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  • Rory O'Keeffe, Koraki

Iran, international law, black and white, and 'just war'


We were not sure whether to post this piece, but as it relates to international law, the UN's Declaration of Human Rights and the structure of the UN, we decided it would be of interest to our visitors.


Five days ago, on 3 January 2020, the United States military, under direct orders from US President Donald Trump, broke international law with the assassination of Qasem Soleimani.


I didn’t anticipate having to begin this piece with that sentence, but this statement appears, in the days since, to have become somehow politicised and controversial. I will deal with why that is – and certainly I will talk about Soleimani in terms rather more honest than some of those who agree international law was broken seem to be willing to do – but first, I must stress:


Five days ago, on 3 January 2020, the United States military, under direct orders from US President Donald Trump, broke international law with the assassination of Qasem Soleimani.


This is not a matter of opinion. Nor is it a matter of interpretation, or me taking a political position on any single person – or indeed state – involved on either side.


It is an objective fact.


On 3rd January, the US sent an armed drone into the air-space of Iraq, a state it is not at war with, and launched missiles at that country’s major international airport, against a national (the Major General and effective commander of the state’s external military force and de facto second-in-command of his entire country, but in fact that’s not really very important in the immediate context) of a third state – on which it had also not declared war – to carry out the extra-judicial murder of that person.


This is illegal, under international law. There is absolutely no ‘wiggle room’ on this point: it was a flagrant and blatant illegal act.


Now. There are a couple of other points we should make about this murder. First, nine other people were also killed. We will mention that again.


But it’s fair, having made the absolutely incontrovertible point that this was an illegal and inexcusable act, to note something else.


Because while international law is important, (we will look at why, how it is currently systematically ignored, and what we can and should do about that), it’s also important that we don’t fall over ourselves to rewrite history.


Soleimani was not, unlike what some statements about him over the past few days seem to suggest, a ‘good man’. This, too, is not a matter of perception, but an objective fact.


He was active in Iran’s war against Iraq which, although it was certainly not started by Iran, became in 1982 (when Iran repelled Iraqi forces which were backed by the US and other states, from its territory) a war of conquest by Iran – effectively by Soleimani, other leading members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and Iran’s head of state Ayatollah Khomeini – against Iraq, which lasted a further six years and in which 1.1m people were killed.


(Iraqi forces, in fact, killed a further 300,000 Kurdish people, in reprisal for Iraq’s Kurds fighting on Iran’s side, in the Al Anfal genocide. We might note that not only did Soleimani make no effort to prevent this killing, or come to their aid, he had in fact previously led Iranian troops against a Kurdish uprising in the Iranian West Azerbaijan Province).


He oversaw – indeed, his role means he must take responsibility for – the murder of Iranian Kurdish people.


And in the last decade he led large parts of the ground massacres in the Syrian Civil War in support of Syria’s bloodthirsty dictator Bashar al-Assad. Of the million men, women and children killed in Syria since 2011, more than 850,000 were killed by Assad, Russia and Iranian forces. Soleimani also led the force which in Iraq victimised and in some cases slaughtered Iraqi Sunni Muslims.


This, we should stress, is why Syrian and some Iraqi people, who are very well aware that Trump’s action was not carried out on their behalf, nevertheless celebrated the Iranian’s murder.


It’s also worthwhile, given the number of people who seem to think that he did, noting that Soleimani did not destroy IS in Syria.


He – through his troops on the ground – played a part in doing so in Iraq, where the state’s Shi’a and Kurdish people (with whom Iran worked closely) and Sunni Muslims (with whom it did not), also worked extremely hard to achieve IS’ expulsion, and Iran absolutely opposes IS for religious and political reasons.


But Soleimani and his Iranian forces in Syria played little part in the fight against IS in Syria, where the terror organisation was not a priority of either Russia or Assad for the majority of its (IS’) presence in Syria. In fact, Solemani suggested and then oversaw IS’ entry into Palmyra.


As mentioned, this was in part because for a long period of IS’ presence in Syria, it was far from the priority of Russia and Assad, and in fact the latter often ordered his ground troops (which included and still include Soleimani’s Iranian army) to stand aside and allow IS to attack the Free Syrian Army which opposed him.


