force within an authorisation given by the United Nations (UN) Security Council, constitute the two exceptions to the international prohibition on the use of force between states (Articles 51 and 42 UN Charter). An action in self-defence can be individual, when the victim state reacts to an armed attack, or collective, when other states react to an armed attack on the request of the victim state. France began its military intervention in Syria in September 2015, resorting to the rights to both individual and collective self-defence. After the terror attacks of IS in Paris on 13th November 2015, France extended its strikes, on the basis of the right to individual self-defence and asked for assistance. Several Western states, including the United Kingdom and Germany, decided to be involved in different ways in the fight against IS in Syria, invoking in particular the right to collective self-defence and, sometimes, also the right to individual self-defence. Russia too has been perpetrating strikes in Syria since November 2015 but these happen with the consent of that state. Consent by Syria to the resort to force by Russia precludes the wrongfulness of that act in relation to Russia and thus provides legal grounds for Russian military action (Article 20 of the Draft Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts, 2001).

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Dissolving the Seleka Rebel Group Could Be a Recipe for Disaster in the CAR

Rebels in Northern CAR

Rebels in the north of the Central African Republic. Photo: hdptcar/Wikimedia Commons.

In August, United Nations (UN) Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos warned that ‘the Central African Republic [CAR] is not yet a failed state, but has the potential to become one if swift action is not taken’. This warning became all the more real when on 13 September Michel Djotodia, the interim president of the CAR, decided to dissolve the rebel coalition Seleka, which he had headed during the December 2012 rebellion that led to the overthrow of General Francois Bozizé, the CAR’s former president.

Through the decision to disband Seleka and by threatening to subject anyone acting on behalf of the rebel movement to the full might of the law, Djotodia has sought to reaffirm his authority in a country that desperately needs credible leaders and functioning institutions. This might also be a charm offensive in response to pressure from regional leaders and external partners. And while his decision could be seen as a bold move to curb the growing number of atrocities committed by members of the armed coalition, the risk of rampant instability or renewed armed conflict looms large. » More

Hezbollah’s Battles Raise Questions About its Long-Term Prospects, But Not Short-Term Support

Hezbollah, Baalbek, Lebanon

Hezbollah, Baalbek, Lebanon. Photo: yeowatzup/flickr.

Hezbollah’s narrative is shifting now that it has entered into Syria’s civil war and taken the side of one Arab party against another, said Thanassis Cambanis, author of A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah’s Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel. “Here is the Lebanese Party of God, whose raison d’être is to fight Israel, suddenly turning its firepower on a group of Islamist Sunni Arabs,” he said. Last week saw a worrying example of the sectarian tensions worsening in Lebanon, when 40 people were killed in clashes between the Lebanese army—apparently aided by Hezbollah—and Sunni militants in Sidon.

“Essentially, [Hezbollah’s] Sunni counterparts—their brethren—are being put in the same enemy box as the Jewish state,” Cambanis said. » More

Why Nigeria Needs a Criminal Tribunal and Not Amnesty for Boko Haram

Occupy Nigeria

Protestors against Boko Haram and the Nigerian government’s policies to fight the group. Photo: Michael Fleshman/flickr.

More than 700 Nigerians have died so far this year in over 80 attacks associated with Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist group that a recent United States report ranked as the second most deadly in the world after the Taliban in Afghanistan. Most of the deaths occurred in March and April (208 and 335 respectively), confirming the alarming dimension of Boko Haram’s atrocities in Nigeria.

In one attack in Baga, on 19 April 2013, Boko Haram militants confronted Nigerian security forces in a gun battle that left 260 people dead and nearly a thousand injured. This was the deadliest Boko Haram attack since 2009, when the group catapulted onto the global stage following violent riots that resulted in the death of over 800 people in northern Nigeria. Since then it is estimated that Boko Haram has killed nearly 4 000 people and injured several thousands more. » More

Erdogan’s Kurdish Gambit

Erdoğan

Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: Randam/Wikimedia Commons

ISTANBUL – Conflict in the Middle East threatens not only the security of many of its states, but also their continued existence. Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and others, now gripped by sectarian fighting, risk fragmenting into ethnic sub-states, transforming a region whose political geography was drawn nearly a century ago.

Surveying the regional scene, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has conceived of an audacious plan to enhance Turkey’s regional standing and extend his own political dominance at home. Facing the end of a self-imposed three-term limit as prime minister, he is intent on changing the Turkish constitution to introduce a presidential system – with himself on top as the first incumbent to wield much-enlarged power. » More

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