Iran’s annihilatory barrage against Israel not self defence

Joel Block responds to Rise Mzansi's defence of the Islamic Republic's actions

Over the weekend Rise Mzani’s activist Louise Van Rhyn posted a burning question on X. Does Iran not have the right to Self Defence?

According to Article 51 of the UN Charter “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”

Within International Law the default point of departure of the Jus Ad Bellum is actually Article 2(4) of the UN Charter which describes the general prohibition of the Use of Force between states. Accordingly “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

Iran’s anti-Israel agenda is not new. In 2005, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated at "The World Without Zionism" conference in Tehran that Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth! This is just one of many similar genocidal threats made by Iran against Israel. In June 2023 for example a large billboard was erected in Tehran to threaten Israel with a 400 seconds gap between their hypersonic Fatah missiles and annihilation. Iran has also been funding proxy terror groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis, all of which have been militarily active against Israel since October 7.

Israel’s attack on Iranian military objectives in Syria can therefore most likely be constructed as Anticipatory Self Defence as opposed to an Armed Attack which would then justify Iran’s actions as Self Defence. 

Even Middle East Monitor admits this possibility and then backtracks on it by stating that “another concept that Israel may resort to is anticipatory self-defence. Although not explicitly mentioned in the UN Charter, it is recognised as part of customary international law by many and, thus, it must be upheld and respected. However, even that concept has strict conditions. It permits self-defence only in cases where an imminent threat exists, and all other means of defence have been exhausted. The current incident fails to meet both these conditions.”

It is however plausible and not impossible that an imminent threat to Israel may have existed and other means of defence may have been exhausted. Iran’s unprecedented tally of over 350 ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and armed UAVs launched into Israel on one night would have taken significant time and regional co-ordination to initiate. So What came first? The chicken or the egg?

DIRCO released a statement on the matter in regard to Iran’s barrage and Israel’s extremely effective allied interceptions through Operation Iron Shield. Accordingly “South Africa has continuously stressed that irrespective of whether states believe that their use of force is lawful, it is never wise to resort to war as inevitably, it is ordinary people who bear the brunt of conflict.”

While this statement provides window dressing of the matter, the statement omits the humiliating result of Iran’s aggressive barrage! An innocent 7-year-old Arab-Israeli Bedouin civilian girl was left in a critical condition.

DIRCO also stated that “the proliferation of global conflicts will continue if we, as the international community, do not commit ourselves to the ending of war and the establishment of conditions under which justice and respect for international law are maintained. As long as there is impunity for unlawful acts, war and injustice will continue.”

I commented on Clayson Monyela’s post on X asking how our government can justify such friendly relations with Iran?! As DIRCO says, as long as there is impunity for unlawful acts (which include unlawful threats of force) war and injustice will continue!

Furthermore, Mehmet Vefa Dag from the Land Party explicitly supported the Iranian barrage on social media but then published hate speech shortly after. He outrageously claimed that the Western Wall (the holiest site in all of Judaism) is a wall of hell! The truth of the matter is that Israel’s air defence systems actually defend the neighbouring Al Aqsa Mosque from Islamic damage and destruction!

In conclusion, many South African commentators bring up opinions for Iranian Self Defence which are not legally correct nor morally valid. These opinions are actually often used as a personal cover for anti Zionism which in turn is often used as a cover for aggressive anti Semitism!