English is a very important part in any competitive examination today and in order to succeed in any competitive examination, you should be very well conversant in English language. That is why, we have started this initiative to give you passages for practice from leading English dailies such as The Hindu, The Times of India, The Indian Express, The Hindustan Times etc. In this article, we have one article from ‘The Hindu’ (dated October 24, 2016) and questions based on that. You should attempt these questions as it will immensely help you in your preparation.
Question (1-10): Read the following passage carefully and answer the questions that follow. Some words / phrases are printed in bold in order to help you locate them while answering some of the questions
Article: Interpreting the International Law
The United States’ supposed grand strategy to thwart the rampaging Islamic State (IS) is seemingly in a shambles. Reports indicate that IS has not only foiled the U.S.-led attacks thus far, but has also perpetrated massive defeats on the Iraqi army. What’s more, the Syrian rebel coalitions that were working closest with the U.S. are also apparently beginning to turn against America.
The attacks in Syria against IS — an extremist Sunni organisation — and Khorasan — a mysterious, and far lesser known, network — began in the middle of September through a series of carefully planned air strikes; they were, to illustrate the magnitude of the assaults, the largest single operation by the U.S. military since NATO’s intervention in Libya in 2011.
The on-going acts of aggression on Syrian territory, by many accounts, might only be the tip of the iceberg. The consequence, however, of a prolonged battle, analysts say, could backfire miserably on the U.S. It could, for instance, further strengthen the militantly oppressive regime of the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad. But, all of these practicalities apart, what has been most telling about the American attacks, are the almost-mundane inevitability of them all. As the journalist Glenn Greenwald observed, it seems “Empires bomb who they want, when they want, for whatever reason.”
Officially, although it seems to matter so little, the U.S. has sought to justify its attacks by invoking Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. “States must be able to defend themselves, in accordance with the inherent right of individual and collective self-defense … when, as is the case here, the government of the State where the threat is located is unwilling or unable to prevent the use of its territory for such attacks,” wrote U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power in a letter to the U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon. “The Syrian regime has shown that it cannot and will not confront these safe-havens effectively itself. Accordingly, the United States has initiated necessary and proportionate military actions in Syria in order to eliminate the ongoing [IS] threat to Iraq .…”
While the attacks against IS have been sought to be justified as an act in exercise of collective self-defence of Iraq, the legal justification offered for strikes on Khorasan is different: those strikes are a response to what Ms. Power described as “terrorist threats that [Khorasan] pose to the United States and our partners and allies.”
The international law on the use of force by states is governed both by treaty — the U.N. charter, to which the U.S. is a founding signatory — and customary law. The latter is a set of rules that acquire binding status by virtue of extensive practice by a number of states acting out of a sense of obligation over a sustained period of time. In this case, Ms. Power’s statements might look like legal justifications, but, in fact, they are almost completely shorn of reasonable basis under both treaty and customary law.
Insofar as treaty law is concerned, Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter states that members shall refrain in their international relations from “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state .…” Therefore, any armed attack by a state in a foreign territory is prohibited unless otherwise permitted by the charter.
Article 51 of the U.N. Charter represents the general exception to this rule. It preserves every nation-state’s “inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations,” until the Security Council intervenes. Provided however that any such response ought to be immediately reported to the Security Council.
Here, given that the Assad government has offered no express authorization to the U.S., the attacks are, without question, in violation of Syria’s sovereignty. Therefore, the aggressors ought to necessarily look towards the exceptions to the prohibited use of force under the U.N. Charter in justifying their actions.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ), as Kevin Jon Heller, a professor of criminal law at The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, has pointed out, has taken a staunch view on the subject; it has held that Article 51 of the U.N. Charter permits acts in self-defence against non-state actors (such as IS and Khorasan) only in limited circumstances. In both Nicaragua v. the United States (1986) and the Advisory Opinion in the case of the Palestinian Wall (2004), the ICJ ruled that an action is justifiable under Article 51 only where the non-state actor’s armed attacks are attributable, in one way or another, to the state whose territorial integrity is being infracted. In this case, therefore, the U.S. will have to show that the acts of ISIS, and Khorasan, are attributable — either explicitly or implicitly — to the Syrian government.
