The US and its rebel proxies in Syria appear to be weaponizing human rights as a tool to legitimize regime change operations.
In Libya, the US invoked Responsibility to Protect (R2P) as a rationale to overthrow the sovereign government under Muammar Gaddafi, and destroyed a country that enjoyed the highest living standard on the African continent prior to US/NATO invasion in 2011. Now this OPEC member is a cauldron of Wahhabi-Salafi terrorism and a weapons bazaar for Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda and various international Islamic extremist groups.
With increasing footage of alleged Syrian air force war crimes in Aleppo supplied by the White Helmets — a Syrian civil defense organization created by the US and UK in 2013 — there has been corresponding calls in Washington for a no-fly zone and war against Russia and Syria ostensibly to protect civilians. However, in practice the no-fly zone serves as a form of asymmetric warfare waged by terrorists against an air force.
Asymmetric warfare denotes a weaker force attempting to defeat a stronger foe, and terrorist groups are increasingly resorting to weaponizing humanitarian law to wage legal warfare or “lawfare” as an effective counter-measure against a superior military force.
General Charles Dunlap, former deputy judge advocate general for the US Air Force, describes “lawfare” as the newest feature of 21st century combat, a form of hybrid warfare. He noted how hyper-legalism regarding collateral damage, applied to NATO’s air campaign in the Balkan war, prompted lawyers of the military alliance to effectively become its “tactical commanders.”
Terrorists understand this Achilles heel, and as General Dunlap observed, they are more than ready to exploit humanitarian values to defeat their targets.
For example, Taliban and al-Qaeda’s greatest vulnerability is precision air strikes. In 2008, the Washington Times reported a Taliban fighter lamenting, “Tanks and armor are not a big deal. The fighters are the killers. I can handle everything but the jet fighters.”
As such, they attempt to demonize the air weapon through manipulation of civilian casualties that NATO airstrikes can produce — hiding heavy weaponry in mosques and NGO compounds such as CARE International in hopes of deterring attacks or producing collateral damage media events. Hamas resorted to similar tactics in Gaza against the Israeli air force.
In practice, the no-fly zone in Libya became a form of asymmetric warfare waged by the al-Qaeda linked terrorists — Libyan Islamic Fronting Group (LIFG) – against the Libyan government’s air superiority by contracting US/NATO military forces to ground the Libyan air force.
This in effect protected the terrorists, paved the way for destruction of Libya as a state, and opened the Pandora’s box of refugee crisis and terrorism in the EU that helped prompt Brexit. A repeat of this pattern in Syria would further strengthen al-Qaeda, IS and amplify destabilization of the EU.
Given the increasing number of Asian terrorists mingled with Al Nusra, Ahrar al Sham, Jaish al Islam and other jihadi groups in the Army of Conquest (Jaish al Fatah), this would also destabilize Asia. Indeed, the recent terrorist attack on the Chinese embassy in Kyrgyzstan was conducted by Syria-based Chinese Uyghur jihadists and financed by Al Nusra.
According to a former CIA officer, they also tracked al-Qaeda operatives from Pakistan in South Asia to Syria, who then embedded in the group, so the links between al-Qaeda and Ahrar al Sham are clear — especially since “Ahrar al Sham has had within its senior command structure a number of former al-Qaeda members.”
As such, China is stepping up its counter-terrorism operations both at home and abroad in the Mideast, and how the US utilizes the White Helmets to weaponize international humanitarian/human rights law will have international legal repercussions on how US itself conducts counter-terrorism elsewhere, as well as for Germany, the EU, China, Russia, India and others.
Counter-terrorism and human rights
As the US, UK, France and their Gulf allies are pushing to investigate Syria for war crimes, similar to the push to investigate Israel for war crimes in its 2014 Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza, this is once again shedding light on the need for an international counter-terrorism regime.
The tendency of using law as a means of realizing a military objective, and hijacking the rule of law as another way of fighting, will serve to the detriment of humanitarian values as well as the law itself.
Given this, what should be the international normative consensus on counter-terror tactics? If an NGO area is surreptitiously employed to hide military equipment, and the NGO fails to report this, do they become culpable as aiders and abettors of deceitful conduct which itself is a war crime? Moreover, if civilians volunteer as human shields, do they forfeit their non-combatant immunity?
In order to establish global governance of counter-terrorism, stakeholders such as China, Russia, US, Europe and the broader international community, need to eventually determine at what point a government’s legitimate counter-terror operations and right to self-defense or force protection cross over to become human rights violations, genocide or war crimes.
In instances when terrorists use human shields and abuse international law to unnecessarily handcuff a government when force is required to restore and safeguard human rights generally, what counter-measures does a government have to lawfully defend its freedom of action?
These are questions vexing Syria, Israel, China, Russia and US/NATO as they face the growing reach of terrorist groups such as IS, Al Nusra and its affiliates, Hamas, Hezbollah, Taliban, ETIM and TIP that are attempting to blur the line between counter-terrorism and human rights violations.
"The tendency of using law as a means of realizing a military objective, and hijacking the rule of law as another way of fighting, will serve to the detriment of humanitarian values as well as the law itself."
Nice thoughts. Appriciable. Well done job, Keep it up.
It is the US that is using human rights as a tool to discredit governments it does not like. Russia and the Syrian Government are engaged in a battle to secure the integrety of the Syrian state. The US is engaged in the illegal battle to over throw the legitimate government of Syria using armiminf and supporting terrorists organizations to do so.. The US of course , being the exceptional nation , answers to no law at all. It makes and enforces it´s own laws on the fly.
It is not the terrorists ( well the US is a terrorist nation) that are seeking to enforce human rights laws, it is NATO and in particular the US trying to impose a loss on the Russian and Syrian effort to secure that country. of course the US forgets it´s own humanitarian law violations, in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Lybia, Kosovo,Yeman and Afghanistan to name a few places where the US was responsible for the deaths of millions of people. And of course their ongoing human rights violations in Guantanamo, and it´s own for profit prison system.
Ignores completely that Hillary Clinton is pushing for the no-fly zone in Syria, that same one that Obama has rejected. Ignores the fact that Hillary Clinton pushed the Libya intervention in the first place. Ignores the fact that the legimate Syrian government, aka the Assad regime, has not invited U.S. in, Congress hasn’t declared war on Assad, or on ISIS for that matter, ignores fact that Obama relies on 2001 AUMF as legal justification for his intervention, and ignores fact that all this risks a hot war with Russia, and jihadists overruning the entire country.
I add to these nicely realistc comments by other readers,,Well we know for facts Syria is just the base for a greater conflicts ,,, the new Enemies of the states CHINA RUSSIA ,,,The rest can be compromised ,,anyway with dollars and cents talking , Mr next white house Master ( Trump ) basically he cover everything we need to now from the American perspectives ,,,their lies are too much to be compromised , and it must be stopped (Obama Hilary Team). There will be no Free no Fly Zone ,,Once they (Russians Syrians Defence Troops ) will activate the new s300 and s400 defence systems ,,The no one except the Russians will know what is gonna happen ,,,Watch Putin statements in one week time once the nukepower airfighter carrier ship reach the Middle East Shores ….
Human Rights use to have such a noble ring to it. Now it’s become a dirty word. Criminals, child molestors and all types of malefactors use this term to shield themselves. I believe we are all using this now foul word to excuse ourselves when we fart morally. Human Rights will suffer as it further becomes deligitimized and a call for the suspension of it becomes louder and louder. There might be Human Rights free zones, temporary Human Rights and even Limited Human Rights being advocated to halt the current abuses.
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