With this in mind, we should also stress that this does not exactly mean Soleimani ‘sold out’ Syria to IS. If anyone did that, it was Assad, who had nominal control over the war’s progress in ‘his’ state, or Putin, who many suspect (and the fact that the war altered so drastically after Russia entered it suggests there is truth in the suspicion) has led the campaign since mid-2015.


But, far from the ‘IS-defeating hero’ some have rushed to portray him as, Soleimani was in his dealings with IS, a pragmatist: his acceptance of IS taking Palmyra helped the defeat of IS in Iraq, but on the other hand allowed the destruction of that world heritage site.


And Soleimani was guilty of the mass slaughter of Syrian people, and effectively stood aside for several years when IS was at its strongest in that state. He was a leading member of a regime which has tortured and imprisoned Iranians, and his dealings with Iraqis over the course of his 41 year career was nothing short of blood-soaked.


Soleimani was illegally murdered by the US.


He too, however, was guilty of war crimes and the slaughter of men, women and children.


The fact that he was killed by a state which actively supports war criminals, which carried out war crimes and which broke international law by deposing the former ruler of Iran and in doing so eventually lifted him and Khomeini to power does not make him a hero, or a ‘good person’ of any description. He was not.


We will return to the issue of international law, but it’s first worth recapping the events of the last five days.


In the immediate aftermath of the murder of Soleimani and the nine other people killed in the illegal bombing of Baghdad International Airport, Iran’s head of state Ali Hosseini Khamenei, who rose swiftly through the ranks of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard at the same time as Soleimani, vowed revenge.


Trump responded by threatening to retaliate against any Iranian attack by targeting Iranian cultural sites – another breach of international law, and in fact a war crime.


The Iraqi government, which began its session related to the assassination with chants of ‘America Out’, voted to remove all US forces from within its borders, a move which the US claimed would cause it to impose sanctions on Iraq.


Late last night (7 January 2020), Iran launched missiles at two locations in Iraq at which US troops are based – Erbil airport and al-Asad airbase.


It is worth highlighting that the strike was carried out using a small number of missiles and in the middle of the night, both of which may indicate that Iran was aiming not to kill anyone (the small number of rockets reducing the damage done, and the timing meaning there was unlikely to be many – if any – people walking around outside of the locations’ buildings) and in fact, no casualties resulted.


But the US’ actions, and both sides rhetoric – even as both Iranian and US politicians say they do not want a war – has fuelled fears that all-out conflict will result.


Now, a number of Syrian and Iraqi commentators have – with some justification – argued that it would be impossible to ‘destabilise’ the Middle East further. Iraq has been devastated by two wars in quick succession in the 11 years from 1980 and a third which – despite official declarations from all sides – has not yet convincingly ended.


Syria has been destroyed by a civil war which has lasted almost nine full years, and is still ongoing, and in which its leader has turned his, Russia’s and Iran’s militaries (as well as Hizbollah) against Syrian civilians.


Israel is engaged in a permanent attack on the Palestinian territories, while the residents of those tiny and shrinking strips of land attempt to attack Israelis with rockets and improvised weapons.


In Yemen, a crisis of mass starvation has resulted from several years of internal conflict, with either side backed by Saudi Arabia and UAE (using US and UK weapons) and Iran.


Qatar has been and is still being blockaded by UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and some sub-Saharan African states because of its perceived alliance with Iran (with which it shares almost all of the Middle East’s gas supplies) and its actual criticism of the first three states’ dictatorial regimes (the irony should of course be recognised) through Al Jazeera.


The same states (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE) have also united with Russia to back the warlord Khalifa Haftar in his lunatic war to be allowed to run Libya as military dictator, while Turkey and Qatar oppose Haftar’s forces. Egypt, meanwhile, is run by a blood-soaked dictator who shot his way to power, has imprisoned and/or killed all his political opponents and flatly refuses to accept that any terrorist activity is carried out by any group which announces it, insisting instead that it has been carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood, which only he, Saudi Arabia and UAE regard as a terror group.


Meanwhile, on the north-western edge of the Middle East, Turkey has built a wall along its border with Syria, has invaded the north of the state and is still engaged with a civil war against its own Kurdish population. Kurdish people in Iraq and Iran are also weighing up their options after military and political moves they feel were designed to victimise them.


