Murrett, Kriesberg Contribute to “Perspectives in Waging Conflicts Constructively”

waging_conflicts_constructivelyA new book co-edited by INSCT Affiliated Faculty Member Louis Kriesberg offers diverse, expert perspectives on how large-scale, seemingly intractable conflicts can be conducted with more positive benefit, minimizing their destructiveness by using “constructive conflict” diplomatic and resolution techniques.

In Perspectives in Waging Conflicts Constructively: Cases, Concepts, and Practice (edited by Bruce W. Dayton and Kriesberg), distinguished analysts and practitioners review the core ideas of the innovative “constructive conflict approach” and examine cases where conflicts have been waged with fewer destructive consequences.

An introduction presents key concepts in constructive conflict resolution, and 10 chapters offer international cases of these theories in action, including “Non-Provocative Defense in the Asia Pacific” by INSCT Deputy Director Robert Murrett. Other cases feature both global and regional examples ranging from Israel to North Korea. The book also contains recommendations for policymakers, non-governmental organizations, and citizens about how stakeholders at all levels might help avoid destructive patterns that are common in large-scale conflict while working for positive change.

Krieberg—professor emeritus of sociology and SU Maxwell School Professor Emeritus of Social Conflict Studies—also contributes the chapter “Global Contexts for Waging Conflicts Constructively.” Other contributors include Patrick G. Coy, Esra Cuhadar, Martina Fischer, Galia Golan, Christopher Mitchell, Thania Paffenholz, Lee Smithey, and Steven Zunes.

David M. Crane Helps Draft UN General Assembly “Syrian Accountability Center” Resolution

UPDATE: According to Reuters, the UN General Assembly passed the resolution “to establish a special team to ‘collect, consolidate, preserve and analyze evidence’ as well as to prepare cases on war crimes and human rights abuses committed during the conflict in Syria” on Dec. 21, 2016. The vote was “105 in favor, 15 against and 52 abstentions. The team will work in coordination with the U.N. Syria Commission of Inquiry.” Read more.

Evidence that war crimes have been committed during the five-year-old Syrian Civil War is hard to ignore. TV images, photographs, news reports, and social media posts from the front lines and throughout Syria have documented the torture of political enemies, the use of chemical weapons, sexual violence as a weapon of war, indiscriminate aerial attacks on civilian centers, the siege of cities, attacks on humanitarian efforts, and more.

“We have to be seen to be doing something for the people of Syria!”

Not all of this documentary, eyewitness, or anecdotal evidence can be used to bring justice to those who have perpetrated crimes against humanity or war crimes, but in cases where it will be useful to future prosecutors, it must be carefully collected, filed, and analyzed. There are a number of ongoing documentation efforts, one of the most thorough being that of David M. Crane, Professor of Practice at Syracuse Law, INSCT Faculty Member, and Founding Prosecutor of the Special Court of Sierra Leone. Over the past five years Crane has kept track of the evidence of atrocities with help from his students in the Syrian Accountability Project (SAP).

Now Crane is pushing the international community to make further use of his, and others’, documentation by helping to draft a resolution, which is being brought before the United Nations General Assembly, to establish an “International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes Under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic Since March 2011.”

The UN General Assembly is expected to vote on the resolution on Dec. 21, 2016. The vote’s outcome is hard to predict. Although many in the international community recognize and condemn Syrian atrocities, that does not mean there is political will to create a postconflict justice mechanism for the people of Syria. As The New York Times explains, “The International Criminal Court, whose reason for being is to try the worst perpetrators of the world’s worst war crimes, has no jurisdiction over Syria, which is not a member of the court [and efforts] by the United Nations Security Council to refer the conflict in Syria to the court have been blocked by Russia.”

Nor is there currently any appetite, the article continues, to set up a special tribunal like the one in which Crane prosecuted former Liberian President Charles Taylor, helping to bring justice to the people of Sierra Leone. But, as Crane says, “We have to be seen to be doing something for the people of Syria!”

