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The Errant Ways of Unilateralism: The Iraqi Case

As part of Birzeit Legal Encounters, the Institute of Law (IoL) at Birzeit University hosted Prof. Rostane Mehdi, Professor of International and European Law at Aix-Marseille III University in France to present a lecture on The Errant Ways of Unilateralism: The Iraqi Case.
Although the United State of America (USA) invaded Iraq under the pretext of possessing weapons of mass destruction, Professor Mehdi stated that the USA has not presented convincing evidence justifying the war it waged against Iraq. However, the USA might have relied on the theory of preventive defence, in which case confirmation should have been in place before an attack was launched.
According to Professor Mehdi, use of force was not justified in the Iraq case. Not an incident of absolute or eminent hostility was then in hand. Information on quantities of weapons and ammunitions which Iraq had possessed was also limited and did not provide a convincing justification to be presented to the UN Security Council. In order to appreciate hazards posed by a certain state, relevant dangers should be definite and based on particular causes.
In relation to an eminent danger, Professor Mehdi explained that the principle of proportionality basically means that instruments used must be commensurable with planned objectives. For example, Professor Mehdi wondered "how a tank can be used to attack a fly!" In the case of Iraq, the USA employed the respective UN Security Council Resolution to substantiate its invasion of Iraq. Furthermore, the USA has been exploiting the right to use force for punishing countries that do not respect or take into account US norms.
On the other hand, Professor Mehdi addressed factors that help corrupt states flourish. Under authoritarian regimes, these states seek to safeguard their interests, including through terrorism and prohibited information technology. Although the International Law does not introduce a clear definition of outlaw states, it does describe corrupt states as well as factors that promote them to deviate from internationally recognised bounds. At the same time, interpretation of the concept of national interest or security should not be exaggerated. For example, the notion of 'America and Cowboy' rejects legitimacy of states as well as seek to shape and subjugate the world in line with their own understanding and vision.
Additionally, Professor Mehdi explained the effect the war on Iraq has exerted on the International Law. The US decision to wage the war has not only impaired world order, but also introduced a new formula that replaced the legal system with a system that is typically grounded on the use of force. As the US intervention was illegal, UN Security Council was neutralised and Western countries divided.
Explaining his view of the dialectical relation between power and law, Professor Mehdi disagrees with a common view that the Iraqi case has put an end to international security. He believes that International Law cannot solve all problems. Still, it is an important tool, which states can use to cope with predicaments encountered. Hence, disrespect of the International Law does not negate the fact that it is in existence. Likewise, the current Iraqi crisis does not invalidate the International Law. Still existent, application of this Law to certain cases is only inappropriate.
As a result of the war on Iraq, a moral and humanitarian crisis has currently been in place. In 1991, intervention by the UN Security Council was well justified, but the US 2002 military action was unsubstantiated. Though a war had not been declared in the aftermath of the 1991 crisis, the USA did impose sanctions on Iraq. These measures might have probably strengthened Saddam Hussein's regime. In reality, however, sanctions do not enfeeble a dictator in power, but the affected people. On the other end, US democracy unveiled atrocities committed in the Abu Ghureib Prison in Iraq.
Meantime, elements of stability need be corroborated. On the political level, all threats can be confronted by regional institutions. In Arab countries, however, the Arab League is unqualified to do so.
The UN Security Council should be centralised; its operation and structure should be subject to oversight. In line with the US 2003 agreement to rebuild Iraq, the UN must play a central role in this process. As in Afghanistan, however, relevant efforts have utterly failed due to the chaotic security situation in Iraq. As unilateral decisions are incapable of solving world problems, plural decision-making is mostly ineffective.
In conclusion, Professor Mehdi asserted that a collective answer, not a unilateral response, should be devised to address current issues. Politically, we need components that establish stability. We do not need military actions. Collective measures may also be implemented in fighting terrorism. Otherwise, we will not be able to find solutions for our current ailments. Professor Mehdi concluded that differences arise from varied development capacities, disrespect of justice, and unbalanced powers. Hence, "we need to diagnose our existent ailments before we cry on our current situation".