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US thinks presence in Syria is legal

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Published on Nov 19, 2017

The United States received no permission from the United Nations to intervene in Syria, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday 16 November, 2017. “We were surprised to hear a statement made by US Defense Secretary Mattis when talking to the US media representatives, on November 13, that the US Armed Forces are in Syria “with the permission of the UN,” Zakharova said. Her comments were made after the Secretary of Defense said that Washington’s intervention in Syria had been approved by the United Nations.

“I want to remind you that the Security Council is the only agency under the UN Charter that is entitled to take decisions on using military force,” she said, adding that no such decision has been taken. “The US forces are there contrary to the wishes of Syria’s legitimate government, in fact acting as occupants,” the diplomat stressed.

Outside of the UN, for the US to be able to conduct legal military operations abroad, it should also receive the approval of the Congress - yet this regulation is constantly violated. Activity against terrorist groups, as well as government forces, have taken place in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya and are explained by the fact that the Congress allowed the US forces to fight Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Critics say that the White House and Pentagon are interpreting the legislation too broadly. On October 30th, Rex Tillerson, US Secretary of State, stated that “geographical constrictions” [of the bill] should not be a limitation for the US to fight ISIS anywhere in the world, and that no updated legislation was necessary.

This doesn’t change the fact that no UNSC permission, on behalf of the international community, was ever given to the US to invade Syria.

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