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Statement on Syria

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The Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry said today that any use of chemical weapons, in Syria or elsewhere, is totally unacceptable. Allegations of their recent use in Syria can and must be investigated through the UN Secretary General’s office, in co-operation with the World Health Organisation in Geneva, and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague.

National intelligence assessments are not a sufficient condition for military strikes on Syria to proceed in a way that would be justified under international law. We would condemn, in the strongest terms, the breaking of international law governing the use of force in the current situation. While a prohibition on the use of chemical weapons must be upheld, an escalation of the war which will lead to even more casualties and the risk of an uncontrolled spread of violence is the wrong response. Talk of brief limited military interventions should be treated with the greatest scepticism in the light of other recent wars in which Western countries have become bogged down since 2001. Impatience to launch an attack before UN inspectors deliver their report sends chilling reminders of the catastrophic and destabilising invasion of Iraq in 2003.

We are therefore deeply concerned that the Australian government has given strong support to the indications that a military strike against Assad’s forces, led by the United States and its allies, will proceed without the findings of the UN Secretary-General’s investigation being delivered, and in the absence of a UN Security Council mandate.

We question whether the responsibility to protect ‘mandates international action’, as Senator Carr has claimed, in a manner that is strictly retributive. International action could take a number of forms; warfare is the most costly, risky and destructive option.

In 2003, the Australian Labor Party, then in Opposition, wholeheartedly supported the UN inspection regime in Iraq, including the UN Special Commission and the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Mission prior to the 2003 war. We would expect that when decisions have to be made in relation to the current crisis, the lessons of past governments will have been learned, and that the Government will be mindful of its particular responsibilities to respect and protect the role of the United Nations Security Council during its forthcoming Presidency thereof.

We call on the Australian government to use its Presidency of the Security Council to work strenuously with all parties to contribute to the resolution of this situation, and the Syrian conflict, without an escalation of armed violence.

Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry

Suite 406, 1 Queens Road

Melbourne Vic 3004

Authorised by Paul Barratt

Originally published by AWPR, 29 August, 2013 | 5:45 pm

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