Action Alert:

The Siren Song of a No-Fly Zone

This article appeared in the 2016 Fall Newsletter

The presidential candidates are trying to come up with a ‘solution’ for Syria. Donald Trump has proposed a “safe zone” to shelter Syrians out of the conflict. The zone, according to Trump, would be a piece of territory inside the country, where today’s refugees would reside instead of fleeing to Europe and elsewhere.

Hillary Clinton suggested the creation of a no-fly zone. Under her plan, the United States would take control of a part of the Syrian national airspace, making it inaccessible to any aircraft but its own. The Syrian air defense would be attacked and Russian warplanes risk being shot down if they entered. She acknowledged her proposal in the third presidential debate:

“I’m going to continue to push for a no-fly zone and safe havens within Syria not only to help protect the Syrians and prevent the constant outflow of refugees…but to, frankly, gain some leverage on both the Syrian government and the Russians so that perhaps we can have the kind of serious negotiation necessary to bring the conflict to an end and go forward on a political track.”

But in a closed-door speech to Goldman Sachs in 2013, she  stated:

“To have a no-fly zone you have to take out all of the air defense, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we’re not putting our pilots at risk—you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians.”

Today the United States and Russia share the Syrian skies and operate a military-to-military communication to prevent any kind of hostile engagement between them. Staging a no-fly zone would surely create a conflict of objectives: It would be an assertion of US domination in the region which would be challenged by Russia. That could escalate the tension either through a direct confrontation in the air, or through a Syrian or Russian capture of a downed US pilot. Moreover, shooting down a Russian plane would provoke retaliation.

A no-fly zone will not bring a political settlement. The only viable solution for easing the horrific situation in Syria is the enforcement of negotiations and nonstop efforts in diplomacy with the Russian and Syrian governments.

cupation.” Such a move would risk the lives of US pilots, and cause confrontation with a Russian military that is more aggressive than it has been in years.

Moreover, staging a no-fly zone requires the regional allies’ agreement – Turkey could be the nearest potential partner to Syria, but it has recently concentrated on improving diplomatic relations with Moscow.

General Martin Dempsey, was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2012, when he raised the potential problems of the plan to impose a no-fly zone. This course of action would require as many as 70,000 American servicemen to dismantle Syria’s antiaircraft system and impose a 24-hour watch over the country. In order to avoid the possibility of shooting down the American aircraft by the Assad regime.

A no-fly zone will not bring a political settlement. The only viable solution for easing the horrific situation in Syria is the enforcement of negotiations and the nonstop efforts in diplomacy with the Russian and Syrian Governments.