Specifically, the proposal suggests the UN assist Syrian justice by developing what Crane calls an “accountability center” to collect, consolidate, preserve, and analyze evidence of alleged war crimes, such as that being collected by the SAP. Work done by the accountability center would be “in accordance with international standards, in national, regional or international courts or tribunals that have or may in the future have jurisdiction over these crimes.”

“I proposed this effort to the ambassadors of Qatar and Lichtenstein in September and briefed a dozen ambassadors in November,” explains Crane. “The resolution, which I helped draft, is the result of these conversations. The accountability center concept is a way to standardize the collection of evidence and to build a solid, legally supportable case against those who are committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.”

Although its backing would carry a great deal of weight, The New York Times reports that “the United States has not said whether it supports the measure [but it] is separately funding a group of lawyers who are collecting evidence that can be used in future legal proceedings.” Nevertheless, the resolution has received support from one of the most influential, US-based rights organizations. On Dec. 19, 2016, Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, wrote a letter urging governments “to support the UN General Assembly resolution … The creation of such a mechanism could deter those contemplating further atrocities against civilians in Syria. Potential perpetrators need to know that the world is watching and they may one day find themselves behind bars. This is fully within the General Assembly’s authority.”

Resolution: International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes Under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic Since March 2011 (Proposed by Lichtenstein)


The General Assembly,

¶1 Guided by the Charter of the United Nations,

¶2 Reaffirming its commitment to the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic,

¶3 Recalling the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Human Rights Council, in particular Human Rights Council resolution S-17/1 that established the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic,

¶4 Welcoming the ongoing work carried out by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic and recalling its reports1 and the recommendations contained therein,

¶5 Expressing its appreciation for the work carried out by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism and recalling its reports2 and the conclusions contained therein,

¶6 Recognizing the work of Syrian and international civil society actors in documenting violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights law in the Syrian Arab Republic during the conflict,

¶7 Noting with concern the impunity for serious violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights law committed during the conflict, in the Syrian Arab Republic which has provided a fertile ground for further violations and abuses,

¶8 Recalling the statements made by the Secretary-General, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the special procedures of the Human Rights Council that crimes against humanity and war crimes are likely to have been committed in the Syrian Arab Republic,

¶9 Noting the repeated encouragement by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the Security Council to refer the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic to the International Criminal Court,

1. Emphasizes the need to ensure accountability for crimes involving violations of international law, in particular of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, some of which may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011, through appropriate, fair and independent investigations and prosecutions at the domestic or international level, and stresses the need to pursue practical steps towards this goal to ensure justice for all victims and contribute to the prevention of future violations;

2. Stresses the need for any political process aimed at resolving the crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic to ensure credible and comprehensive accountability for the most serious crimes committed in the country to bring about reconciliation and sustainable peace;

3. Welcomes the efforts by States to investigate and prosecute crimes within their jurisdiction committed in the Syrian Arab Republic, in accordance with their national legislation and international law, and encourages other States to consider doing the same and to share relevant information to this end with other States;

4. Decides to establish an “International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011” under the auspices of the United Nations to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of such crimes and prepare files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings in accordance with international standards, in national, regional or international courts or tribunals that have or may in the future have jurisdiction over these crimes;

5. Requests the Secretary-General, in this regard, within 20 working days of the adoption of this resolution, to develop Terms of Reference of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism with the support of OHCHR, and requests further that the Secretary-General undertakes without delay the steps, measures and arrangements necessary for the speedy establishment and full functioning of the Impartial and Independent Mechanism, initially funded by voluntary contributions, in coordination with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic and building on existing capacities, including recruiting or allocating impartial and experienced staff with relevant skills and expertise in accordance with the Terms of Reference;

6. Calls upon all States, all parties to the conflict as well as civil society to cooperate fully with the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to effectively fulfill its mandate, and in particular to provide it with any information and documentation they may possess pertaining to the above-mentioned crimes as well as any other forms of assistance;

7. Requests the United Nations system as a whole to fully cooperate with the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism and to promptly respond to any request, including access to all information and documentation, and decides that the Mechanism closely cooperate with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic in all aspects of its work;

8. Requests the Secretary-General to report on the implementation of the present resolution within 45 days of its adoption and decides to revisit the question of funding of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism as soon as possible.

