Arrow Down Arrow Left Arrow Right Arrow Up Camera icon set icon set Ellipsis icon set Facebook Favorite Globe Hamburger List Mail Map Marker Map Microphone Minus PDF Play Print RSS Search Share Trash Twitter Video Camera Youtube
Guéhenno to Trump: You Cannot ‘just crush’ ISIS
Guéhenno to Trump: You Cannot ‘just crush’ ISIS
USG Statement on Int’l Criminal Court Probe into Alleged U.S. War Crimes Is Missing Some Things
USG Statement on Int’l Criminal Court Probe into Alleged U.S. War Crimes Is Missing Some Things
Interview / Global

Guéhenno to Trump: You Cannot ‘just crush’ ISIS

Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Crisis Group’s President and CEO, speaks to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about the international challenges that are likely to persist in 2017 and the growing need for robust international structures to meet the threats.

In a broad discussion with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, the President and CEO of International Crisis Group says military power alone cannot defeat the Islamic State. YouTube/CNN

You can find a transcript of this video below.

Amanpour: Jean-Marie Guéhenno, welcome to the program.

Guéhenno: Thank you.

Amanpour: You know, drawing on all your experience and you’ve had lengthy experience in national security, whether as a French diplomat, as a UN diplomat, now as head of the International Crisis Group, can you explain how ISIS is still out after more than two years of U.S. and coalition bombing? 2017 starts like 2016 ended.

Guéhenno: Well, I think whether it’s IS or al Qaeda, because, by the way, al Qaeda is very much out there. We don’t have the right strategy. We think that we can do it on a global scale when in reality, the causes of IS are very local where the very harsh tactics of the government radicalized some parts of the opposition. And that’s why IS really flourishes on conflict. The best way to stop IS to prevent conflict.

Amanpour: OK. Well, given that, what do you expect to happen under a Donald Trump who said that his view of IS is just to, you know, bomb the hell out of them.

What do you think can be done differently with the new administration?

Guéhenno: I do hope that he will not act on his idea of bombing the hell out of IS because that’s not the way to go. The way to stop IS is to have people who feel they have representation in government and then they move away from radical elements. That has been the proven method wherever there have been terrorists. And the notion that you can just crush them is wrong because then they disperse, they move to the next country as we’ve just seen in Turkey.

Now Turkey is being infected by the chaos in Syria. You see in Libya, the chaos in Libya now is spilling over into the Sahel. So you push in one point, you just spread the disease in other countries.

Amanpour: The problem, though, Mr. Guéhenno, as you know better than most because you’ve sat at the top tables while this chaos has been implemented all over the world. Nobody seems to have the patience to talk about governors and to talk about representation of people so that this IS infection doesn’t feed on it and grow.

And in fact, President-elect Trump says that, again, he’s not interested in nation-building and he even believes that he may or may not like Assad, but that Assad is there to fight terrorism. And that’s why the U.S. should, with Russia, back that. So Assad is going to stay. Again, how is that going to change?

Guéhenno: Well, you see, I think there’s been a big shift in the pendulum. There was a time in early 2000 when both President Bush and the UN thought you could really rebuild the world. I think now we’ve been chasing. We see that it’s much more difficult. But the pendulum shouldn’t go in the other direction and think that we can’t do anything about it.

Now for Assad, the rhetoric of Assad must go, did not fit with the reality. Assad is part of the picture, but at the same time, the notion that you can have a stable, long-term Syria with a government that ignores a big chunk of the population, that’s not going to work.

What I do hope is that between Turkey and Russia, they are going to have some kind of agreement because so that there’s a more inclusive government gradually. If that doesn’t happen, I think the Russians will be stuck in Syria and I think they don’t want that. So that’s maybe why they can come to a deal with Turkey.

Amanpour: You’ve written a major piece about the challenges ahead and you’ve also said we’re about to enter one of the most dangerous decades that you remember, certainly in modern history – why? Why is this going to be more dangerous than what we’ve just gone through?

Guéhenno: Well, I think, you know, there’s a trend that started during the Obama administration, a kind of U.S. retreat. But Obama wanted to compensate that with a very strong support to multilateral institutions to organisations that create, so to speak, the bricks and mortar of the international system.

If you don’t have that, if every country thinks it has to look first at its own interest without any consideration for the broader implications, then you can have a lot of wars and clashes and that’s a dangerous situation. The U.S. is by far overwhelming in terms of power, but if the hard power of the U.S. is not made acceptable by soft power, by a sense that they are principled, that guide U.S. policy, then the rest of the world will get very nervous.

