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G20 and the Syria Question

September 6, 2013
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With the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg coming to an end, tensions are greater than ever as regards the deliberation over military intervention in Syria. Following the news of devastating chemical attacks targeting Syrian civilians on August 21st of this year, President Obama, supported by British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande, has led the debate in favor of intervention—with little success. While Obama, Cameron, and Hollande are determined in their efforts to see the deterrence of the future use of chemical weapons in Syria, other heads of state have a bone to pick with these interventionist plans. For those in opposition—German Chancellor Merkel and Russian President Putin, to name the most prominent—military intervention in Syria is undesirable. The two sides of the debate are as follows:

  • For Intervention: Those members of the G20 Summit who support intervention maintain that the use of chemical weapons against civilians is a violation of human rights and must be reprimanded. They believe that military intervention that otherwise might seem to violate international law is a legitimate step to take when its justification is humanitarian. Furthermore, they state that the use of chemical weapons violates international norms and could potentially threaten other countries’ national security.
  • Against Intervention: Those opposed to intervention state that such a step would be a gross violation of international law, as military action is only considered legal if carried out in self-defense or authorized by the UN. Due to the highly controversial nature of such intervention, they also greatly fear the repercussions that such a move might have for international security. Russia’s staunch opposition to the intervention is of particular concern, as any decisions contradicting Putin’s wishes could create great tension not just between the United States and Russia, but also between the EU and its most prominent Eastern neighbor.

The debate, therefore, does not seem to have a clear end. However, as interventionist military action would affect not just Syria, but also potentially many other actors on the international stage, these deliberations are high up on the international agenda. A few more weeks and some results from the UN investigations into the chemical weapons used in Syria should hopefully alleviate the current deadlock.

                                                                                                                    

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