America’s purported justification for the attacks, flowing from Ms. Power’s letter, however involves no such analysis. Instead, it merely states that because Syria is unwilling or unable — it doesn’t tell us which — to prevent the use of its territory for attacks by IS and Khorasan, the U.S. is justified in invoking its collective right of self-defence.
The problems with such an explanation are various. First, the “unwilling or unable” test that the U.S. seeks to invoke, as much as it would like us to believe otherwise, has no valid basis in international law. It neither finds any mention in Article 51 nor has it been accepted by a sufficient number of nation-states for it to acquire the status of customary law. As Prof. Heller has observed, international law has evolved tremendously since 9/11, but it may not have changed as much as to justify attacks against non-state actors purely because the host state is unwilling or unable to quell such an actor.
Second, even if one were to assume that the “unwilling or unable” test has acquired legal imprimatur, the attacks by the U.S. in Syrian territory remain on flimsy ground. Syria has offered no explicit consent for such attacks, and has certainly not stated that it is either unwilling or unable to counter the threat of IS. Quite to the contrary, the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al-Muallem, who is also the country’s Deputy Prime Minister, has said, “Any strike which is not coordinated with the [Syrian] government will be considered as aggression.” In furtherance of the same statement, Mr. al-Muallem told the U.N. General Assembly that the attacks by the international community must be within “the frame of full respect of national sovereignty and in conformity with international conventions.” These statements, as are self-evident, are expressions neither of unwillingness nor inability. As the French President François Hollande put it at a press conference following the U.S.’s initial air strikes in Syria: “We’re very concerned with the aspects of international law. We’ve been called in by the Iraqis; we’re not called on in Syria.”
Third, and possibly most frighteningly, as Mr. Greenwald has reported, it isn’t merely the fact that the U.S. has failed to show any evidence of an imminent attack on its homeland, which is worrying. It is that the Khorasan Group, that the U.S. originally referenced, might well be a figment of its imagination. Thus far, America has failed to display any proof that the Khorasan actually exists.
To make matters worse, the White House has also confirmed that a standard that President Obama announced as part of a supposed U.S. drone policy, which would see the country launch drone strikes only when there was a “near certainty” that there would be no civilian casualties, would not apply to air strikes against IS.
Just as it failed to do with Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine earlier this year, it is quite clear that the international law against the use of armed force — embodied in Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter — has fallen short of constraining, or even as much as defining, the ongoing attacks by the U.S. in Syria. It is possible that most civilized nations consider the American attacks as legitimate and necessary, even if illegal. But, if that were the case, shouldn’t such illegality matter more when it assaults the very foundation of our international legal order? And do not these attacks further negate any semblance of legitimacy that international law still enjoys? Sovereignty, once upon a time, used to be inviolable.
If the lack of a global uproar against the American intervention in Syria represents a tacit acceptance of the necessity for these attacks, the question still remains: why is international law so weak as to be incapable of producing a lawfully tailored solution to counter the Islamic State’s most gruesome threats, including a potential genocide of Yazidis?
Asking these questions at a time such as this might appear, to some, imprudent. But it is important for countries that often seek to occupy a moral high ground when other countries indulge in illegal military interventions to set good examples. Maintaining a workable international legal order requires the most powerful countries to set the correct precedent; if the U.S. is indeed justified in using force in Syria, then it ought to offer a legally tenable defence for its participation in the conflict.
When Barack Obama assumed office as the U.S. President, many believed that his administration would correct the policies of the disastrous Bush regime. But the Obama administration might well have created far more dangerous dogmas, as its vacuous defence of the attacks on Syrian soil shows. If countries treat these justifications by the U.S. as edicts, the already parlous state of international law could suffer far greater dents.