Amanpour: And that, because again, Donald Trump has talked about a transactional foreign policy basically for America’s best interest, what is that going to mean?

Guéhenno: Well, the world cannot be just a succession of deals. It needs predictability. And in that respect, I think one should be interested in China, because China knows full well that it is a growing power, but it wants it – you heard what they said on climate change, they think this agreement is important. China does not want an unpredictable world. And to avoid an unpredictable world, you need structures, you need more than deals.

You know, it’s like in business. You have business people who think that you go from one deal to the other, and others who think you have to build a relationship with the client. Well, the world is more the second model than the first.

Amanpour: So if you were to look ahead, what do you consider the most serious challenge and the most difficult one to get to groups with on the world stage, coming up, let’s say in the next six to 12 months?

Guéhenno: Well, I think the way we go to address the issue of the instability in Europe is major, because if we see a deepening of the European crisis, if you see the European Union in danger, then one of the major voices, balancing voices in the world, will be lost.

And during the Obama administration, there was strong support for the European Union. I think it’s the best interest of the United States to continue to support the idea of the European Union and the European Union, is going to be challenged in 2017.

Amanpour: Jean-Marie Guehenno, thank you so much indeed for joining us.

Guéhenno: Thank you.

Op-Ed / Global

USG Statement on Int’l Criminal Court Probe into Alleged U.S. War Crimes Is Missing Some Things

Originally published in Just Security

As states gathered earlier this month to kick off the 16th Session of the Assembly of States Parties to the International Criminal Court, ICC watchers wondered what to expect from the United States at this difficult moment in its relationship with the court.

Indeed, it was hardly a foregone conclusion that the United States would show up at all.  Not an ICC state party, the United States had during the Obama Administration developed the practice of attending Assembly meetings as an observer, but that was during a distinctly warmer period in U.S.-ICC relations. The chillier turn of late is attributable not just to a transition to an Administration with considerably less ICC-friendly instincts than its predecessor, but to the ICC Prosecutor’s recent announcement that she would seek permission to investigate allegations of CIA and DOD detainee abuse as part of her broader work on Afghanistan.

Of course, even an ill-disposed United States would have good reason to send a delegation to New York to gather scuttlebutt and work behind the scenes to advance its interests, but that reasoning has not always carried the day.  Earlier this month, immigration hawks in the Administration prevailed over Nikki Haley to push the United States out of negotiations over a U.N. migration compact, self-defeatingly leaving other governments to negotiate it without U.S. input.  Against that backdrop, it was at least modestly encouraging to see that the logic of engagement carried the day, although it was only engagement in the narrowest sense, as the U.S. government seemed almost exclusively focused on delivering a message that pushed back against the Prosecutor for her focus on U.S. personnel.  That message was delivered in the form of a brief and sometimes Delphic formal statement that reflected some continuity with the past, some change, and a few conspicuous absences.

For continuity, look first to the two opening sentences of the statement, in which the United States expresses its strong support for justice and accountability and its appreciation for the ICC’s efforts to pursue these objectives. While these sentiments would have been unremarkable in an Obama-era statement, it is interesting that the United States would express any appreciation at all for the court in today’s political environment—one in which ICC arch-critic John Bolton publicly advised the Administration that any communication with the Prosecutor should consist of the message “You are dead to us.”  That a flicker of collegiality remains says something about the extent to which U.S. foreign policy has adapted to the existence of the court and even—until recently—embraced it as a partner. That said, these sentences, which are echoed at the end of the statement, are about it for positive messaging.

The statement then turns to attacking the legitimacy of the Prosecutor’s attention to U.S. personnel.  Notably, while there has been speculation that the United States might soon put forward an argument that the ICC cannot as a matter of international law assert jurisdiction over the nationals of non-party states (an issue that has been the source of protracted disagreement between State and Defense department lawyers) the statement does not quite offer one.  Instead, it dangles references to a range of legal principles that might be read as either irrelevant to the core question or the building blocks to a still unfinished overarching theory, depending on one’s perspective.

As states gathered earlier this month to kick off the 16th Session of the Assembly of States Parties to the International Criminal Court, ICC watchers wondered what to expect from the United States at this difficult moment in its relationship with the court.

The U.S. argument proceeds in four main parts.  The first is a simple rejection of the court’s jurisdiction over the nationals of any non-party state absent the state’s consent or a U.N. Security Council referral.  Framed in general terms, this statement of a “continuing position” maintains a seemingly purposeful ambiguity about whether it sounds in law or policy or both.  This has been the United States’ unwavering historical posture with respect to the ICC, and the formulation offered here is little different from what the Obama Administration might have said if pressed on the subject.

