Formed in the wake of the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust, the United Nations took as its primary mission the maintenance of international peace and security. Since the end of the Cold War, the UN has used this mandate to justify intervention in cases such as the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. In the case of domestic conflicts, however, the Council has generally deferred to Article 2.7 of the Charter, which asserts that “…nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.”
The intervention is in response to situations that do not necessarily pose direct threats to states’ strategic interests, but instead is motivated by humanitarian objectives.
Intervention is often defined as the threat or use of force across state borders by a state (or a group of states) aimed at preventing or ending widespread and grave violations of the fundamental human rights of individuals other than its own citizens, without the permission of the state within whose territory force is applied.
Despite there being no general or international consensus regarding the cases or standards through which a nation or group of nations have the right to intervene in another state, it does have some general characteristics Intervention involves the threat and use of military forces as a central feature. – It is an intervention in the sense that it entails interfering in the internal affairs of a state by sending military forces into the territory or airspace of a sovereign state that has not committed an act of aggression against another state. – The intervention is in response to situations that do not necessarily pose direct threats to states’ strategic interests, but instead is motivated by humanitarian objectives.
The debate on Intervention relies on the fact that there are no international laws that assure or give states the right to intervene in another nation, such concern has rose to significance especially after NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999. The debate is further fuelled by the general disagreement of whether which is the actor (a nation, group of nations or the United Nations) that shall act under the violation of human rights in an intervention.
Fairly recent examples include the intervention after the Gulf War to protect the Kurds in northern Iraq as well as NATO’s intervention in Kosovo, amongst others.
Types of Intervention
UN Authorized Interventions – Most states prefer to secure UN authorization before using force for humanitarian purposes, and agree that the UN Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, can authorize military action in response to severe atrocities and other humanitarian emergencies that it concludes constitute a threat to peace and security. The understanding of what constitutes threats to international peace has been radically broadened since the 1990s to include such issues as mass displacement, and the UN Security Council has authorized use of force in situations that many states would have previously viewed as “internal” conflicts.
Unauthorized Interventions – In several instances, states or groups of states have intervened with force, and without advance authorization from the UN Security Council, at least in part in response to alleged extreme violations of basic human rights. Fairly recent examples include the intervention after the Gulf War to protect the Kurds in northern Iraq as well as NATO’s intervention in Kosovo, amongst others.
The tension between the organization’s two aims – preservation of peace and respect for national sovereignty – became painfully obvious in 1994, when members of the Hutu ethnic group massacred more than 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda, despite the presence of UN peacekeeping forces. The leaders of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) claimed that their mandate from the UN was unclear about authorizing the use of force to protect civilians. Ten years after the genocide, then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said that, “…the international ‐ community failed Rwanda and that must leave us always with a sense of bitter regret.” Since the Rwandan genocide, the UN has adopted a more robust interpretation of Chapter VII of the Charter, which deals with the Security Council’s right and responsibilities in counteracting, ‘threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression.’
In 2005, the organization established the Responsibility to Protect initiative (RtoP), a set of principles to guide UN action in humanitarian crises. Acting on the assumption that sovereignty constitutes a responsibility to the governed, the RtoP states that the international community, although always in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter – may use military force as a last resort in cases where states, “…manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”
For every Gaddafi, there is a Saddam Hussein – whose deposition in 2003 at the hands of US forces was widely regarded as illegal, despite the atrocities committed by the former Iraqi president.
In keeping with the RtoP, in 2011 members of the Security Council approved UNSC Resolution 1973, which created a no fly zone over Libya ‐ and authorized the use of all means, short of foreign occupation, by member states in order to protect civilians during the Libyan Civil War of 2011. This resolution became the justification for an eight month long, multi state military intervention, ‐ largely under the auspices of NATO. Although the Libyan intervention was largely successful from a military standpoint, facilitating the ouster of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s government by rebel forces, the campaign raised a variety of question relating to exactly when and where international military intervention is called for. For every Gaddafi, there is a Saddam Hussein – whose deposition in 2003 at the hands of US forces was widely regarded as illegal, despite the atrocities committed by the former Iraqi president. For every National Transitional Council (the coalition of anti Gaddafi forces that served as the “political face” of the Libyan ‐ uprising), there is a National League for Democracy (the Burmese opposition movement, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi), which seeks to overthrow a similarly autocratic government.
Given the evolution of international norms and humanity’s growing interconnectedness at the global level, the need for unambiguous standards regarding armed humanitarian intervention is clear.
