Report: US considering Syrian no-fly zone

Pentagon spokesman denies 'Daily Beast' report US plans no-fly zone, arming moderate rebel groups; Russia defends arms deal.

May 29, 2013 05:50
2 minute read.
Syrian military plane

Syrian military plane 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Sana Sana)

The Obama administration has reportedly requested the Pentagon draft a prospective no-fly zone inside Syria to be recognized by the US and other Western nations, the Daily Beast on Tuesday cited two White House official as saying.

Republican Senator John McCain, an outspoken advocate in favor of arming the Syrian rebels against Syrian President Bashar Assad, arrived in Syria this week to meet with rebel forces.

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He told the Daily Beast he doubts the Obama administration will decide to implement a no-fly zone in Syria, due to objection from both the Pentagon and the US army.

The two administration officials also told the Daily Beast that the US is examining the possibility of a more direct involvement, that includes multilateral military actions inside Syria, though no decision has been made yet.

The Obama administration, the Daily Beast reported, was considering arming "vetted and moderate" elements within the Syrian opposition, such as the Free Syrian Army, and formally recognizing the Syrian opposition as the government of Syria.

"All this effort to pressure the regime is part of the overall effort to find a political solution, but what happens if Geneva fails? It’s only prudent to plan for other options," one administration official said, referring to the talks initiated by the US and Russia in an attempt to bring a resolution to the conflict.

Pentagon spokesman Dave Lapan denied the Daily Beast report, saying there were "no new planning efforts underway," adding that "the Joint Staff, along with the relevant combatant commanders, continue to conduct prudent planning for a range of possible military options," he said.

US President Barack Obama has repeatedly shied away from American involvement in the conflict, which has claimed 80,000 lives, although he has kept all options on the table. The Obama administration has sent food and medical supplies to Assad's opponents.

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On the other side of the conflict, Russian ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin defended his country's arms deal with the Assad regime, saying the sale of anti-ship missiles, warships and S-300 anti-aircraft missiles was "a transparent arms sale that has nothing to do with the conflict in Syria," maintaining the contracts were signed before the two-year civil war began.

Speaking on Christiane Amanpour's CNN show on Tuesday, Vitaly insisted the weapons his country sold Damascus were meant "for regional stability" and to prevent foreign military intervention in the Syrian conflict.

The Russian envoy also addressed Israeli concerns that weapons supplied to Syria will reach the wrong hands.

"There were situations in the past where the Israelis expressed their concern about the ultimate address of our weapons and we're double-checking with the Syrians... we were able to ascertain that was not the case, and [the weapons shipments] were not redirected to anybody else, and continue to be in the hands of the Syrian government," he said.

He also cautioned Israel against interference in Syria, saying he believes "the Israelis will keep their heads cool and refrain from reckless actions."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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