Does US Have A Legal Right To ‘Defend’ Syrian Rebels With Airstrikes?

Fact checked

The US State Dept. 'frankly doesn't know' what the legal authority is behind US airstrikes supporting Syrian rebels


The US State Department seems to believe that the latest decision to use airstrikes to bomb Syrian government forces to defend US trained “moderate Syrian rebels” does not require any additional legal justification.

However, critics are questioning what authority the White House has to go ahead with such a mission after minimal consultation with the UN Security Council.

Co-director of the International Action Center Sara Flounders believes that 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

The State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner tries to explain the legal basis for the change in US policy in an interview with RT’s Gayane Chichakya (see video below)

He told RT: “I frankly don’t know what the legal authority is,” Toner said, adding that the situation in Syria remains “complex and fluid.”

He clarified that Washington did not authorize itself to “go after Assad government forces,” insisting that such bombings would take place only in the “hypothetical” case that the US-backed militants would come under fire from Syrian forces.

“We’ve been carrying out airstrikes in that region for many months now, almost a year – and the same – in defense of these groups, but also to help them gain territory back from ISIL,” the spokesman stated, referring to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) by the administration’s standard acronym for the militants.

“Any type of effort to protect them from Syrian forces would be defensive in nature,” he claimed. “But I’m not going to talk about the legal framework for it.”

When pressed to admit that the latest announcement is a major change in US policy in Syria, Toner said he would “respectfully disagree.”

“There’s no change in the legal framework,” he said. “Our main goal is to take the fight against ISIL. Nothing’s changed in that regard.”

According to US officials the Pentagon was authorized by President Obama to protect Syrian rebels trained by Washington by bombing any force attacking them, including Syrian regular troops. However, neither the Pentagon nor the White House officially commented on the decision about the new broader rules of engagement