Protecting US-trained Syrian rebels? There’s no such thing as ‘defensive airstrikes’

An F-16 Fighting Falcon © James Harper
The State Department is having a hard time explaining a US policy shift in Syria because there is no legal justification for organizing mercenary forces in order to overturn a legitimate government – and then backing them with fictional “defensive airstrikes,” activists and experts told RT.

The entire idea of “defending” mercenary forces, armed and trained by the US, on a territory of sovereign nations is an aggressive and criminal act against Syria, believes Sara Flounders, Co-director of the International Action Center.

READ MORE: US airstrike support to ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels doesn’t require new legal basis – State Dept.

RT: In 2013, President Obama made it clear he didn't need the approval of Congress in his quest to destroy Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). Now the decision to expand the campaign has been taken while Congress is on its summer break. What do you make of that?

Sara Flounders: This is completely illegal, illegitimate on every basis of the US constitution, of international law, of the UN Charter, for the US to be bombing Syria on any basis. And also it should be recognized that the arming, the training, the organizing of mercenary forces in an effort to overturn the legitimate government in Syria is also completely illegal. The whole policy though, and this is the quandary that the US government finds itself in, has been a hauling disaster.

They have failed, now going into the fifth year, to overturn the government of Syria, even though they have organized all kind of mercenary forces and now carrying out bombings under the cover of making a war on ISIS. But of course at the same time they are coordinating and playing quite a role through Saudi Arabia, through Jordan, through Israel, through Turkey, through Qatar, through all the countries in the region and organizing a huge range of different mercenary reactionary forces. The great majority of them who are not Syrians in any way at all, they are a force gathered from anywhere around the world of mercenary and fanatical forces.

So the bombing is just a cover for continued US orchestrated attempts and coordinated attempts to overturn the government of Syria. And the latest excuse is one more totally illegal step. And at the same time it shows that they are not succeeding – every step of the way they have failed.

RT:The State Department's spokesperson basically noted today, that any action to protect US-backed rebels would be defensive only. Do you believe that?

SF: Well, the whole idea of them defending their own mercenary armed and trained forces as if that is a defensive act is a wholly aggressive, criminal act against Syria. So to go a step further and then say we’ve organized this force and now we are going to protect this illegal force and its further attempt against Syria – this is one criminal step after another. It is one disastrous step that has really created enormous destabilization and havoc in the whole region, has left hundreds of thousands of people displaced in Syria, in Iraq, and is taking really a harrowing toll.

And it is important to recognize that the US is playing the primary force, even though the Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Qatar are all involved in this. But none of this could take place without the US determination to bring down the government of Syria. And also in an effort to try to maintain its completely lost position in Iraq. So there is no legality to it at all and as the reporter asking the state department (really very good) sharp questions clearly showed, there is no basis and law for this. It is criminal and it is illegal.

No such thing as ‘defensive airstrikes’

Moreover, as a retired US Air Force officer Karen Kwiatkowski told RT, despite the US State Department claims the airstrikes are never about defense or protection – they are always “offensive” or at the very least retaliatory.

“I don't think I can agree with their use of defensive,” Kwiatkowski said. “When you talk about airstrikes, you really are talking about offensive or retaliative, you are not talking about defensive … And the number of US-trained forces that might be engaging with ISIS in Syria is so small that to have air force cover them defensively – this does not make any sense at all.”

Kwiatkowski believes the policy change was made for “covering somebody’s butt one way or the other.”

“We don't really know who is fighting whom and who is doing what in Syria,” she said. “Maybe we have already done something that we should not have done under the previous rules of engagement so they have to expand it, or as the Pentagon requested they need more freedom to hit more targets. And some of those targets may include Syrian government targets.”

Technically the US has been at war with Syria for a while now, Kwiatkowski says, because “bombing inside the territory of any sovereign nation is an act of war.”

“What is clear is [that] the policy shift is probably reflecting either anticipation or covering up, or preparing to make an excuse for something that has already happened,” she concluded. “I don't really trust anything the US government says when it comes to legal or illegal in terms of interventions and wars overseas because we don't follow any particular rules and have done so for some time.”


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.