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CityPress - - Voices - – Dis­trib­uted by Agence Global Khouri is found­ing di­rec­tor and se­nior pol­icy fel­low of the Is­sam Fares In­sti­tute for Public Pol­icy and In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs at the Amer­i­can Univer­sity of Beirut. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @ramikhouri

hat is the best way to achieve le­git­i­mate po­lit­i­cal goals that cor­re­spond to clear na­tional in­ter­ests, a do­mes­tic con­sen­sus and in­ter­na­tional le­git­i­macy? Sev­eral dif­fer­ent events in re­cent days across the Mid­dle East and north Africa pro­vide us with a fas­ci­nat­ing menu of op­tions to choose from.

They sug­gest dif­fer­ent lev­els of ef­fi­cacy and le­git­i­macy that any coun­try or group of mil­i­tants must as­sess to choose their pre­ferred means of ac­tion in the strug­gles they wage.

The very dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions that oc­curred in the past few days in­clude the fol­low­ing:

1In Libya and Ye­men, Amer­i­can mis­sile strikes from drone air­craft re­port­edly killed two im­por­tant Salafist-tak­firi mil­i­tants – Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Al­ge­rian who had waged war and terror across sev­eral states in north Africa; and Nasir al-Wuhayshi, a Ye­meni whose time in the com­pany of Osama bin Laden had led him to the po­si­tion of the head of al-Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula.

The im­pact of their deaths on the mil­i­tant groups they headed will not be known for some time. But judg­ing from the death or cap­ture of dozens of other such prom­i­nent lead­ers in the past two decades, the an­swer is “prob­a­bly not very much”.

This is be­cause Salafist-tak­firi terror groups have sig­nif­i­cantly ad­justed to the mil­i­tary as­saults against them, es­pe­cially since the 2011 US-led Global War on Ter­ror­ism, in which Amer­i­cans and their al­lies en­joy great tech­no­log­i­cal ad­van­tages over the mil­i­tants.

This raises the ques­tion of whether such ex­tra­ju­di­cial drone-and-mis­sile killings are ap­pro­pri­ate, le­gal or ef­fec­tive in the long run. Or is it enough that they in­duce sig­nif­i­cant feel-good vibes among the of­fi­cers, po­lit­i­cal lead­ers and daz­zled civil­ians of the killing hand – in this case, the US?

2In South Africa, the vis­it­ing pres­i­dent of Su­dan, Omar Has­san al-Bashir, briefly faced a sit­u­a­tion in which he might not have been able to re­turn home be­cause a South African court had is­sued an or­der to pre­vent his de­par­ture and another had or­dered him ar­rested and turned over to the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC) in the Hague.

The court has charged him with war crimes, crimes against hu­man­ity and geno­cide re­lated to the con­flict in Dar­fur. The South African gov­ern­ment, for rea­sons not yet clear, al­lowed his plane to de­part, and he es­caped – this time – be­ing tried in the ICC.

Many in the world see the ICC as the last re­sort to hold to ac­count crim­i­nal rulers who es­cape jus­tice in their own coun­tries. Can that crum­bled hope be re­vived in other sit­u­a­tions in the fu­ture?

3In Is­rael, the gov­ern­ment barred a UN­ap­pointed of­fi­cial who mon­i­tors Pales­tinian rights from en­ter­ing the coun­try. Is­rael also did this last year be­cause it said its side of the story on Pales­tinian rights and liv­ing con­di­tions was not ad­e­quately heard.

This is non­sense be­cause ev­ery UN in­quiry scrupu­lously lis­tens to tes­ti­monies from all con­cerned par­ties in a con­flict.

Makarim Wibisono, the In­done­sian UN spe­cial rap­por­teur on hu­man rights in the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries (that are oc­cu­pied, con­trolled or un­der siege by Is­rael) was pre­par­ing a re­port for the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly in New York.

In the mean­time, Is­raeli coloni­sa­tion, an­nex­a­tion, mass im­pris­on­ment, and shoot­ing and killing of Pales­tinian civil­ians mostly con­tinue un­abated and are widely con­demned around the world.

Yet they re­main largely unchecked by le­gal, po­lit­i­cal or mil­i­tary means, rais­ing se­ri­ous ques­tions about how the world should deal with such a sit­u­a­tion.

4In north­ern Syria, along the Turk­ish bor­der, Kur­dish and Free Syr­ian Army troops drove the Is­lamic State (IS) out of the town of Tal Abyad that it had con­trolled for about a year.

This cut an im­por­tant sup­ply route by land from south­ern Tur­key to the IS heart­land around its cap­i­tal in Raqqa.

This im­por­tant bat­tle showed that de­ter­mined lo­cal fight­ers de­fend­ing their own lands could de­feat IS forces, as they have done in some other such bat­tles in the past year.

It raises the ques­tion of why Arab, Ira­nian, Turk­ish and Kur­dish lead­ers have not co­or­di­nated bet­ter to make a syn­chro­nised ground and air as­sault against the IS in Iraq and Syria, given that the IS, de­spite its vul­gar bru­tal­ity, is not the mighty force some peo­ple think it is.

I am sure these four very dif­fer­ent ap­proaches on how to re­solve sit­u­a­tions of vi­o­lence, atroc­ity and oc­cu­pa­tion are be­ing care­fully stud­ied by law-abid­ing and crim­i­nal ac­tors around the world – in­di­vid­u­als, groups and gov­ern­ments alike – who will pur­sue ap­pro­pri­ate pol­icy re­sponses in due course.

If the rule of law ex­empts pow­er­ful states or in­di­vid­u­als that com­mit crim­i­nal deeds, we should not ex­pect many peo­ple to re­spond to dis­cus­sions about peace and jus­tice, es­pe­cially when these are ini­ti­ated by those democ­ra­cies whose poli­cies con­tinue to tram­ple on the rule of law – the core of demo­cratic life – in their own lands and abroad.

From top:

Ja­cob Zuma and Omar alBashir; an Is­raeli tank;

Mokhtar Belmokhtar;

an oil re­fin­ery, a re­source the Is­lamic State uses to fund its terror war

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