1. Which among the following explains the opinion of the author regarding the attack of US in Syria?
Solution: Option (2)
Explanation: As per the passage, the author thinks that the move by US to attack Syria because of the ISIS influence in the country and the group taking towns after towns under its control in the country is wrong. This is going to be a dangerous precedent for foreign policy action by any other country in the future. This is explained in option (2) and that is why, it is the right choice among the given options.
2. Why, among the following, did the USA attack the Syrian country?
Solution: Option (4)
Explanation: In the given passage, it is mentioned that the US attack on Syrian soil is because of the attack of ISIS rebels on the country and the country getting into the clutches of the rebel group. On the other hand, it was also seen that Khorasan group was also active in the country though it was a lesser known network. This is mentioned in option (4) and this makes option (4) the right choice among the given options.
3. Which among the following is a justification given by the US government with respect to its attacks on Syrian soil?
Solution: Option (4)
Explanation: According to the explanation given by the US government in support of the attacks on Syrian soil, it had to do this since the Syrian government could not protect the citizens from the rebels in its country. That is why, US government had to protect the combined right of the citizens in the country and attack the country. It is mentioned in option (4) and that is why, it is the right choice among the given options.
4. Which among the following could be a negative effect of the attacks of the US government on Syrian soil, according to the given passage?
Solution: Option (2)
Explanation: According to the given passage, the US aggression on Syrian soil is a violation of the sovereignty of the country and at the same time, it may also backfire in the future for the US Government. It has given a signal that the strong countries can attack any country and also that this attack may help the existing oppressive regime of Syria. This makes option (2) the right choice among the given options.
5. Which among the following may justify the attack on Syrian soil by the US Army as per the UN Charter on the subject of international law?
Solution: Option (3)
Explanation: According to the UN Charter 51, a state action against any non state actor can be justified in case that attack is attributable in some way or the other to the army of the country whose territory is being used by the non state actors for the purpose. In this case, US should have tried to pin the responsibility of attacks on Syrian soil somehow on the Syrian government and its army. This makes option (3) the right choice among the given options.
6. Which among the following is true regarding the US strikes in Syrian against the non state actors functioning out of the Syrian soil?
Solution: Option (1)
Explanation: According to the author in the passage, US government has tried to justify its act on the Syrian soil by invoking Article 51 of the United Nations Charter regarding international law. On the other hand, US believe that ISIS is doing wrong on the Syrian soil and the Syrian government does not know the way to tackle the terrorist group. However, according to the Deputy Prime Minister of Syria, the Syrian Government has not supported any kind military action by US on its soil but the US is doing out of its own on the soil. It makes option (1) the only true statement in this regard among the given ones.
7. Which among the following is similar in meaning to the word thwart as used in the passage?
Solution: Option (5)
Explanation: The given word has been used in the passage in the sense that the US has tried to prevent the attacks of ISIS on the Syrian soil by taking military action against the group in the country. This makes option (5) the right choice among the given options.
8. Which among the following is similar in meaning to the word shambles as used in the passage?
Solution: Option (1)
Explanation: The word has been used in the passage in the sense that the US attacks on Syrian soil have not bore any fruit and because of these attacks, there has been no change in the ground situation in the country. This makes option (1) the right choice as the synonym of the given word among the given options.
9. Which among the following is opposite in meaning to the word refrain as used in the passage?
Solution: Option (4)
Explanation: The given word in the passage has been used in the sense that somebody was abstaining from doing the duty to protect the citizens of the country from the attacks of the non state actors. This makes option (4) the right choice among the given options as the opposite of the given word.
10. Which among the following is opposite in meaning to the word quell as used in the passage?
Solution: Option (1)
Explanation: The given word in the passage has been used to indicate that the state should defeat the non state actors in order to reduce the fears of the citizens from getting attacked by them. This makes option (1) the right choice among the given options as the opposite of the word.