Next, the statement invokes the international law principle that treaties can bind only their parties and follows it with a statement that the Rome Statute cannot be interpreted as “disposing” of U.S. rights without U.S. consent.  It is unclear whether the U.S. means to offer the beginnings of a serious legal argument here, or more to give that appearance while it continues to work internally to consider whether one is actually available.  The latter seems more likely. For however true it may be that treaties do not bind non-parties or dispose of their rights, that is not what is at issue.   After all, the United States does not, in general, have the “right” for its citizens to commit alleged crimes on the territory of another state without facing justice at the hands of that state.  The primary right in question is Afghanistan’s – i.e., its right to bring those who committed alleged crimes on its territory to justice – and the relevant question in this circumstance is whether Afghanistan could and did properly delegate this right to the ICC. Perhaps there is an argument that it couldn’t or didn’t, but the United States doesn’t make it here, suggesting that it is not prepared to engage the core issues that it would almost certainly need to address in launching a credible theory.

Third, the statement politely but ominously signals that should there be a showdown between the United States and the court–e.g., should the court years from now issue a warrant for the arrest of a U.S. person– the United States will expect states parties to “respect” its decision not to join the ICC and place its citizens under the court’s jurisdiction.  However one feels about it, this may over time prove the strongest arrow in the U.S. quiver.  After all, it is tough to figure how states parties would act if torn between their obligations to the court on the one hand and an agitated United States on the other, and it’s anyone’s call whether the court will view its institutional interests as served by forcing the question.  If it decides the answer is “no,” there are at least some mechanisms the Prosecutor could use to focus attention away from this thicket (most prominently, as Alex Whiting has suggested, case selection).

Finally, the statement turns to the matter of “complementarity”—i.e., whether U.S. efforts to hold its personnel accountable were sufficiently genuine for the ICC to forego investigation in accordance with its statute and protocols.  Here, the United States begins by expressing concern that the court has made a complementarity determination without U.S. consent, presumably referring to the analysis the prosecutor performed as part of her preliminary examination into the Afghanistan situation.  Much about this portion of the statement is confusing (Kevin Jon Heller works through some of it here), but fundamentally it falters for the same reasons that the United States’ arguments about nonconsensual jurisdiction falter.  It’s not that the legal arguments are wrong so much as there are no legal arguments. Moreover, one wonders how far the United States is willing to take the principle that outside organizations should not sit in any kind of legal judgment of non-consenting States.  Would that make it improper for the European Union to make the findings that undergird human rights sanctions on a non-EU state? Or for the Venice Commission to write opinions about human rights in Venezuela and Egypt?

It is tough to figure how states parties would act if torn between their obligations to the court on the one hand and an agitated United States on the other.

There are more than the usual number of head scratchers like this in the U.S. statement this year, but those particulars probably matter less than the overall takeaway, which is that the United States does not at this point seem prepared to share any dramatic changes—either as a legal or tactical matter—in how it is approaching the prospective Afghanistan investigation.

Finally, it is worth reflecting briefly on what the U.S. statement does not address.  There is not a word, for example, on the possible activation of the crime of aggression—something that the last Administration opposed not because of concern the U.S. would be implicated (it would be protected by express statutory provisions) but because, among other things, of the chilling effect it might have on building coalitions to address massive humanitarian emergencies like Kosovo and Rwanda without Security Council authorization. Given the specter of ICC prosecution, the United States wondered, would European partners sit on the sidelines rather than act in future Kosovos?  The U.S. delegation’s recent silence on this subject might reflect an assessment that politicking around the crime of aggression is best left to a cross-regional group of states parties that are now actively seeking to address similar concerns.  It might also reflect the reality that the United States’ priorities have shifted.  In another era, however, the United States would surely have found a way to offer a word or two to commend the countries leading this important diplomatic effort, and to work behind the scenes to lend them expertise and support.

Perhaps more significant, though, was the absence of what had become a traditional listing of the many areas where the Court and the United States have worked together to end impunity for the worst crimes known to humanity.  Those areas grew considerably over time and, in prior years, might have been the bulk of the United States’ annual statement.  This year, there is nothing.  That is hardly unexpected given the state of the relationship and, given the Afghanistan investigation, might have been the case under any Administration.

Nevertheless, it is sad to see it go.

Image Credit: GAPS