Few Believe A No-Fly Zone Would Have Substantive Impact On Syrian Civil War

With the regime of Syrian President Bashir al Assad continuing his assault on opposition forces, including civilians, there has been an increased call for the establishment of a no-fly zone.

Washington lawmakers, the Obama administration and some defense analysts have proposed implementing a no-fly zone in Syria to protect civilian populations, some believe such a plan neglects to consider that the basis for any lasting solution is a political power-sharing agreement.

Without an organized force capable of creating a semblance of order, the no-fly zones would have no lasting positive impact, says Henri Barkey in The American Interest.

“The buffer zone, therefore, does not address this fundamental problem. It is a diversion likely to consume resources without achieving any of its aims. With endless supplies of arms and Russian and Iranian involvement on the government side, the idea that this civil war would somehow burn itself out is also turning out to be a fallacy,” he argues.

Karl Mueller of the Rand Corporation also has reservations about the potential for success.

“It is worth noting that United Nations approval for a safe zone is unlikely if it appeared that it could be used as a sanctuary for anti-regime forces due to Russia’s power to veto any such resolution in the Security Council,” he told Newsweek, adding a no-fly zone would represent an “expansion of external involvement in the Syrian civil war and an escalation of the American role in it,” which is not a development many support.

In addition, Heritage Foundation research analysts James Phillips and Luke Coffey maintain that from a military standpoint, a no-fly zone would have a negligible impact.

Other than providing a very expensive psychological boost to the loose alliance of disparate Syrian opposition groupings, it is likely that a U.S.-backed NFZ would have minor impact. Most of the Assad regime’s killing is done on the ground. Although the regime has made limited use of fixed-wing aircraft and attack helicopters in recent weeks, most of the death toll is caused by artillery barrages and brutal paramilitary hit squads—all of which, including attack helicopters, an NFZ would have a negligible impact on,” they wrote recently.

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