In Lebanon, political protests have been ongoing for several months against not just a government but an entire system many members of the public believe to be corrupt, the country’s Prime Minister was kidnapped by the Saudi Arabian royal family in 2017 (though he was released after a little more than a month) and the government is forcing Syrian refugees back into the state governed by the regime they fled.


It is certainly fair to argue that the Middle East is not stable.

But it is not reasonable to argue that a war between Iran and the US would not cause significant further destabilisation.


Iran is the Middle East’s leading Shi’ite Muslim state. Its major interest in Iraq was in 1980 – and remains – the fact that the population of Iraq is primarily Shi’a, but was and is not governed by a Shi’a administration.


It is fighting in Yemen in support of the Houthi people, a Shi’te group (Saudi Arabia, and UAE are backing the Sunni opponents of the Houthis: both Houthis and the Saudi-backed forces claim to be the rightful government of Yemen) and in Syria to prevent what it believes and portrays as a Sunni uprising from succeeding (Assad and his government are Alawites, but Iran is backing him more in order to prevent Syria becoming a Sunni state than to promote him or his branch of Islam) and it backs Hizbollah in Lebanon to keep the Shi’a section of the population strong there.


If the US were to attack Iran, it may – particularly considering the often ill-thought perspectives of its leader Donald Trump – encourage its major allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of which oppose and are opposed by Iran (they also oppose each other) to become involved in the attack.


Even if both flatly refused, it is likely that Iran would – in an all-out war – see Israeli and Saudi locations as legitimate targets, which would be extremely likely to pull one or both into a conflict.


It is far from clear that Russia would support Iran in a war against the US – though it may do so remotely – and certainly the US proved unwilling to enter Syria after Putin’s air-force began to destroy Syrian towns and cities in ‘support’ of Assad.


But the region is not safe from swift escalation. Indeed, no region is.


Now. Perhaps because of the nature of the Iranian response, and maybe because of widely publicised statements from political leaders from within Iran that no US civilians in the country would be targeted by the state and none must be attacked by Iranian people, it looks – hopefully – as if war might be avoided. We shall see.


It is too easy, however, to speculate on an all-out world – or even regional – war, as if this alone should be our concern, and we can breathe a sigh of relief if we conclude (none of us now know for sure) that it is unlikely.


In fact, we should consider many other things.


First, one effect of the US’ illegal act in Iraq appears to have been to pull Iraq and Iran closer together, which will have ripples across the rest of the region. Just as importantly, at least in the short-term, it seems to have pulled Iranian civilians back behind a regime many of them increasingly (and correctly) regarded as fanatical, authoritarian, dictatorial and violent.


It is very easy for people to believe government propaganda about a nation’s evil if it is illegally murdering the state’s political leaders (this is another reason why Trump’s decision to unilaterally leave the Iran Nuclear Deal and impose harsh sanctions on the state – despite there being absolutely no indications that Iran had not adhered to the deal’s demands – was a ludicrous move: it forced people closer to the regime because it alone could provide for them, because it appeared to be correct that the US hates Iran and Iranian people need protection from it, and it was clearly an unreasonable and in many ways frightening act against them by the world’s sole military superpower).


This is something of a disaster. Even if we ignore the bitter irony that the current regime is in place largely because the US broke international law to replace Iran’s previous, democratically elected, political leader, the proto-Socialist Mohammad Mossadegh, with the royal family in 1953 (the family was removed from power 26 years later, in 1979, by a multi-faceted revolution at the end of which Khomeini came to power), the Iranian regime has been extraordinarily cruel in its treatment of women, minority groups and in fact anyone who has dared to oppose it.


A growing civilian opposition to it could perhaps have led to the regime being removed, and perhaps (there is of course never a guarantee) replaced by Iranian people by a less vicious, less authoritarian government. Instead, the US’ action – at least in the short-term – appears to have handed the regime increased support.


We also have an opportunity to consider, however, exactly what would (have) happen(ed) if war broke out.


Because in the last few days, many Iranians (and in fairness also some Americans), including the author of Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi, herself an opponent of the Iranian regime, have pointed out, in as many words, that the average Iranian has more in common with the average American than with the Iranian government, and that the average American has more in common with the average Iranian than with the American government: that is, that because of disagreement between heads of state who realistically, in their personal life and their political positions do not represent the people in their countries, people with no real problem with one another would be forced to kill one another.