The US & the Middle East: 15 Years after 9/11

(Re-published from SU News, Sept. 9, 2016) Fifteen years out from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US, and the war on terror still rages. Osama Bin Laden is dead but US troops, albeit in fewer numbers, remain in Iraq and Afghanistan, and new enemies have risen.

Why has US policy in the Middle East struggled in the legacy of 9/11?

Osamah Khalil, an assistant professor of US and Middle East history in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, notes how the US built up its national security bureaucracy after 9/11—gathering incredible amounts of data—but has not addressed the root causes of instability in the Middle East through broader understanding.

His book, “America’s Dream Palace: Middle East Expertise and the Rise of the National Security State,” to be released in October, highlights how US foreign policy has shaped expertise in this often misunderstood part of the world over the past century and how the relationship runs much deeper than any current conflict.

“It is worth mentioning that these allies have terrible human rights records and their own domestic and regional political agendas, but this has been ignored—and is still being ignored—because they are partners in the ‘war on terror.’”

Q: What has been the aftermath of the US in the Middle East following 9/11?

A: America’s involvement with the area we now call the “Middle East” dates to the mid-19th century, and some scholars argue even earlier. As I discuss in “America’s Dream Palace,” there is a long period of engagement and interaction between the two areas that did not begin with the Sept. 11 attacks and did not end with death of Osama Bin Laden.

In the 15 years since 9/11, the United States remains deeply involved in the region, politically, economically, militarily, religiously and culturally. Although the focus is often on the active conflicts (Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan) and occasionally on the covert operations and drone strikes that are conducted from Libya to Pakistan, the engagement between the US and the Middle East is also deeper and richer than just military affairs and political crises.

Q: What are the threats driving US policy in the Middle East today?

While the general public often understands the relationship between the United States and the Middle East through the lens of current events, crises and threats, this obscures a much longer and deeper engagement. US policy in the Middle East and elsewhere around the globe is driven by interests—material, strategic and ideological. Since the early post-World War II period US foreign policy has been driven by Washington’s decision to serve as the guarantor of global oil supplies, the goal of “maintaining security and stability” in the region from the US’s perspective, and America’s “special relationship” with Israel.

Q: What has hampered the US in its war on terror, even 15 years out from 9/11?  

A: Much like declaring a “war on drugs,” the idea that you can have or should have a “global war on terror” is part of the problem. Terrorism is a strategy, and often a deliberate one, and not an ideology. As I discuss in the book, even the definition of terrorism has not been consistent over the past four decades.

In addition, al-Qaʽida, the organization responsible for 9/11, was very small (with some scholars estimating that it had roughly 3,000 members largely based in Afghanistan and Pakistan). This threat could have been dealt with in a more strategic fashion. Instead, after 9/11, the national security bureaucracy underwent a massive expansion, the largest since the end of World War II, and one of the consequences was an increase in redundancy among the different agencies but not necessarily an improvement in how the US was assessing and analyzing threats.

Nor was there an attempt to address the root causes of conflict and instability in the region. Fifteen years later, this situation has not improved. For example, even though there is a robust and controversial global surveillance effort, the United States still lacks a sufficient number of analysts to quickly and efficiently evaluate the troves of data collected.

Q: What are the repercussions of not moving more quickly to analyze data?

A: This relates to the basic question of why are massive amounts of data (cell phone, social networking, etc.) being collected, including of American citizens, without a warrant. In many cases these are individuals who are not suspected of being affiliated with terrorist groups.

In addition, the database of suspected terrorists is still growing, and yet Obama administration officials concede that those on this list are not at the same level of importance as previous targets. There is no transparency on how or why individuals are added to the database or subjected to warrantless wiretapping or a process to challenge that determination.

Moreover, since 9/11, the United States has relied on regional allies to help with Arabic translation, intelligence collection, as well as arresting and often torturing suspects, including a number of individuals that were falsely identified and accused.

It is worth mentioning that these allies have terrible human rights records and their own domestic and regional political agendas, but this has been ignored—and is still being ignored—because they are partners in the “war on terror.”

