International Laws and Norms and Intervention in Syria and Yemen

  • Amanda Guidero
  • Maia Carter Hallward


This chapter investigates the legal basis for discussing the various ways states are reacting to the conflicts in Syria and Yemen. It focuses on three different explanations for differing state actions in the two countries, including the international laws and norms on intervention by invitation, international laws and norms on intervention for international peace and security, and international laws and norms on intervention for humanitarian purposes. The chapter concludes that international legal frameworks for humanitarian intervention are not frequently invoked in either conflict despite the humanitarian need. It also points to limitations in the international legal framework in instances when the Security Council does not act in situations that involve humanitarian crises.


International law IHL United Nations Security Council Responsibility to protect 


  1. Akkoc, R., & Oliphant, R. (2015, October 2). Russia kills US-backed Syrian rebels in second day of air strikes as Iran prepares for ground offensive. The Telegraph. Accessed 20 May 2018.
  2. Al-Arabiya. (2017, November 9). Saudi Arabia calls on UN Security Council for action against Iran. Accessed 20 May 2018.
  3. Al-Karimi, K. (2018, March 14). Is the president of Yemen under house arrest in Saudi Arabia? The New Arab. Accessed 20 May 2018.
  4. Annan, K. (1999). UN press release SG/SM/6938. Global Policy Forum. Accessed 13 May 2018.
  5. Barkin, J. S., & Cronin, B. (1994). The state and the nation: Changing norms and the rules of sovereignty in international relations. International Organization, 1, 107–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. BBC. (2011, July 12). Syria: Assad no longer legitimate, says Clinton. Accessed 18 May 2018.
  7. BBC. (2016, February 15). Syria calls for UN action on Turkish attacks on Kurds. Accessed 20 May 2018.
  8. BBC. (2017, March 28). Yemen conflict: How bad is the humanitarian crisis. Accessed 21 June 2017.
  9. BBC. (2018, April 24). Yemen profile – timeline. Accessed 16 May 2018.
  10. Bellamy, A. J., & Williams, P. D. (2006). The UN Security Council and the question of humanitarian intervention in Darfur. Journal of Military Ethics, 5(2), 144–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Byrne, M. (2016). Consent and the use of force: An examination of ‘intervention by invitation’ as a basis for US drone strikes in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Journal of the Use of Force and International Law, 3(1), 97–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Carter, J. (2003, March 9). Just war – Or a just war? The New York Times. Accessed 9 Apr 2018.
  13. Cohen, Z., & Liptak, K. (2018, April 14). US, UK and France launch Syria strikes targeting Assad’s chemical weapons. CNN. Accessed 16 May 2018.
  14. Dyke, J. (2015, April 3). Is the Saudi war on Yemen legal? IRIN. Accessed 18 May 2018.
  15. Farer, T. (1990). Panama: Beyond the charter paradigm. The American Journal of International Law, 84(2), 503–515.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Franck, T. (2001). Terrorism and the right of self-defense. The American Journal of International Law, 95(4), 839–843.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gill, T. D. (2016). Classifying the conflict in Syria. International Law Studies (Naval War College), 92, 353–380. Accessed 9 Apr 2018.
  18. Goodman, R. (2006). Humanitarian intervention and pretexts for war. American Journal of International Law. Accessed 4 Apr 2018.
  19. Haaretz. (2017, December 17). Erdogan pledges to clear Turkey-Syria border of ‘terrorist’ Kurds. Accessed 20 May 2018.
  20. Hathaway, O., Francis, A., Yamamoto, A., Kethireddy, S. R., & Haviland, A. (2018, April 18). The extent and validity of Yemen’s consent to the US’s use of force. Just Security. Accessed 20 May 2018.
  21. Hayatli, Z. (2016, August 28). Russia’s intervention in Syria: A legal perspective. The New Jurist. Accessed 18 May 2018.
  22. ICRC. (2004). What is international humanitarian law? Accessed 9 Apr 2018.
  23. Keating, J. (2015, December 2). War zone hospitals are being targeted at an alarming rate. The Slatest. Accessed 18 Apr 2018.
