There are obvious comparisons between the current considerations being given to intervention in Syria and the previous political processes which led to the NATO intervention in Kosovo in 1999 and the Western invasion of Iraq in 2003:
- The UN Security Council is unlikely to permit an intervention in Syria, just as it refused to permit the interventions in Kosovo and Iraq. Russia and China would use their vetoes.
- A long-range bombing strike against Syria’s chemical weapons capability is being compared to NATO’s intervention in Kosovo: intended to help civilians, but illegal in international law.
- The Western political rhetoric is about military intervention, not about treating the use of chemical weapons as a crime which could be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court.
- As a result of opposition pressure, the British government is waiting for UN weapons-inspectors to establish the facts – unlike the political impulsiveness of the decision to invade Iraq 10 years ago without waiting for proof of the existence of weapons of mass destruction.
- The American government has talked itself into having to make an intervention in Syria, but there is disagreement about how heavy it should be and it might not be popular.
There would be risks attached to any intervention, especially without UN agreement, but it is reported that “The United States, Britain and France say they can act with or without a U.N. Security Council resolution”. There would be less risk if a reformed UN could prevent a government from harming its own citizens.