Q: Why is the US lacking in analysts?

A: In part this has to do with different and competing priorities as well as manpower and budget constraints. However, ideology also plays a role. After Sept. 11, the George W. Bush administration dismissed the need for area expertise and language training. Fifteen years later, federal funding for university-based language training, including Arabic, has not kept pace with dramatically increased enrollments. Even though the US military was in desperate need for translators, a number of gay and lesbian translators were forced out of the armed services.

Q: In your book, you discuss the influence of think tanks with neoconservative agendas on US foreign policy after 9/11. How has this stymied US efforts in fighting terror? How does the US—and its allies—start to better understand the Middle East?

This was evidenced most prominently—and disastrously—with the invasion and occupation of Iraq. We are still dealing with the consequences of the US-led invasion of Iraq and its implications across the region and internationally today.

As I discuss in the book, the United States has a vast reservoir of expertise on the Middle East in universities and colleges across the country. However, there is a tendency to view those outside of government with skepticism. Instead, the US government has often chosen to embrace the expertise that reflects and reinforces existing US interests in the region and internationally. This contributes to short-term approaches that emphasize crisis resolution or conflict management and ignore the fundamental problems and root causes of conflicts.


National Security for Israel in an Unstable Middle East: Prospects for a Two-State Reality, with Gilead Sher

Date: Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016

Time: 2 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Location: 341 Eggers Hall (Moynihan Institute Large Conference Room)

Part of the Carol Becker Middle East Security Speaker Series

Gilead_Sher_NewGilead Sher heads the Center for Applied Negotiations (CAN) and is a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University.

Sher was the Head of Bureau and Policy Coordinator of Israel’s former Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak. He served as Chief and co-Chief negotiator in 1999-2001 at the Camp David summit and the Taba talks, as well as in extensive rounds of covert negotiations. He served under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as delegate to the 1994-1995 Interim Agreement negotiations with the Palestinians. Sher holds the rank of colonel (reserve), and he is a former brigade commander and deputy division commander in the Armored Corps of the IDF, as well as a military judge.

Sher is an attorney and senior partner in Gilead Sher & Co., Law Offices. His practice areas include corporate law; project finance; international business ventures, investments and transactions; constitutional law; and dispute resolution. Sher’s professional career combines the practice of law, policy planning and implementation, academic research, and involvement in civil society organizations. He is involved in various frameworks that deal with the future of Israel and the Middle East, preparations for regional conflict resolutions, and dialogue with official and non-official interlocutors in Israel and abroad.

As author, opinion leader and researcher Sher publishes books, articles, op-eds, studies and research in national and international media. His book The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations, 1999-2001: Within Reach was published in Hebrew (Yedioth Aharonot), Arabic (Darjalil), and English (Routledge, 2006). He recently co-edited Negotiating in Times of Conflict, an edited volume published by the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) comprising 15 chapters by 20 international contributors. His book The Battle for Home was published by Yedioth Aharonot in April 2016. His upcoming book as co-editor is Spoilers and Coping with Spoilers in Israeli Peacemaking forthcoming in 2017.

Sher was a visiting professor on Conflict Resolution and Negotiations at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (2001-2011) and taught at the Tel Aviv University’s Conflict Resolution and Mediation MA Program (2007-2013). He is the founding co-chairman of the non-partisan movement Blue White Future, which seeks to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and promote a two-state reality.

Sher serves as chairman of the executive board and the board of trustees of Sapir Academic College, the largest public college in Israel. He is a former board member at The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, a former president of Israel Shotokan Karate Association (Fifth Dan), a former chairman of the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School in Jerusalem and a member of the Council for Peace and Security.

Jewish Studies Program
Middle Eastern Studies (MES) program
Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs
Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration (PARCC)


Time to Revive the 2004 Bush-Congress Letter to Israel

By Miriam Elman

(Re-published from Providence, April 21, 2016) Shortly after his inauguration, President Barack Obama abandoned a series of pledges that his predecessor had made to Israel. They included the promise that the U.S. would support a number of Israeli positions in future negotiations with the Palestinians, including a) Israel would not be compelled to cede its claims to all of the territory captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War; b) millions of Palestinian Arabs would not be resettled in Israel; and, c) Israel must be recognized as the state of the Jewish people.

