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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 37, August 31, 2013

Syria and US National Legislation: Whither Obama?

Monday 2 September 2013

by T.R. Choudhury

As the situation in and around Syria worsens, the possibility of the US’ armed intervention in that country is looming large on the horizon. Washington is backed fully by the British Government of David Cameron on this issue but the latter has lost a crucial vote in the British Parliament and has thus conceded that a majority of Britons do not want to see British participation in the proposed Western intervention in Syria, something he has promised to respect. As for the Obama Administration, what is preventing it from taking the plunge is the uncertainty over the outcome and whether it would culminate in a situation akin to what happened in Libya; it is also being deterred by the mounting movement of civil society groups opposing any such intervention despite the propaganda unleashed by the Syrian rebels and their supporters for a pre-emptive external attack on Syria, a proposition that has been firmly rejected by Russia and China as is evident from their approach on the subject in the UN Security Council.

Meanwhile certain irrefutable facts have come to light of late. In the UN Human Rights Council and the US State Department Report on Human Trafficking dated July 19, 2013, the Americans implicitly supported the report of the independent panel investigating the violations of human rights in Syria. According to the report, armed opposition groups recruit and use under-18 juveniles in combate operations. Militants conduct trainings and teach children to use weapons. In the course of the conflict in Syria, 86 child soldiers died, half of them in 2013 alone, thus testifying to the militants’ increasing involvement of juveniles in hostilities.

As per the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, special sanctions should be imposed on countries recruiting child soldiers. Such states are to be barred from receiving military aid from Washington. Nevertheless President Barack Obama has recently ordered to supply arms to the Higher Military Council of the Syrian National Coalition, which is recognised by Washington as the only legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

It is well known that the White House, despite making all kinds of tall pronouncements on defending international law, seldom itself adheres to it. The US President’s decision, mentioned in the foregoing, not only contradicts America’s national legislation but also directly violates it. This once again proves that the US Administration doesn’t give a damn to any law that runs counter to its foreign-policy aspirations. In this connection it would be interesting to know what Obama tells the American taxpayers once they come to learn that their money, in violation of the national legislation, was allocated to provide arms to Syrian militants instead of being spent on social programmes within the country for their own benefit.

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