In discussing this topic, there are three main issues to consider. The first is the UN Charter itself, which remains the final word in determining what constitutes a “legal” intervention; the Right to Protect represents only the current norms of the international community. Moreover, neither of these documents specify what makes one instance of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity more deserving of international attention than another. Any attempt to clarify the standards for intervention must adhere to those parts of the Charter which explicitly recognize the territorial integrity and political independence of all states. Member states must also be aware of the dangers of creating pretexts for aggression, in direct opposition to the chief aim of the UN. The second issue is the nature of the conflicts in question.
The Security Council has at its disposal only finite resources and limited political will. It would be logistically and politically impossible to intervene in every single case of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
There are plenty of instances where a state is failing to protect, or even actively committing violence against, its citizens: which of these demand military intervention? Which should be left alone? What is the procedure for assessing such situations? When can the UN safely say that it has exhausted all non military options? In ‐ formulating your recommendations, you must consider those cases in which a member of the Security Council has a stake in an ongoing domestic conflict – for example, the case of the Tibetan independence movement – in addition to those instances where a domestic conflict has the potential for international spill over, such as the recent Tunisian uprising. Council members should also think about other cases in which standards they develop might be used to justify intervention. Is a nation that knowingly pollutes its water supply as culpable as one which fails to protect a persecuted minority from ethnic cleansing? Finally, there is the question of means.
The Security Council has at its disposal only finite resources and limited political will. It would be logistically and politically impossible to intervene in every single case of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. If the Security Council agrees to take a more proactive stance toward humanitarian intervention, it must take steps to secure the physical and ideological resources to support such a decision over the long term. If, instead, the Council adopts more stringent standards for intervention, it must consider the possibility that powerful nations may decide to take justice into their own hands, as the United States did during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Current International Intervention Scenarios
Situation in Syria: On the internal level, the uprising has aimed to topple the regime on the model of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. In this increasingly ugly struggle, both sides — government and opposition — have made serious mistakes. The government’s mistake was to use live fire against street protesters who were — at first at least — demonstrating peacefully. The crisis could perhaps have been defused with the implementation of immediate reforms. Instead, mounting casualties have created enormous bitterness among the population, reducing the chance of a negotiated settlement. The opposition’s mistake has been to resort to arms — to become militarized — largely in the form of the Free Syrian Army, a motley force of defectors from the armed services, as well as free-lance fighters and hard line Islamists. It has been conducting hit-and-run attacks on regime targets and regime loyalists.
Iran rejected the claims of the report and accused the IAEA of “pro-western bias”, it further threaten to reduce its cooperation with the IAEA.
Iran’s Nuclear Program: The controversy of Iran’s Nuclear Program centers mainly on the failure of the Iranian government to declare sensitive enrichment and reprocessing activities involving uranium to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran’s first nuclear power plant was officially opened on 12 September 2011 with major assistance from a Russian government agency.
Despite the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad constantly claims that the INP serves solely peaceful purposes, it has remained to be a worldwide concern; especially for western nations. Further more in November 2011, the IAEA Board of Governors released a report which claimed that Iran had undertaken research and experiments geared to developing nuclear weapons capability. Iran rejected the claims of the report and accused the IAEA of “pro-western bias”, it further threaten to reduce its cooperation with the IAEA.
Three of the five Nuclear States have remained active in the matter. The United States and the Republic of France highly condemn the supposed actions of the Iranian government and favor the imposing of sanctions as a consequence for violating the NPT. The United States has recently frozen all active Iranian bank accounts in the United States; on the other hand, the Russian Federation claims its opposition to the sanctions and is consistently in favor of engaging in dialogue with Iran to resolve the questions surrounding its nuclear program.
In response to Israel’s actions, the Iranian government has declared that if it is producing nuclear weapons it would be to counterattack the threat posed by the American troops in the Middle East.
However, the INP is not only a matter of worldwide concern, but also one of regional security. The Israeli government has stated several times its disapproval of Iran’s supposed production of Nuclear Weapons; during the past months the tensions between these two nations has grown and Israel has seen its borders reinforced by American troops claiming a possible attack from Iran. In response to Israel’s actions, the Iranian government has declared that if it is producing nuclear weapons it would be to counterattack the threat posed by the American troops in the Middle East. The situation remains at a critical situation and conflict may erupt anytime now.
Standards for intervention are an evolving and contentious aspect of international affairs. In the current international system, nations can benefit from a more explicit rendering of these standards. It’s up to the members of the Security Council to determine which adjustments to current RtoP protocols will best serve the chief goal of the UN, of maintaining international peace and security.