“The Bush-Congress letter to Israel was incredibly valuable since it helped Sharon win domestic public approval for his Gaza disengagement plan.”

These commitments were delivered by former President George W. Bush to the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the form of a two-page letter at a White House press conference on April 14, 2004.  Several months later, Congress would add its support to the letter’s terms by lopsided margins—95-3 in the Senate and 407-9 in the House of Representatives.

A letter from a U.S. President to an Israeli Prime Minister might not seem like a big deal. Yet, it’s what enabled PM Sharon to undertake risks for peace—the removal of every Israeli citizen, settlement, and military base in Gaza, and the removal of four small settlements in the West Bank.

In fact, the Bush-Congress letter to Israel was incredibly valuable since it helped Sharon win domestic public approval for his Gaza disengagement plan. Of course, Sharon may have taken this unprecedented move even in the absence of the White House’s support. But the letter made it an easier sell.

While the letter was viewed by the Arabs as signaling a major break in U.S. policy, the reality is that previous U.S. administrations had also accepted that there would be no return to the 1949 borders because Israel would keep some of the settlements. Basically, the 2004 Bush-Congress letter just “set forth publicly” something that had already been widely acknowledged by the U.S. government: to ensure Israel’s security with defensible borders, the 1967 lines weren’t a useful starting point for negotiations.

Indeed, it was President Obama who shifted the goal posts by refusing to view the Bush-Congress letter to Israel as binding on U.S. policy and by claiming that negotiations should start on the 1967 lines.

President Obama’s cavalier decision to reject the Bush-Congress letter soured relations between the U.S. and its most important ally in the Middle East during the early days of the Obama presidency. From the Israeli perspective, it was a betrayal …

To read the full article, click here.

Obama: The Conflict Resolution President?

By Louis Kriesberg

(Re-published from Foreign Policy in Focus, April 18, 2016) In the eighth year of Barack Obama’s presidency the struggle over assessing the correctness of his foreign policy is understandably under way. Unfortunately, too often the struggle is waged in extreme, ill-founded terms. Many Republican leaders and pundits accuse Obama of being naïve, weak, indecisive, and even at times of pursuing non-American interests and goals. Obama himself, in his unflappable manner, ignores the wildest charges and tries to explain the rationale for the foreign policy choices that he makes. His team defends and explains the grounds for choosing the least bad option in difficult circumstances. They agree on the importance of not doing “stupid stuff.”

“Obama has tried to minimize US resort to violence, while narrowing the targets and drawing upon multilateral support.”

It is, however, worthwhile to seek an understanding of the foreign policy doctrine or style that Obama generally has used. Some observers, like Andrew Bacevich, think he remains essentially within the Washington foreign policy consensus in dealing with the Middle East. Yet Obama characterizes himself differently, as reported by Jeffrey Goldberg. In “The Obama Doctrine,” published in The Atlantic, Obama has expressed some distance from that consensus, which he views as overly militarized. And yet he wants to characterize himself as a realist. That is probably a politically useful guise.

In fact, Obama has been quite eclectic and pragmatic in his policy making. More significantly, he has often drawn from the evolving conflict resolution approaches. More specifically, his conduct often has been congruent with a constructive conflict approach that synthesizes the research and experience of work in the conflict resolution and peace studies fields.

Obama has tried to minimize US resort to violence, while narrowing the targets and drawing upon multilateral support. In addition, he has used diplomacy to restructure conflicts and has taken into account how adversaries view a conflict so as to maximize the effectiveness of non-coercive inducements. His administration has recognized that diplomacy takes many formal and informal channels at multiple levels. Each effective engagement helps build a basis for future engagements in future conflicts. These understandings are central to a constructive conflict approach, derived from empirically grounded knowledge about ways to reduce destructive conflicts. Indeed, Obama has had notable foreign policy successes by acting in accord with a constructive conflict approach. Furthermore, some seeming failures might well have been averted, not by more militancy, but by more prompt and consistent use of constructive conflict strategies …

To read the whole blog entry, click here.

