[Published 28 November 2014]
Pope Francis has made public his thoughts on the action necessary to counter Islamic State.
Speaking to Vatican Radio after his return from a visit to the EU parliament in Strasburg, he said:
“I never say all is lost, never. Maybe there cannot be a dialogue but you can never shut a door. It is difficult, one could say almost impossible, but the door is always open.”
Responding to a question about whether or not it would be possible to communicate with rather than fight the militants, the Pope said:
“I repeat what I have said: when you want to stop an unjust oppressor, you must do so with international consensus.”
Since dialogue is realistically impossible — only an international consensus expressed in a Security Council resolution under Chapter V11 of the United Nations Charter can achieve the Pope’s clearly enunciated position.
So far two Security Council Resolutions have been passed — Resolution 2170 adopted on 15 August and Resolution 2178 adopted on 24 September
These two Resolutions were passed under the provisions of Article 41 of the UN Charter:
"The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call upon the Members of the United Nations to apply such measures. These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations."
Neither Resolution has acted as a brake to stop Islamic State in its tracks — let alone bring about its downfall.
An American led coalition has undertaken military intervention in Syria and Iraq to degrade and destroy Islamic State but its objectives have not succeeded by any stretch of the imagination.
The State Department has announced that over 60 coalition partners have committed themselves to the goals of eliminating the threat posed by Islamic State and had already contributed in various capacities to the effort to combat Islamic State in Iraq, the region and beyond.
The State Department outlined five areas of possible involvement by coalition members as formulated by Secretary of State John Kerry and recently resigned Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel:
1. Providing military support ;
2. Impeding the flow of foreign fighters;
3. Stopping Islamic State financing and funding;
4. Addressing humanitarian crises in the region; and
5. Exposing Islamic State’s true nature.
Not all coalition partners have participated in the countless aerial bombing attacks on Islamic State forces.
As at 6 November Australian fighter jets had flown 144 missions against Islamic State and dropped twenty-five 500-pound laser and GPS-guided bombs on 14 ISIL targets, with 11 destroyed and three damaged.
Belgium, France, Netherlands, Canada and the United Kingdom have also been involved in aerial strikes against Islamic State fighters.
However the two notable omissions from this international coalition ranged against Islamic State are China and Russia — both members of the Security Council holding the power to veto any stronger action by the Security Council up to now.
Such action is becoming increasingly urgent as an unknown number of foreign fighters flock to join Islamic State and a pledge of allegiance has been made by Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis— a Jihadi based organisation based in the Sinai Peninsula.
Islamic State head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared on November 10:
“We announce to you the expansion of the Islamic State to new countries, to the countries of the Haramayn [Saudi Arabia], Yemen, Egypt, Libya and Algeria,”
Baghdadi claimed them as new provinces under Islamic State.
This may indeed be all propaganda — but the Pope has clearly shown his concern.
The only real basis for international consensus rests on the Security Council passing a resolution under Article 42 of the UN Charter:
"Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations."
A Papal plea made directly to China and Russia to join in drafting a resolution under Section 42 could just prove to be the catalyst to persuade these two recalcitrant nations into authorizing military action under the United Nations Charter against Islamic State.
Having supported Security Council Resolutions 2170 and 2178 — China and Russia now need to go that extra mile to defeat what they have already declared to be a grave threat to international peace and security.
Russia’s President Putin has a chance to come in out of the cold caused by his growing international isolation over Crimea, Ukraine and Syria. China would enhance its international reputation enormously by acceding to the Pope’s request.
A Papal miracle is within reach.