Experts have long criticized the legality of the US intervention in Syria under the tenets of international law given that the legitimate government of Bashar al-Assad has patently refused to welcome American intervention and has, in fact, repeatedly called on the United States to stop meddling in the ongoing civil war to which Washington is not a party to.
The State Department has long countered that their position is that the alleged attacks by the Assad regime on civilians, particularly in rebel-held East Aleppo, invalidates the Syrian leader’s legitimacy under international law under a doctrine known as "right to protect."
This position has been reiterated by the White House with President Obama referring to the opposition, then comprised of a mixed bag of Daesh (ISIS), al-Nusra (al-Qaeda) and some actual moderate rebel groups as the "legitimate government" of Syria – a position that the Obama administration has been reticent to reiterate over the past year but has never fully walked back.
It turns out that Washington is fully aware that their involvement in the Syrian theater is in violation of international law as was discovered from leaked audio tapes of Secretary of State John Kerry speaking to Syrian opposition members on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York last week.
"We don’t have a basis (to intervene), our lawyers tell us, unless we have a UN Security Council Resolution which the Russians can veto or unless we are under attack from folks or unless we are invited in. Russia is invited in by the legitimate regime," said Kerry acknowledging the Assad government’s stature under the doctrines of international law.
The Secretary of State implied that this violation of international law would only apply if the United States engaged in a full-on war to oust Assad rather than leading a coalition engaged, purportedly, in counter-terrorism strikes and called into question the legality of Russia’s actions despite confirming that Moscow is involved in the conflict at the invitation of the "legitimate government."
"The problem is that the Russians don’t care about international law, and we do," said Kerry attempting to claim the position of moral and legal superiority despite laying out evidence directly to the contrary.
In fact, the Syrian government has repeatedly called on the United States to be evicted from the country’s airspace most recently following the attacks in Deir Ez Zor against a Syrian Army base that led to the death of 62 soldiers, injured 100 others and “paved the way” for a major offensive by Daesh (ISIS) terrorists with the assault and subsequent offensive occurring almost in tandem.
Further, the United States not only realizes but admits that the demands by the Assad government are, morality aside, binding under international law as the Syrian regime remains legitimately recognized.
This begs the questions what the consequence of the Obama administration’s admission of violating international law by intervening in a civil war without invitation by the existing government will or what extralegal steps the US might choose to pursue to sidestep Russia’s veto power in the Security Council.