When Evil Regimes Threaten to Do Evil Things, Believe Them

A full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, writes Matthew Continetti, was one of those historical events that “seem impossible right up to the minute that they take place.” After surveying the predictions of various experts that no such thing would happen, Continetti then examines the evidence that it would:

Putin . . . chose to follow the logic he had set out in a 5,000-word essay published in July 2021. Its title was “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” It’s where Putin made his ghoulish case that the borders of Ukraine are illegitimate. Where he asserted that Ukrainians and Russians are “one people.” Where he admonished readers that the Ukrainian nation-state exists at Russia’s pleasure.

In launching his war, Putin did exactly what he had shown every indication of preparing to do for some time. Why, then, was it so difficult for so many experts to take him seriously? . . . “In the face of unfathomable evil,” wrote the late Charles Krauthammer, “decent people are psychologically disarmed.” And when autocrats resort to violence, citizens of democracies that enjoy the rule of law are shocked.

With this in mind, Continetti considers the threats made by the rulers of China and Iran:

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has spent decades calling for the end of Israel. Last May, for example, Khamenei gave a lesson in Jew-hatred and anti-Zionism when he said that Iran has no greater enemy than Israel and that “the fight against this despotic regime is the fight against oppression and the fight against terrorism. And this is a public duty to fight against this regime.”

Even as President Biden punished Russia for its actions, however, he was relying on Russia as the intermediary in nuclear talks with an Iranian government that poses an existential threat to Israel. Even as Biden rallied the world in support of Ukrainian freedom, his intermediaries prepared to lift sanctions on the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. The same administration that turned out to be right about Vladimir Putin’s program in Ukraine lives in la-la-land when it comes to the stated intentions of a theocracy whose malign behavior in the Middle East aims at regional hegemony and the eradication of the Jewish state.

Read more at Commentary

More about: China, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy, Vladimir Putin, War in Ukraine

The ICJ’s Vice-President Explains What’s Wrong with Its Recent Ruling against Israel

It should be obvious to anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of the Gaza war that Israel is not committing genocide there, or anything even remotely akin to it. In response to such spurious accusations, it’s often best to focus on the mockery they make of international law itself, or on how Israel can most effectively combat them. Still, it is also worth stopping to consider the legal case on its own terms. No one has done this quite so effectively, to my knowledge, as the Ugandan jurist Julia Sebutinde, who is the vice-president of the ICJ and the only one of its judges to rule unequivocally in Israel’s favor both in this case and in the previous one where it found accusations of genocide “plausible.”

Sebutinde begins by questioning the appropriateness of the court ruling on this issue at all:

Once again, South Africa has invited the Court to micromanage the conduct of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Such hostilities are exclusively governed by the laws of war (international humanitarian law) and international human-rights law, areas where the Court lacks jurisdiction in this case.

The Court should also avoid trying to enforce its own orders. . . . Is the Court going to reaffirm its earlier provisional measures every time a party runs to it with allegations of a breach of its provisional measures? I should think not.

Sebutinde also emphasizes the absurdity of hearing this case after Israel has taken “multiple concrete actions” to alleviate the suffering of Gazan civilians since the ICJ’s last ruling. In fact, she points out, “the evidence actually shows a gradual improvement in the humanitarian situation in Gaza since the Court’s order.” She brings much evidence in support of these points.

She concludes her dissent by highlighting the procedural irregularities of the case, including a complete failure to respect the basic rights of the accused:

I find it necessary to note my serious concerns regarding the manner in which South Africa’s request and incidental oral hearings were managed by the Court, resulting in Israel not having sufficient time to file its written observations on the request. In my view, the Court should have consented to Israel’s request to postpone the oral hearings to the following week to allow for Israel to have sufficient time to fully respond to South Africa’s request and engage counsel. Regrettably, as a result of the exceptionally abbreviated timeframe for the hearings, Israel could not be represented by its chosen counsel, who were unavailable on the dates scheduled by the Court.

It is also regrettable that Israel was required to respond to a question posed by a member of the Court over the Jewish Sabbath. The Court’s decisions in this respect bear upon the procedural equality between the parties and the good administration of justice by the Court.

Read more at International Court of Justice

More about: Gaza War 2023, ICC, International Law