The same has, of course, almost always been true throughout history – and certainly since the start of the 20th century.


During the First World War, for example, millions of poor and moderately wealthy British, German, Ottoman, French, Austrian and Russian people (later on, American people as well) were sent to kill each other despite the fact that they had far more in common with one another than with the emperors, kings, and in most cases even governments, which had started the war. In the ‘Christmas Truce’ in 1914, for example, the French, British and Germans who had met in no-man’s land were told they would be shelled by their own side if they did not return to the trenches to recommence killing one another.


Nor is this always solely a class matter (though it certainly IS a class matter). When the Greek state invaded (some Greeks would prefer to say ‘liberated’) Thessaloniki in 1912, the Muslims (known as ‘Turkish’), Jewish and Orthodox Christians (known as ‘Greek’) had far more in common with one another than with the Athenian soldiers (one of whom wrote to his wife ‘this does not feel like a Greek city. There are too many Jews’).


The simple fact is that in almost every war ever fought – and this would be the case in any war fought between Iran and the US – those fighting it do not massively differ in experience or attitude from their opponents.


There has of course been one glaring and relatively recent (in the immenseness of history) exception to this, and we will come to it in a moment.


But what this means is that in every war, we see people killing one another because diplomacy has failed. Very, depressingly, often, because too little effort has been made to use diplomacy (as in Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw the US from the Iran Nuclear Deal, and unilaterally break international law to murder an Iranian military leader).


In order to galvanise their own people – who they do not really represent – and in order to attempt to sidestep the fundamental immorality and illegality of war, what those leaders do is to invoke the concept of ‘Just War’.


Now. There is no such thing as a Just War. There literally never has been one, in all of human history (I know. We will get to that).


The reason there is no such thing as a just war is because in every single modern iteration of war, the vast majority of people killed are innocent civilians and soldiers who have admittedly signed up (in most non-conscript cases, though there are many exceptions to this) and are paid to kill, but who have had absolutely no part in starting the war in which they are ordered to slaughter people similar to them, or be slaughtered by them.


There is no justice in a war. Even if occasionally ‘the right person’ is killed, that is not ‘Just’ – in the first place it is just an indication that one side is more powerful (or in a very few cases more lucky) than the other, and in every case it is massively outweighed by the huge number of other – very often civilian – people killed by missile strikes on homes, hospitals and schools.


(There is no such thing as a ‘clean’ strike – or at least very few. Although striking civilian targets is illegal, it happens in every single conflict in such number that either the combatants are deliberately breaking international law, or the missile technology is far below the standards weapons manufacturers claim. And this is where it’s important to note again: the strike which killed Soleimani also killed NINE other people).


There is no justice in being killed in your bed, while recovering from a week at work, or preparing for another. There is no justice in the million people killed since the US invaded Iraq for the second time (a war which Blair – though not Bush – attempted to paint as ‘just’).


There is no justice in Russia and Assad bombing civilian homes so Assad can remain in power, or – from the Iranian perspective – Syria is not governed by Sunnis.


Equally, even if a ‘just war’ DID exist, who could tell which one it was, or which side was ‘just’? In most cases the very idea is ridiculous. If Iran and the US went to war, both sides would claim ‘justice’. Iran would argue – with some justification – that the US is a global aggressor, that it keeps invading otber countries, illegally, that it has been targeting Iran for a decade at least and that it (Iran) has a right and duty to defend itself and its people.


But let’s not make any mistake here, the US would – also with some justification – argue that Iran is driven by self-interest, and that in the promotion of that self-interest it is killing innocent people. That in the interest of its own power it is prolonging a bitter war in Yemen, and is massacring Syrian men, women and children. That it is governed by a regime which punishes its people for disagreeing with it, and glorifies the cult of the gun at least as much as the cult of its religion.


And yes. The US would be being enormously hypocritical. But so, too, would Iran. Even as both were also right: who then is ‘Just’?


I know. Some of you are screaming the name of a war, starting with ‘World’ and ending with ‘II’. But here’s the thing. World War Two was not a ‘just war’.


Even if we were to pretend that the UK and USSR (as well as many other nations) and later (again) the US fought that war with only the ‘best of intentions’ – and in none of their cases is that the whole story – the war itself was still not ‘Just’: it was begun by a genocidal maniac, and within it tens of millions of men, women and children, on all sides, were murdered.