David M. Crane, Syrian Accountability Project Thanked During House Syrian War Crimes Debate

On March 14, 2016, on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the start of the Syrian Civil War, the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to urge the United Nations Security Council to immediately establish a Syrian War Crimes Tribunal. During the House debate on H.Con.Res. 121, resolution sponsor Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) praised INSCT Faculty Member David M. Crane, Professor of Practice at Syracuse University College of Law, and the SU Law-based Syrian Accountability Project (SAP) for their work gathering evidence that could be used against perpetrators of crimes against humanity and war crimes on all sides of the conflict.

“It is important that Congress continue the quest to seek justice for the oppressed and work on justice for the Syrian people, in particular as we recall the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the civil war in that country”

“I chaired a congressional hearing in 2013 on establishing a Syrian War Crimes Tribunal, which included David Crane, the former chief prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone and founder and chairman of the Syria Accountability Project,” Smith explained. “As Mr. Crane testified, the Syria Accountability Project has collected data ‘and built a framework by which President [Bashar al-]Assad and his henchmen along with members of the opposition can be prosecuted openly and fairly.’  Crane and his team have developed a ‘crime base matrix which catalogs most of the incidents chronologically and highlights the violations of the Rome Statute, the Geneva Conventions as well as domestic Syrian criminal law.’”

As part of its work—now in its fifth phase—SAP has developed a white paper that documents and analyzes incidents of rape and sexual crimes—considered crimes against humanity—during the Syrian conflict. It will reveal its groundbreaking analysis at a March 24, 2016, event at SU’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs called “Spotlight on Syria: The Gendered Perils of War and Forced Migration.” UN Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Hawa Bangura will provide keynote remarks at the event.

Smith told his House colleagues that Crane’s leadership on seeking justice for atrocities has in the past held even heads of state to account: “Who can forget the picture of the infamous former President of Liberia—Charles Taylor—with his head bowed incredulous that the Special Court for Sierra Leone in 2012 meted out a 50-year jail term for his crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

Commenting on the passage of the resolution, Crane said: “Chairman Chris Smith, his staff, and I have been working together in seeking justice for the oppressed for more than 15 years, from Sierra Leone to Syria. This resolution is an example of the leadership Chairman Smith has shown in the US Congress on behalf of human rights. It’s been my pleasure to work with this fine advocate.”

As Crane wrote in a March 14, 2016, editorial in The World Post, on the solemn occasion of the conflict’s fifth anniversary, the international community must begin thinking about redress for Syrian civilians when the fighting ends. However, because Syria is not signatory to the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the ICC has no direct jurisdiction over the country, and so far efforts by the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution to refer the situation to the ICC have been opposed by permanent members Russia and China.

Nevertheless, as Smith explained in his remarks on the resolution, with international political will, some form of ad hoc, UN-sponsored justice mechanism can be created on behalf of the Syrian people. “Past ad hoc/regional war crimes tribunals—including courts for Sierra Leone, Rwanda, and the former Yugoslavia—have made a significant difference holding some of the worst mass murderers to account with successful prosecutions followed by long jail sentences.” Smith called upon the President Barack Obama Administration to adopt the policy goal of developing an alternative justice mechanism, including using America’s voice and vote at the UN. “An ad hoc or regional court has significant advantages over the International Criminal Court as a venue for justice,” Smith said. “The ICC has operated since 2002 but boasts only two convictions. By way of contrast, the Yugoslavia court convicted 80 people; Rwanda, 61; and Sierra Leone, 9.  Moreover, a singularly focused Syrian tribunal that provides Syrians with a degree of ownership could significantly enhance its effectiveness.”

Smith said he was confident that a UN Security Council resolution establishing a Syrian war crimes tribunal could prevail but that it would require a “serious and sustained diplomatic push by the US and other interested parties.” There is precedent for such as process, he said. “Notwithstanding Russia’s solidarity with Serbia during the Balkan war, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was unanimously approved. Ditto for the special court in Sierra Leone in 2002. The Rwanda tribunal was created in 1994, with China choosing to abstain rather than veto.” 

