The PJ Tatler

A 'No Fly Zone' for Syria?

The US and Turkey are discussing the possibility of establishing a “no fly zone” in Syria to assist the rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Reuters:

The United States and Turkey indicated on Saturday they were studying a range of measures, including a no-fly zone, as battles between Syrian rebels and President Bashar al-Assad’s forces shook Aleppo and the heart of Damascus.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said after meeting her Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul that Washington and Ankara should develop detailed operational planning on ways to assist the rebels fighting to topple Assad.

“Our intelligence services, our military have very important responsibilities and roles to play so we are going to be setting up a working group to do exactly that,” she said.

Asked about options such as imposing a no-fly zone over rebel-held territory, Clinton said these were possibilities she and Davutoglu had agreed “need greater in-depth analysis”, while indicating that no decisions were necessarily imminent.

“It is one thing to talk about all kinds of potential actions, but you cannot make reasoned decisions without doing intense analysis and operational planning,” she said.

Though possible intervention appears to be a distant prospect, her remarks were nevertheless the closest Washington has come to suggesting direct military action in Syria.

The problem is that Syria has a far more sophisticated air defense network — courtesy of their enablers, the Russian government — which would pose serious risks for our aircraft. Obviously, taking out the radars and command and control systems in order to ensure the safety of our air craft would entail military action — a turn of events with wildly unpredictable results.

This is especially true given the incident along the border yesterday between Syria and Jordan where units from the two countries clashed.

The border clash broke out after Syrian refugees tried to cross into Jordan, a Syrian opposition activist who witnessed the fighting said.

Syrian troops fired across the frontier and fighting ensued, a Jordanian said. No one was reported killed on Jordan’s side.

Armoured vehicles were involved in the clash in the Tel Shihab-Turra area, about 80 km (50 miles) north of the Jordanian capital Amman, the Syrian activist said.

Jordanian troops have fired near the border in the past to stop Syrian forces shooting at fleeing refugees.

But the latest clash – the most serious incident between the two countries since the uprising against Assad began 17 months ago – is likely to alarm Western powers who fear any spread of violence in a region divided over the conflict.

Syria and Turkey have been on a hair trigger since the Syrians shot down a Turkish plane in July. Both sides have moved armor and heavy weapons to the border and Turkey has warned Syria not to cross into their territory.

And we are considering getting involved in this mess by giving Assad an excuse to shoot at our planes? Any overt military move may also rouse the Russians who are adamantly opposed to a Libya repeat. Even if, as Turkey has suggested, the no fly zone be established so that a “humanitarian corridor” can be opened near the Turkish border, it is unlikely the Russians will take kindly to that notion — nor will Assad see it quite so innocently.

Best not poke the bear with a stick by forcing a decision on intervention by Moscow in this dangerous conflict.