04 Sep 2013

Syria and the red lines of international law

Steven Blockmans

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As the US and its allies France and Turkey dither over whether or not to punish Assad for having used sarin gas to kill his own people, the crucial question is: What response might the outside world legally take without the authority of the UN Security Council, which remains blocked by two veto-wielding members, Russia and China? Sadly, international law provides no clear-cut answers to this dilemma. To respond to what US Secretary of State John Kerry has rightly called a “moral obscenity”, this commentary explores ways in which formal interpretations of international law might give way to a more pragmatic approach to punish the Assad regime for its use of chemical weapons.

Steven Blockmans is a CEPS Senior Research Fellow and Head of the EU Foreign Policy unit.