The Syria resolution has broad bi-partisan support, Smith observed, and it received input from the US Department of State as well as a panel of experts at a 2013 hearing he chaired entitled “Establishing a Syrian War Crimes Tribunal.” Furthermore, Smith’s resolution was approved at a March 2, 2016, hearing by the full US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, of which Smith is a member.

Specifically, H.Con.Res 121 expresses “the sense of the Congress condemning the gross violations of international law amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Government of Syria, its allies, and other parties to the conflict in Syria, and [asks] the President to direct his Ambassador at the United Nations to promote the establishment of a war crimes tribunal where these crimes could be addressed.” The resolution also urges the Obama Administration to establish additional mechanisms for the protection of civilians and to ensure access to humanitarian aid for vulnerable populations and asks the US to support efforts to collect and analyze documentation related to ongoing violations of human rights in Syria that can be used to support future prosecutions for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

On March 15, 2016, Rep. Smith joined House Republican Leadership—including Speaker Paul Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Republican Party Conference Chairwoman Kathy McMorris Rodgers—at a press conference about the two Syria-focused bipartisan House resolutions passed on March 14, including H.Con.Res. 121. At the press conference, Smith again noted Crane’s work on behalf of postconflict justice for Syrian civilians. “Indeed,” said Smith, “I would like to relay words that Mr. Crane spoke just this afternoon during a call I had with him, wherein he reminded us that ‘It is important that Congress continue the quest to seek justice for the oppressed and work on justice for the Syrian people, in particular as we recall the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the civil war in that country.’”

Ticking the Boxes: Tehran’s Road to “Implementation Day”

By Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi

(Re-published from RUSI.org, Jan. 17, 2016) The implementation day of the Iranian nuclear agreement comes after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Tehran had, in effect, complied with its key obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Since October, Iran has been rapidly working towards meeting its obligations, curbing its most sensitive nuclear activities and co-operating closely with the IAEA.

“Implementation day is not the end of the matter—the process which lies ahead will be no less technical and arguably even more procedural.”

Iran’s greatest challenge was implementing the ‘Road-map for the Clarification of Past and Present Outstanding Issues’, agreed with the IAEA in order to provide a framework for resolving international concerns about the possible military dimensions of its nuclear programme. Following the implementation of the roadmap, the IAEA closed its file on the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme in mid-December. In accordance with the steps specified in the JCPOA, in the meantime, Iran has:

  • Removed two-thirds of its 19,000 centrifuges, limiting the total number of operational centrifuges at its Natanz and Fordow enrichment facilities to 6,104
  • Removed the core from its Arak heavy-water reactor to prevent the facility from producing any weapons-grade plutonium; it has also agreed an outline for the redesign of the reactor with the P5+1
  • Removed 98 per cent of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, shipping the majority to Russia, leaving it with a remaining stockpile of 300 kg, less than a quarter of the amount required to produce one nuclear weapon if further enriched
  • Capped its level of uranium enrichment to 3.67 per cent U-235, substantially below what would be needed for nuclear-weapons production.

Despite opposition within Iran, President Hassan Rouhani’s administration has kept its commitment to proceed smoothly with the implementation of the deal and has reiterated this pledge to gain domestic support. The president has invested two years of political capital into the resolution of the nuclear standoff. After concluding the historic agreement, he had the challenging task of showcasing its benefits at home, especially in light of the parliamentary election to be held next month. Given that hardliners in the country could make electoral gains, Rouhani had to demonstrate that the deal would result in major economic improvements. This meant complying with its requirements and getting to implementation day quickly.

The Next Phase

Implementation day is not the end of the matter—the process which lies ahead will be no less technical and arguably even more procedural. During the next stages of the agreement, Tehran must allow the IAEA to conduct enhanced levels of monitoring; it will also have to adhere to new legal frameworks governing the Agency’s access to the country’s nuclear sites. The IAEA will be able to request information and inspections to verify that the country is not building undeclared nuclear facilities or engaging in weapons-related work. Iran will also need to prove that its research and development activities at the Natanz site are conducted ‘in a manner that does not accumulate enriched uranium’, and that no enrichment is taking place at the Fordow facility, converted into a nuclear, physics and technology research centre.