It may have been ‘necessary’ – on the grounds that the world would objectively have been a worse place had the Nazis prevailed – but there is no ‘justice’ in the Second World War. Just horror, death, and a grim recognition that if the ‘other side’ had won, things would have been worse.


Once again, however, we have to recognise that the idea of a ‘Just War’ is not only related to convincing your own people to shoot other people, or drop explosives on their houses while they sleep inside, but also to attempt to at least be seen not to have broken international law.


And the problem is that if we take at random, say, four recent wars we all know a little about, not one single one was ‘legal’.


The invasion of Afghanistan, for example, was the invasion of a state (absolutely one run by maniacs) on the pretext, without evidence, that the state’s government was hiding a man who carried out a terrorist attack on the US. Here’s the thing: nothing in international law says you are allowed to invade a state which refuses to hand over a terrorist to your country. (equally, he was in the country next door. He could certainly have moved there in an effort to escape, but that’s not certain).


The invasion of Iraq (again, not run by one of history’s good people, but even so) took place on a false pretext (in the UK, the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ lie; in the US the lie that Hussein was harbouring and training terrorists) and was literally banned by the UN Security Council.


The NATO involvement in Libya – its consistent bombing of Libyan schools, clinics, hospitals and houses – was undertaken despite an international no-fly zone (which Libyan government forces obeyed) and was justified by a misreading of a UN document so facile it’s impossible to believe that it was a genuine mistake. France, interestingly, (see tomorrow) broke the no-fly zone first. The UK and US within days.


And the Syrian Civil War began when the President of Syria – not a position won through election, but by being the previous president’s son – ordered troops to open fire on peaceful demonstrators. It has seen Iran, Assad, Hizbollah and Russia target civilians in blatant breach of international law, and Russia use its Security Council position to block any attempt by the UN to bring the slaughter to an end.


This isn’t about the US, or the UK, or France, Libya, Assad, Russia – though it IS about all of them. It’s about the fact that there is no ‘good war’, and there are almost no – if not actually no – ‘legal’ ones.


We have a duty not to fall into a trap of saying ‘ah, well, this person was bad so it’s OK to break international law to get them’ for the same reason it’s not OK to break into someone’s house and beat them up because they swore at you on a train.


First, because of the cliché (many clichés are true: that’s how they get to be clichés) that the result of an eye for an eye is a room full of blind people, and second because that’s vigilantism and chaos. And people; thousands, even millions of people die in vigilantism and chaos for no reason whatsoever.


We wouldn’t run our houses like that, or our countries, so why would we be happy running the world that way?


Now. I understand that some of you might say ‘OK, but international law doesn’t work. So we need to do something else.’ To an extent you have a point.


But here’s a thing that happened in the UK’s Houses of Parliament earlier today.


The Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, stood up and asked the Prime Minister Boris Johnson if he agreed that the killing of Soleimani was in breach of international law.


The actual Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council replied: ‘The issue of legality is not for the UK to judge, as this was not a UK operation.’


Now the UK’s position in the world, as a leading member of NATO, and the holder along with only four other nations of one of the most powerful positions on Earth, means that in fact, the issue of legality absolutely IS for the UK to judge. It is an abnegation, a dereliction, of the UK’s duty, by its Prime Minister to claim otherwise.


But even if the UK were a ‘small’ country, without Security Council permanent membership, the issue of legality would STILL be its business. Because the point of international law is that it is international. All parts of the international community must be interested in it, work within it, and work to uphold it. That’s what international law IS. It is the international community that has responsibility for international law.


Now the problem that we have at present is that virtually every month, one of the five permanent members of the UN’s Security Council will do something which breaks international law, and/or will back another member or non-member of the Council in its breaking of international law.


Then, those same countries (the US since the banning of the invasion of Iraq has been particularly outspoken on this, behind closed doors, as has Russia in the last five years) will announce almost within the same breath that the UN is ‘too strong’ and ‘too weak’.


So here’s the thing: you, who argued earlier that ‘international law doesn’t work’. You’re sort of right.


But that’s not an argument to ditch it, it’s an argument to ensure it’s enforced.


Because who currently enforces international law? Who ensures those who break it are brought to justice?


