Before the assassination of General Qassem Suleimani on January 3rd, the US had a strained relationship with Iran and a leader in Donald Trump who wanted to end the “endless” wars of previous administrations in the Middle East. Recent US actions, as put by Agnes Callamard, the United Nations expert on extrajudicial executions, were to have most likely violated international law and to have so severely escalated tensions between the two countries that there is now potential for full scale war or nuclear conflict.
After the assassination the Pentagon issued the go ahead for deployment of 3,500 troops in response the the escalation of tensions. However, the US and its failure to abide by international law in the Middle East is not unprecedented and only dilutes Presidents Trumps already un-respected image around the world as well as the American image in the Middle East. Since 2003 America has continued to violate such law.
A History of Ignoring International Law.
On March 23rd, 2003 America and the UK launched its attack on Iraq and quickly gained influence. Under the pretence of having weapons of mass destruction both Bush and Blair believed in ousting Saddam from the get go. Of course we wold learn there to be no weapons of mass destruction in Baghdad or elsewhere inside Iraq.
Prior to the invasion and as the months legality of the war was questioned. International lawyers and anti-war campaigners were very much surprised in November when the highly ranked Pentagon official Richard Perle conceded that the invasion of Iraq had been illegal. Furthermore, it has been stated that “international law… would have required us [the Coalition] to leave Saddam Hussein alone.”
On May 22nd 2003 the US and the UK sought UN Resolution 1483 which ultimately gave them almost complete control in Iraq as the dominant power, it gave no timetable to replace their own troops with UN troops, it gave no date for the establishment of an Iraqi government once Saddam was removed. What it also did was give the US and the UK power to change political leaders and authorisation to govern. Under International law, a country like the US which is carrying out its occupation are only supposed to implement law and order and assist with humanitarian goals and objectives of the government.
Additional reports including the Chilcot Report found that there was no imminent threat from Saddam. Other countries such as Libya and North Korea were higher on the threat list at the time of the invasion. Other questionable rationale for the invasion such as human rights and democracy building were mentioned but they don’t hold much credibility. This evidence supports the argument that there was much more at play in Iraq. Notably the containment of Iran. By adding further bases in the Iraq the world-view of the Bush administration could start to visualise and make a reality of their plan for global domination post 9/11. Iraq also possessing one of the world largest supply of oil which can be extracted much easier than other parts of the world with comparable amount is another key factor to consider.
The attack on January 3rd will only bolster the Islamophobic American image in the eyes of Iraqis, Iranians and other Muslims who have previously felt the wrath of American might uninvited. There is an urgent global need for the reduction in conflict by western countries historically active militarily in the Middle East. The attack was a further violation of international human rights law according to The United Nations.
In contrast the coalition of the US and UK believed they could invade Iraq from a previous resolution from the Iraq war in 1990 when Bush Snr. attacked Saddam for his invasion of Kuwait. United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 was adopted on 3 April 1991 and Bush and Blair felt another resolution authorising the invasion in 2003 was unnecessary. The coalition did not attain additional resolution which would have been needed to launch such an attack for such scale.
“Soleimani contributed to terrorist plots to kill innocent people around the world. His reign of terror is over.” White House Twitter Account
Many commentators argue that the assassination was a good move – killing a man who participated in such horrid acts against many different ethnic groups. The Pentagon has claimed that killing General Suleimani will deter “future” Iranian attack on the US or its allies. “Future” is not the same as imminent which is the time based test required under international law according Agnes Callamard of the United Nations.
Uncertain Times Ahead.
The US continues to act without real authorisation, full UN support as well as acting unilaterally in the Middle East for the most part since 2003. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated in September 2004 that: “I have indicated it [the invasion] was not in conformity with the UN charter. From our point of view and the UN Charter point of view, it [the war] was illegal”, explicitly declaring that the US-led war on Iraq was illegal. The January 3rd assassination is a continuation of such heavy handed policy implemented by Washington and breach of international law. If such breaches were instigated by North Korea or Mexico you can be sure of heavy economic sanctions directed by Washington.
For Trump to return to similar relations with Iran enjoyed prior to January 3rd may well be impossible at this stage. Abiding by international law which the US claims to support itself would be a positive move for Trump to reduce further tensions. It would also reduce global terrorism especially in a region which has seen so much of it over the last two decades. With the election at the end of the year it will be interesting to see how American will react to further troop deployment and fighting in the Middle East. It will take strong diplomatic pressure from other nations to ease the threat of another world war or worse; the total collapse of human civilisation from nuclear conflict. After all, Iran has stated its intent in inflict “severe revenge’ on those responsible for the assassination of General Soleimani. What that revenge will be, is yet to be seen.
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