France Says Syria in Civil War, Bypassing Sovereignty Issue
The Western states have ramped up their rhetoric on Syria. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton effectively accused Russia of deceit in claiming that shipments of helicopters to the Assad regime had nothing to do with the current violence in Syria, but represented a fulfillment of a contract designed to bolster Syria's air defense system. As a defensive weapon, the helicopter did not violate UN strictures.
Clinton claimed "that's patently untrue." This was not exactly the most appropriate backdrop for deliberations on a trade bill that opened in the Senate with the objective of upgrading trade relations with Russia. The Russians responded in kind, accusing the United States of secretly arming the Syrian insurgents.
The interesting initiative came from France, where the new government - in terms of Middle East policy - is displaying continuity with its predecessor in being hawkish on intervention.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius suggested the imposition of no-fly zones (the measure that turned the tide in Libya against Qaddafi).
The French Foreign Minister went further; he latched on to the comment by UN head of peacekeeping operations Herve Ladsous that Syria was in a state of civil war. The French Foreign Minister concurred "if you can't call it a civil war, then there are no words to describe it."
The French Foreign Minister invoked Chapter 7 to the UN charter that calls upon the dofrrd violence in Syria is now a civil war with international implications. This means that the principle of sovereignty is no longer clear-cut and the Assad regime in Syria cannot claim that it is merely extirpating bandits and terrorists. Under international law, both sides in a civil war have belligerent rights.
Paradoxically this position could make things easier for Russia and China who claim that their position on Syria is motivated by a desire to uphold the principle of sovereignty. The French also claimed that they favored armed intervention to implement the plan put forward by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.
As both Russia and China backed the plan, this too could provide them with a face-saving formula to detach themselves from the Assad regime.
The regime in Damascus realizes where this can lead to and denounced the employment of the term civil war when the appropriate framework was the struggle against terrorism.