  24. Lanovoy, V. (2017). The use of force by non-state actors and the limits of attribution of conduct. The European Journal of International Law, 28(2), 563–585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mehr News Agency. (2018, February 14). Iran’s presence in Syria on Syrians’ invitation. Accessed 18 May 2018.
  26. Mermin, J. (1997). Television news and American intervention in Somalia: The myth of a media-driven foreign policy. Political Science Quarterly, 112(3), 385–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mohamed, S. (2009). Restructuring the debate on unauthorized humanitarian intervention. North Carolina Law Review, 88, 1275–1332.Google Scholar
  28. Monaghan, C. (2017, June 30). In Yemen and other conflict zones, hospitals remain a target. The Lancet. Accessed 18 Apr 2018.
  29. NATO. (2017, December 19). Countering terrorism. Accessed 20 May 2018.
  30. Nichols, M. (2017, January 27). Saudi strikes on Yemen civilians may be crimes against humanity: UN. Reuters. Accessed 9 Apr 2018.
  31. O’Connor, T. (2018, February 14). Iran tells U.S. to get out of Syria as world powers turn against each other. Newsweek. Accessed 18 May 2018.
  32. Paris, R. (2014, December 9). Is it possible to meet the ‘responsibility to protect’? The Washington Post. Accessed 9 Apr 2018.
  33. Phippen, W. (2017, February 6). Syria’s secret mass executions. The Atlantic. Accessed 18 Apr 2018.
  34. Phooko, M. R. (2011). How effective the International Criminal Court has been: Evaluating the work and progress of the International Criminal Court. Notre Dame Journal of International & Comparative Law, 1(1), 182–209.Google Scholar
  35. Pizzi, M. (2016, September 24). Despite questions over legality of US strikes in Syria, world stays quiet. Al Jazeera. Accessed 20 May 2018.
  36. Reevell, P. (2017, February 13). Report suggests Russia tried to conceal airstrikes on Syrian hospitals. NBC News. Accessed 18 Apr 2018.
  37. Reuters. (2015, October 15). Yemen Houthis say fire missile in retaliation for Saudi ‘war crimes’. Accessed 20 May 2018.
  38. Shaheen, K. (2016, August 24). Turkey sends tanks into Syria in operation aimed at Isis and Kurds. The Guardian. Accessed 20 May 2018.
  39. Starr, B., & Cohen, Z. (2017, October 16). First US airstrike targeting ISIS in Yemen kills dozens. CNN. Accessed 20 May 2018.
  40. Starr, B., & Diamond, J. (2017, April 7). Trump launches military strike against Syria. CNN. Accessed 9 Apr 2018.
  41. Svarc, D. (2007). The military response to terrorism and the international law on the use of force. Political Perspectives, 1(1), 1–30.Google Scholar
  42. Tesón, F. R. (2009). Kosovo: A powerful precedent for the doctrine of humanitarian intervention. Amsterdam Law Forum, 1(2). Accessed 20 May 2018.
  43. The National. (2017, December 23). UN condemns Houthi ballistic missile against Saudi Arabia. Accessed 20 May 2018.
  44. Thussu, D. K. (2000). Legitimizing ‘humanitarian intervention’? CNN, NATO and the Kosovo crisis. European Journal of Communication, 15(3), 345–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Travalio, G., & Altenburg, J. (2003). Terrorism, state responsibility, and the use of military force. Chicago Journal of International Law, 4(1), 97–119.Google Scholar
  46. UN News. (2016, February 16). All sides in Syria killing thousands of detainees in crimes against humanity, UN reports. Accessed 9 Apr 2018.
  47. Valek, P. (2005). Is unilateral humanitarian intervention compatible with the U.N. Charter? Michigan Journal of International Law, 26(4), 1223–1255.Google Scholar
  48. Wippman, D. (1996). Change and continuity in legal justifications for military intervention in internal conflict. Columbia Human Rights Law Review, 27, 435–485.Google Scholar
  49. Yakovenko, A. (2016, October 15). Russia came to Syria to fight terrorists. And we are succeeding. The Guardian. Accessed 20 May 2018.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amanda Guidero
    • 1
  • Maia Carter Hallward
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Interdisciplinary StudiesCreighton UniversityOmahaUSA
  2. 2.School of Conflict Management, Peacebuilding and DevelopmentKennesaw State UniversityKennesawUSA

Personalised recommendations