Furthermore, Iran will be required to seek approval for all nuclear-related procurement from a designated procurement channel which will require Iran to submit appropriate documentation and end-use declarations. Each purchase will proceed through national licensing agencies around the world and parties to the JCPOA will have twenty days (extendable to thirty) to consider the proposed export …

To read the entire article, click here.

Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi (MAIR ’10)—a former Fulbright Scholar who holds a MA in International Relations from SU Maxwell School—is a Research Analyst at RUSI. Her research is concerned with security in the Middle East, with a particular focus on Iran’s foreign and domestic politics. She is also a PhD candidate at the War Studies Department of King’s College, London.

David M. Crane Joins Senior Advisory Group of USIP Study Group on Fragility

SU College of Law Professor of Practice and INSCT Faculty Member David M. Crane has joined the Senior Advisory Group of the new United States Institute of Peace (USIP) Study Group on Fragility, which has been created by William J. Burns, Michèle Flournoy, and Nancy Lindborg, the leaders of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Center for a New American Security, and USIP, respectively. The Study Group’s aim is to identify principles and recommendations for a strategic and effective US foreign policy response to the interrelated security, humanitarian, and development challenges posed by fragile states.

“More than a billion people now live in states deemed fragile, which is where conflict, violence, and poverty are deeply concentrated.”
The distinguished project leaders have years of experience as foreign policy and international development practitioners. Burns is a former US Deputy Secretary of State; Flournoy is a former US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy; and Lindborg is a former Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance at the US Agency for International Development. Along with Crane—the founding Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone—the Study Group’s Senior Advisory Group includes former members of Congress, senior executive branch officials, and experts from academia, think-tanks, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector.

“The upheaval we’ve seen over the past few years, from the Arab uprisings to the spread of extremism, and the global displacement crisis to the Ebola outbreak, underscore the stakes and urgency of addressing fragility with renewed emphasis,” says Burns. “American interests are often at play, as are those of key allies and partners who look to American leadership to help galvanize a response.”

“After the 2016 elections, the new Congress and next administration—regardless of political affiliation—should demand better ideas about whether and how to engage, prioritize, and invest in these challenges,” says Flournoy. “This Study Group will identify principles to underscore where the stakes are most significant and concrete recommendations that build on America’s strengths.”

“More than a billion people now live in states deemed fragile, which is where conflict, violence, and poverty are deeply concentrated,” says Lindborg. “A vital challenge for the coming administration will be to get ahead of crises that routinely emerge from these states in order to save lives and improve our security.”

The Study Group will publish its findings and recommendations in summer 2016.

To read the original press release, click here.

William C. Banks Joins ICCT Editorial Board

SU College of Law Interim Dean and INSCT Director William C. Banks has accepted an invitation to join the Editorial Board at The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism in The Hague, The Netherlands. According to ICCT President Mark Singleton, a former diplomat and postconflict specialist, the ICCT Editorial Board will consist of highly-respected scholars in the field and will enhance the quality of the institute’s research.

ICCT is an independent “think and do” tank providing multidisciplinary policy advice and practical implementation support for prevention and the rule of law, vital pillars for effectively countering terrorism, violent extremism, and human rights abuses and for supporting the rule of law, rehabilitation, and civil society.

Current ICCT projects include those addressing building community resilience in Nigeria; effective implementation of UN SEC RES No. 1624 (2005) [on threats to international peace and security]; the interplay between international humanitarian law and international human rights law; transforming broad military intervention into more limited counter-terrorism policies; and the analysis of terrorism trials.

ICCT is supported by a unique partnership among three renowned institutions based in The Hague: the TMC Asser Instituut, the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, and the Centre for Terrorism and Counterterrorism at Leiden University. Among its Board of Advisors are Mike Smith, former Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate; Joanne Mariner, Interim Director of Law and Policy at Amnesty International; and M. Cherif Bassiouni, Emeritus Professor of Law at DePaul University and a frequent collaborator with INSCT.