Obama lacks legal basis

Updated: 2013-09-06 07:05

(China Daily)

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With US President Barack Obama's push for military action against Syria passing its first hurdle in the Senate, the countdown to military intervention by the United States in the Middle East country has begun ticking again.

With the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voting 10 to 7 in favor of a resolution authorizing the use of military force in Syria, it could go before the full Senate next week.

However, before proceeding any further US lawmakers may want to triple check both the legal and moral grounds on which Obama has built his case.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday that any military attack on Syria must have the approval of the UN Security Council. He said that a US attack without the endorsement of the UN would be unlawful and could lead to further turmoil in the conflict-ridden country.

Ban said any use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances will be a serious violation of international law and any perpetrators must be brought to justice.

But Obama is trying to jump the gun. The UN chemical weapons inspection team, though it has concluded its investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons in the suburbs of Damascus last week, has yet to produce an official report confirming chemical weapons were used and if so by whom.

Without UN authorization, the US obviously lacks a legal basis to proceed with military action and the arguments it is using to justify its case do not hold water.

Obama may be driven by a self-imposed moral obligation when he insists that the regime of Bashar al-Assad should be punished for using chemical weapons.

He also linked likely strikes on Syria with the US' global leadership when he suggested over the weekend that both US' allies and adversaries will draw conclusions if the US fails to act over Syria.

In fact, as fewer allies have sided with the US this time when compared with the military interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan or even Libya, and the majority of the world's countries still support political solutions to the Syria crisis, it is the US' unilateralism and defiance of international law that are really weakening its claims to global leadership.

(China Daily USA 09/06/2013 page15)