The US? But it itself is one of the world’s most consistent breakers of international law, and perpetrators of war crimes anywhere on Earth. It spent years torturing people at Guantanamo Bay, as if its illegal invasions and extra-judicial murders weren’t enough. It also consistently prevents action being taken against Israel which has openly broken international law in every year since 1948. And it backed the literal convicted war criminal Hissene Habre and invited him to the White House even as he was starving thousands of Chadian people to death.


Russia? Ditto (though for ‘Israel’ at present, read ‘Assad’). China? China prefers to abstain on most important votes, and is currently engaged in rounding up its Uighur population and torturing them in camps for being too Muslim.


The UK? Too scared of and close to the US. Also, see Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, above. France? Not so close to or scared of the US, but it was first to start bombing Libya.


So perhaps the UN should do it? Well, OK. But what IS the UN? In reality, the UN – at least the decision making parts of it - is nothing except a collection of its member states, and within that group are the five, any one of which has the power to veto any decision taken by the rest of the UN, listed in the last three paragraphs.


There IS no ‘UN’. Not really. When we say ‘is the UN failing in (insert state/region here)?’ The answer is always no. Because the answer is: ‘WE are failing’. There is no UN independent of ‘us’.


Now. Yesterday, I wrote about the climate catastrophe we are facing. I made an urgent plea that we all – everyone around the world – should cooperate together, stop competing and focus our attention on achieving the common goal of ensuring human civilisation is not destroyed (I also argued that we should abandon money. Yeah, I know. Go and have a look).


The reason I mention it here is because it is relevant. Because we DO need to cooperate globally. Because under the current system in which we live, we are:


1) competing with one another in a way which is rapidly speeding the chances of human civilisation’s survival to zero (as well as forcing people from their homes, where they risk death every step of the way and are then denied refugee status because our definition of refugee fails to match the demand made on us all in Article 25 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights)


2) competing with one another in a way which is starving people to death, killing them from thirst, denying them medicine, clothing, shelter, and forcing people through these illegal acts to either die or leave their homes (from when they risk death every step of the way and are then denied refugee status because our definition of refugee fails to match the demand made on us all in Article 25 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights)


3) literally ignoring and overriding international law to murder one another – including millions of innocent people – with weapons (thus forcing people from their homes, where they risk death every step of the way and are then often denied refugee status because our breaking of international law means we regularly also override and ignore the demand made on us all in Article 25 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights AND the internationally-accepted definition of refugee as set out in the 1951 Refugee Convention).


The solution is in our hands, however – just as every solution to every single human problem is.


In this case, it’s easy: give the UN the power to enforce international law.


In order to ensure that international law is upheld and obeyed – so that people are not blasted to pieces in airports, liquidised in their beds, left to bleed to death, or to starve by the roadside, AND so that we can ensure that war criminals, like Assad, Soleimani, and like a number of other global leaders are brought to trial for their actions – we need to lift the UN out of the hands of its members, and give it the power to act in the interests not of one or other of those states, but international, global, justice.


We need to ensure the UN has the independence and power to act according to international law; to step in where it is being broken, or where that is suspected; to try suspected criminals; to ensure people everywhere are treated with fairness and justice, and that of course they are not murdered on their way to work because one nation or another is allowed to conclude it is above an international law too ‘weak’ to bring it to justice.


That UN would not really need a Security Council, which in any case seems to offer too much temptation to any individual state which is a member.


Instead, it would be a body of legal experts, plus a group of people ready to be deployed where they are needed to bring suspected perpetrators of war and other international crimes to trial, and to rule on cases which involve breaches of human rights. It would also contain the experts needed to set out rules, regulation and standards of behaviour for all to follow so that the world can avoid climate catastrophe, and so we can organise for a future in which we all, as men, women and children, are equal parts of a world we all recognise as our own, and which we can work together to improve.


International law is not ‘weak’. It is just not being enforced. We can change that. We can, if we choose, start today.


When I set a timetable for this piece, I had no idea whether Iran and the US – or the Middle East – or even the world, would be already at war.


At present, it looks as if – for a short while at least – we might have avoided that.


But as with the last three months in Australia, the last five days in Iran and Iraq have been a warning: a clear message about what can happen in a world in which international law is ignored and broken at will.


Once again, it’s time to step up, understand the warning and work to remove the risk.


It’s not even that difficult to do. We just have to actually do it.

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