Tactical choices of inactivity

I reckon that many are awaiting the events as they are unfolding currently in Syria. Will we be investing in Boeing Defence stock, should these missiles be used? (At $1.2M a pop that would mean a nice increase of revenue for Boeing). Will we change our investments in oil and gas as the Syrian situation continues?

These are the questions that matter. The hundreds of deaths because of a chemical attack do not seem to matter.

Are you wondering why I have that opinion?

Then read the BBC quote in regards to these attacks. “The United Nations Security Council said it was necessary to clarify what happened in the alleged attack, but stopped short of demanding an investigation by a UN team currently in Damascus, following an emergency meeting on Wednesday evening.” This was published on August 21st.  So there was a chemical attack and the UNSC did NOT demand the immediate investigation in regards to chemical attack deaths. The worse matter was that the bulk of the casualties were all civilians.

But where is the case of what matters?

If we look at the UNSC charter we see the following “The UN Charter established six main organs of the United Nations, including the Security Council. It gives primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security to the Security Council, which may meet whenever peace is threatened.

So clinically we see that they are not an issue. Peace was not an issue in Syria at all. It stopped existing well over two years earlier. The UNSC is set in a charter. They are called the “Provisional rules of procedure of the Security Council” (at http://www.un.org/en/sc/inc/pages/pdf/rules.pdf). They actually do not help that much, only to illustrate certain steps. Yet, this is about the procedures of the UNSC, this will not help at all. So where is their decision making tree? For that we need to take a look at the charter of the United Nations. I took a specific look at Chapter VII: Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace and Acts of Aggression.

The premeditated crux is set in Article 45 which states: “In order to enable the United Nations to take urgent military measures, Members shall hold immediately available national air-force contingents for combined international enforcement action. The strength and degree of readiness of these contingents and plans for their combined action shall be determined within the limits laid down in the special agreement or agreements referred to in Article 43, by the Security Council with the assistance of the Military Staff Committee.

So we need to look at Article 43, which actually does not help us that much. That part is about making available troops “in order to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security“. I think we can agree that that part is at least two years late, and nothing here gives us a pass to start anything AFTER chemical attacks.


Yet we see in that same chapter that Article 51 (partially shown) 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” This is all very nice, but Syria is not a member state, which makes this all a little moot. In addition, this is a civil (local) war, so other member states are not in question.

So let’s take a look at ‘Customary International Humanitarian Law Volume I: Rules‘ (at http://www.icrc.org/eng/assets/files/other/customary-international-humanitarian-law-i-icrc-eng.pdf).

Rule 11 states “Rule 11. Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited.” Ah! Now we are getting somewhere. Even the rules of war have some level of distinction, yet for the most; this is all based on the previous Article 51, as is quoted “The prohibition of indiscriminate attacks is set forth in Article 51(4) of Additional Protocol I.” Darn! I am caught in some sort of looped program. It reminds me of my very first program I wrote on the Commodore VIC-20 in 1983.

10 PRINT “You are crazy!”
20 GOTO 10

Ah! The simple old days, how I miss them at times.

The same book lists an interesting part on page 38. “several States invoked the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks in their assessment of whether an attack with nuclear weapons would violate international humanitarian law.9 When the ICRC appealed to the parties to the conflict in the Middle East in October 1973, i.e., before the adoption of Additional Protocol I, to respect the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks, the States concerned (Egypt, Iraq, Israel and Syria) replied favourably.10

9 See. e.g., the pleadings of Australia (ibid., § 65), India (ibid., § 77), Mexico (ibid., § 85), New Zealand (ibid., § 86) and United States (ibid., § 99).
10 See ICRC, The International Committee’s Action in the Middle East (ibid., § 139).

Yes, I agree that a chemical attack is not a nuclear attack, yet when I was taught the elements of NBC (in army days long ago), we tended to count the Nuclear and the Chemical similar to some extent. The Biological element is one that might be considered to be one worse than that as it can continue its damage and even transcend borders.

So we can now add a look at additional protocol I, especially as Syria was one of the parties who replied favourably. As such, we could see Syria as a party that accepted these rules (to some extent).

You see, these parts underline the part as set in Rule 13 (from the IHL), which states “Rule 13. Attacks by bombardment by any method or means which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians or civilian objects are prohibited.

This my dear readers includes ANY level of chemical attack, as that form of attack that is utterly indiscriminate as well as encompassing the area as one military objective.

Taking into account these elements, why did at that point did the UNSC, as stated by the BBC in the first mentioned article “but stopped short of demanding“. The stopped short in these elements were utterly unwarranted, in my humble opinion.

Now we all watch a political runaway train disaster where politicians stop short of acting in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and France await ‘evidence’ which they can deal on. The one cowboy state (the United States) would be at present the only hope the Syrian population has for now. Are these nations correct in holding of? Well, they do have a case there. However, the evidence as UN investigators were delayed, the possible evidence on how the chemical spread started. If we take the elements we have, then we need to consider the firing mechanism. That part had been made near impossible with 5 days of bombings. Yet, in all honesty, did Assad do this? The question is important for two reasons.

1. If he did not do this, was it an intentional act?
2. What other intelligence has Assad silenced?

The two are related, because the earlier fear the US had is now truly coming to fruition. If these missiles were inadvertently fired by the opposition forces, the theory I have is that as they lack military expertise, they might have known and partially learned how to fire a SCUD, but did they know about the payload? Let us not forget that many fighters are anything but military trained. Even those who had training, it is possible that they had too limited knowledge on how to work and identify these types of equipment.

The danger is that they might have found chemical payloads, so here is the danger. Al-Qaeda is currently helping the opposition forces. We now have a trained AQ with support from people lacking knowledge, and they gave AQ access to a chemical storage area. Here is where it becomes dicey! Assad knows the assets lost, he is playing high stakes poker by keeping these locations a secret. For him it is a win-win. If the opposition figures it out they have a time-bomb they cannot use. AQ will use it no matter what and preferably on Israel. Whichever of those steps happened (when they do), the world would have no option but to remove his enemy for him.

Proving that Assad did the actual firing is almost non-provable. The evidence is scattered and at best we can see that NBC components were used, but by whom is less of an option which will leave doubt.

Time is on the side of Assad and elements stopping activities to attack, whether justified or not will only strengthen Assad’s position. I can side with the politicians when they claim that they do not want another Iraq, yet when we look at the initial quote from the BBC “but stopped short of demanding an investigation by a UN team” we must more actively wonder what it would take for them to get anything done. It should be seen as tactical inactivity of the very worst kind!



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Filed under Law, Military, Politics

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