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Part 2 The Post-Cold War Era (1990–2000), 42 The US Airstrike Against the Iraqi Intelligence Headquarters—1993

Paulina Starski

From: The Use of Force in International Law: A Case-Based Approach

Edited By: Tom Ruys, Olivier Corten, Alexandra Hofer

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 23 June 2024

Self-defence — Precedent — Warfare, air — UN Charter — Armed attack — Reprisals

This contribution analyses the normative implications of the US raid against the headquarters of the Iraqi Intelligence Service in 1993 in reaction to a foiled assassination attempt against former President Bush. It examines the legality of the operation, its precedential value and its evolutive potential regarding the regime on the ius contra bellum and specifically the right to self-defence. After dissecting the multiple contentious dimensions of the US claim of justification, the article concludes that the raid constituted an illegal ‘armed reprisal’. In light of observable state practice, its precedent-setting nature should not be overstated. However, albeit qualified as an ‘one-off incident’ the US raid did not leave the prohibition on the use of force and the contemporary discourse surrounding it untouched. Hence, it appears essential to demystify its frequently asserted evolutive potential particularly regarding the temporal limitations of Article 51 UN Charter to which this article is dedicated.

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