Cross-Boarder Tensions: The Newest Development in the Syrian War

For Benjamin Netanyahu and his Israeli State, Netanyahu’s now famous proverbial “red line” has been crossed. On January 30, 2013, the Israeli Air Force conducted at least one, but possibly two, airstrikes on Syria in an an effort to stop Syria’s movement of high-capability missiles. The airstrikes were conducted without authorization from the U.N. Security Council, and were not in response to any attack upon Israel. The question is this: Did Israel have the right to interpose its military force between Syrian sovereignty?

The United Nations Charter (to which Israel and Syria are parties) Article 2(4) provides that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”  This explicit ban on the use of force in violation of another State’s territorial sovereignty is qualified only by U.N. Charter Article 51, which states: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations….” And, although there is precedent to support Israel’s use of force absent an armed attack on its land (U.S. invasion of Iraq, NATO invasion of Serbia), every use of force that has not been in self-defense has been heavily criticized and presumed to be unlawful.

Back in September, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, spoke before the U.N. General Assembly and issued a warning: if Iran enriches Uranium to 90% of the necessary amount needed for a nuclear bomb, Israel would take military action. Netanyahu has now applied this standard to Syria; the only difference is that there was no warning, and Syria is not developing a nuclear bomb. Albeit, Syria does have chemical weapons and advanced capacity Russian missiles. With that said, Netanyahu has taken it upon himself to act in anticipation of what he believes is a serious enough threat to justify military action. His actions have not gone unnoticed, however. And, in the nascent wake of the attack that he issued, some of the powers that be are lashing back.

Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah (the terrorist entity ruling Lebanon) have all issued statements condemning Israel for its airstrike. The common thread of the three Nations’ arguments is that absent an attack or justifiable threat to the sovereignty of Israel the airstrikes were unlawful. Iran called for a retaliation on Tel-Aviv, Russia invoked the U.N. Charter to say that the attack was a “blatant violation” of international law, and Hezbollah simply condemned the attack. The facts on the ground are that Israel fears that as the Assad Government continues to lose power it will make efforts to transfer its cache of weapons to Israel’s enemies, such as Iran and Hezbollah. The justification for the attacks is that Israel cannot allow such weapons to be mobilized in its backyard. Syria maintains that it was moving its missiles to another Syrian city, and that it had no intention of transferring the weapons to a third party.

What do you think? Is Israel legally justified in attacking Syria? Morally justified? How serious of a threat does the movement of missiles pose?


News Source: New York Times; Reuters

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