19 January 2020   Leave a comment

Marko Milanovic has written an essay for The European Journal of International Law entitled The Soleimani Strike and Self-Defence Against an Imminent Armed Attack. It is a very detailed legal brief on the issues raised by the US strike in Iraq on the Iranian general, Qassem Suleimani. Milanovic carefully parses through a number of contingencies relevant to assessing the legality of the attack. The essay is hamstrung by the lack of concrete information about the strike, but Milanovic goes through different circumstantial possibilities that affect the legal analysis. Despite the ambiguities, Milanovic argues that:

“….even if one accepts a broad theory of self-defence against an attack that is yet to occur, such as that espoused by the US government itself, the strike is likely to be unlawful. It is improbable that the US would be able to meet the factual requirements that it needs to justify the strike – in particular, there are serious doubts that there even was an imminent attack, and there are serious doubts that the method the US chose to resist that supposed attack was necessary under the circumstances. If such was the case, the US breached the prohibition on the use of force in Article 2(4) of the UN Charter vis-à-vis both Iran and Iraq. Finally, the post will look at the illegality of the threats of further use of force made by President Trump against Iran, which are unlawful both as a matter of the jus ad bellum and the jus in bello.”

The essay is a very useful road map of the issues raised by the attack and the conclusion is well-supported by both evidence and logic. It is doubtful that the Trump Administration really cares about international law but it is important for us all to think clearly about violence wielded in our names.

There have been protests in Lebanon since last October and the most recent protests left more than 300 people injured. The protests stem from a sense among the citizens of Lebanon that the political system–which guarantees certain government posts to specific sects–has completely atrophied, leading to a complete breakdown of government services. Basic services such as the provision of water, picking up garbage, and fighting wildfires seem to be beyond the capabilities of the government. The Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, resigned last October, but finding a viable replacement has proven to be a fruitless exercise. But the underlying economic weakness of Lebanon continues to aggravate the situation:

“Economic growth fell to 0 percent this year, according to Reuters, and the country carries a debt of about $85 billion. Its current GDP is $55 billion. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for those under 35 has soared to 37 percent. The value of the Lebanese pound has fallen as prices increased, a monetary situation worsened by a dearth of US dollars.

“For the last 20 years, Lebanon has interchangeably used US dollars and the Lebanon pound thanks to a central bank policy that set the exchanged rate at about 1,500 pounds to the dollar, according to The New York Times.

“In theory, using both currencies should pose no problems. But to sustain the system, Lebanon has to continuously bring in new dollars, something it did in the past largely by wooing investors. The system began showing strain as local banks were required to honor high interest rates they had promised these investors. And it was further taxed by difficulty in finding new investors who weren’t frightened by regional turmoil.”

Lebanon is also a hostage to outside interests. Iran, Syria, Russia, and the US have all been involved with the domestic politics of Lebanon and many of the most active groups in the country act as agents of a foreign power. Under these circumstances, it is hard to imagine the Lebanese regaining control of their government.

Posted January 19, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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