A fresh policy in Syria: No-fly zone
President Obama can no longer ignore the Middle East, and especially this lethal 18-month-long crisis. The time for action has arrived.
Syrian tank 521 Photo: ABDALGHNE KAROOF
Violence is mounting in the Middle East. Innocent civilians are being trapped by
an increasingly hostile conflict with no end in sight.
the globe are calling for a cease-fire. No, I am not referring to the recent
tensions between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, but rather the 18-month-old conflict
According to The New York Times, nearly 40,000 civilians have
been slaughtered, and approximately 400,000 Syrians made refugees. More Syrians
have been killed during one day of the conflict – over 330 in August – than
Israelis and Palestinians were during the entire recent conflict in
The international community, and especially US President Barack
Obama, has an obligation to finally act.
Just to be perfectly clear,
there are no perfect solutions. Yet, a NATO-led no-fly zone is the best
alternative to limit casualties on both sides.
One option to solve the
conflict is to intervene military using ground troops from western nations. The
advantages of this approach are that it will finally end Assad’s killing and
would definitely support the Syrian opposition movement’s victory. On the other
hand, following the precedent of Iraq in 2003, western infantry forces cause too
many casualties. Reliable experts estimate that over 100,000 Iraqis were killed
following the American invasion. This number is
Furthermore, as the Iraqi example demonstrates, it is much
easier to enter a conflict than it is to leave with a viable long-term solution.
Few governments during these difficult economic times are interested in such a
A second option would be for America to not
intervene directly, merely providing diplomatic and humanitarian support for the
rebels. This has been the policy of the Obama administration so far. Not
engaging militarily saves American lives, prevents another repeat of the 2003
Iraq war, and is a safer option.
However, inaction is also flawed. First
and foremost, from an ethical perspective, watching the deaths of 40,000
innocent civilians and not acting is repugnant. The number is certainly going to
increase without significant international involvement. As Nobel Prize laureate
Eli Wiesel eloquently said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the
oppressor, never the victim.”
In addition to the ethical considerations,
Obama should intervene because of American foreign policy
During the previous week, Israel and Turkey, two strong
American allies in the region, have witnessed an increase in strikes into their
sovereign territories originating from Syria. Although it is unclear whether
these attacks are intentional, the longer the conflict persists, the more likely
it becomes that an errant mortar, instead of landing in an open field, will hit
a school full of children.
In Israel particularly, months before an
election, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be forced to respond harshly,
thereby exacerbating the conflict and risking a larger regional war.
is a situation that must be avoided.
Additionally, many experts have
maintained that although the current crisis is likely to drag on for months
without a significant change, in the end the Syrian opposition will be
victorious. In a post-Assad era, the opposition will not forget which nations
came to its aid militarily, and which resorted to only diplomatic
If America acts, it will have strong leverage over the new Syrian
government, a key player in the Arab world. A successful intervention would
likely shift the current Syrian alliance with Iran to a more pro-American force,
similar to President Carter’s strong engagement with Egypt resulting in the 1979
Camp David Accords.
Yes, implementing a no-fly zone has drawbacks. Unlike
the Libyan military during the recent NATO campaign, the Syrian Air Force is
much stronger and has the potential to shoot down American and NATO planes.
However, despite the potential losses, there is no doubt of America’s overall
Secondly, a no-fly zone will not immediately end the
conflict. However, neutralizing the Syrian Air Force will be a major turning
point in the war and will erase one of the regime’s decisive
When military officials see a strong foreign presence,
similar to the Libyan affair, many will also be likely to switch sides or
Finally, a no-fly zone will require a fraction of the financial
investment involved in a full ground invasion, along with a much smaller
potential cost in American lives.
President Obama has long said that he
prefers a pivot to Asia. While increased attention in this region is long
overdue, at the same time he can no longer ignore the Middle East, and
especially this lethal 18-month-long crisis. The time for action has arrived,
President Obama. A no-fly zone needs to be implemented.
The author is a
staff writer for The Jerusalem Review. He has written articles on international
politics for The Forward and The Jerusalem Post. He has lived in Morocco, Israel
and the Palestinian Territories. You can reach him via twitter @Aaron-