On Friday 20th November, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 2249 calling on UN members to take “all necessary measures” in redoubling and coordinating the prevention and suppression of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Some may long to interpret this resolution as a green light for all-out war; nonetheless, this is one thing that it certainly is not. So what is the purpose of the resolution? And what could explain such ambiguity in the text?
On the surface, the terminology used is almost identical to resolution 1973 which authorised NATO intervention in Libya in 2011: ‘all necessary measures’ rather than ‘all necessary means’. Academics with prior knowledge of Council terminology will easily pierce the legalese veil to understand this to mean use of force; in turn, the use of force is authorised under article 42 of the UN Charter, which falls under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Herein lies the key distinction: the missing reference in resolution 2249 to Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which grants the requisite legal authority to the use of force. From a purist’s approach, without both a determination of the threat to the peace – article 39 of the UN Charter – and an explicit reference to Chapter VII, military intervention would be illegal.
Yet the resolution is still valuable, albeit in a more surreptitious and indirect way. The legal opacity of the resolution is also extremely telling of the politics of the Council and the concessions that are necessary for the rapid adoption of some resolutions. Resolution 2249 is a microcosm of the manner in which Council decision-making unfolds.
The fact that it was not adopted under Chapter VII is, of course, notable and suggests two key points: firstly, there was a clear compromise on the wording and mandate granted to states in order for both Russia and China to permit its passing. Both nations have jointly blocked the adoption of previous Chapter VII resolutions on Syria on four occasions since 2011 by means of their veto powers and, despite the high emotional toll of recent events, it is likely that a blanket mandate for military action in Syria would not have passed... Click here to read the full article. "A Legal Analysis of UN Security Council Resolution 2249" was written by Dr Sherif Elgebeily, Centre for Comparative and Public Law, and published on the Current Affairs webpage of the Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law.