Kosovo Seen as Template for Syria Intervention


With Russia most likely to veto any military action against Syria in the UN Security Council, U.S. national security aides are studying the 1999 NATO air war in Kosovo as a possible blueprint for acting without a mandate from the United Nations.

Allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria have amplified calls for military intervention against the Assad regime. The non-profit Doctors Without Borders estimates that 355 people were killed and more than 3,600 were injured in an attack on Wednesday. If confirmed, it would be the worst chemical weapons attack since Saddam Hussein gassed more than 3,000 people in an Iraqi Kurdish village 25 years ago.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gave a statement which has been interpreted as making the case for military action against the Assad regime.

“The argument in 1999 in the case of Kosovo was that there was a grave humanitarian emergency and the international community had the responsibility to act and, if necessary, to do so with force,” said Ivo H. Daalder, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO who is now the president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Doing the same in the case of Syria would require a similarly robust international coalition and legal justification.

Calling for international intervention to stop the killing, Kosovo’s foreign minister wrote, “As a country that today enjoys freedom and democracy thanks to NATO action, we are strong supporters of the idea that sovereignty is not a right, but a responsibility. Speaking from experience, the time has come for the international community to offer protection to the people of Syria.”

Legal experts have pointed to Kosovo as an obvious legal precedent  because, similar to the case in Syria, civilians were killed and Russia had long standing ties with the government authorities accused of abuses. U.S. President Bill Clinton used the endorsement of NATO and the rationale of protecting a vulnerable population to justify 78 days of airstrikes.

In the case of Syria, Daalder said, the administration could argue that the use of chemical weapons had created a serious humanitarian emergency, and that without a forceful response there would be a danger that the Assad government might use it on a large scale once again.

Another basis for intervening in Syria, Daalder said, might be violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which outlaws the use in war of poison gas.

The United States has been consulting with its allies about possible responses, and on Monday the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Turkey said in separate radio interviews that they would be prepared to back U.S. action outside the parameters of a UN mandate.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the Turkish Milliyet daily newspaper that more than 35 nations are considering joining the United States in taking action against Syria, and that Turkey was among them. If the UN Security Council could not agree on measures, he said, Turkey would be willing to consider “other alternatives.”


Read More about intervention in Syria here. Read the Kosovo foreign minister’s article here. Read about the possibility of military intervention in Syria as reprisal here.

Story Sources: New York Times and Washington Post http://alturl.com/48aer

Photo: survivors mourning victims following last week's suspected chemical attack in Syria. Credit: (C) AFP PHOTO / HO / SHAAM NEWS NETWORK