News / Middle East

Syrian Rebels Get Little Support for No-Fly Zone

Wounded Syrians evacuate a field hospital after a second air strike in Azaz on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria, August 15, 2012.
Wounded Syrians evacuate a field hospital after a second air strike in Azaz on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria, August 15, 2012.
As Syrian rebels look to the skies, they see a battlefield out of their reach.
In fighting Syrian government forces of Bashar al-Assad for 18 months, the insurgents are essentially armed with light weapons. They face a well-equipped military, whose Soviet and Russian-made arsenal includes warplanes, helicopters, tanks, heavy artillery and armored personnel carriers.  
It is because of this disparity in weaponry that rebel forces have been calling for the establishment of a no-fly zone over Syria, ostensibly to protect the civilians who have been under intense attack by Mr. Assad’s military.
But their calls receive little international support.
Tough parameters
Retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General David Deptula, who flew more than 80 combat missions in the late 1990s enforcing a no-fly zone over northern Iraq, said first of all, it is essential to define the parameters of a no-fly zone before establishing one. 
“The questions of why we are doing this and what is the desired outcome - those are issues and questions that need to be answered first,” he said. “People tend to immediately go into ‘Well, how do you do this’?
"But before you answer the question ‘how,’ one needs to answer the question ‘why’?" he said. "And only when all the parties to doing this are comfortable with the answers to those questions, does one proceed. You have to define the purpose before you define the action.” 
Sean O’Connor, a military expert who writes for the British publication Jane’s, said the purpose of the no-fly zones over Iraq - from 1991 to 2003 - was clear.
“The two no-fly zones in northern Iraq and southern Iraq were basically designed to provide safe havens for the civilian populations where [Iraqi leader] Saddam [Hussein] couldn’t fly his air force," O’Connor said.
Saddam “was still permitted to operate in central Iraq, in and around Baghdad and those areas - but he was technically not permitted to fly around northern Iraq, around Mosul, or down in southern Iraq, around Basra," he said. "And that pretty much restricted their operations.”
Libya model
Last year, a U.N. Security Council resolution established a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians from attacks by the forces of Libyan leader Colonel Moammar Gadhafi. But the resolution also authorized member states to “take all necessary measures” to ensure the ban on flights.
Ward Carroll, who patrolled the Iraqi no-fly zones, and flew over Bosnia in 1995, said the purpose of the Libyan mission changed. 
“At first we said it is all about protecting civilians and that was the impetus behind the NATO mission,” Carrol said. “But we saw what happened - ultimately, it was regime change.”
Retired Lt. Gen. Deptula said that in the Libyan campaign - which lasted seven months - NATO aircraft became the rebels’ air force.
“Because by virtue of their air operations over Libya, those operations reduced the Libyan military to dismounted infantry where this ragtag group of rebels could then attack and defeat Gadhafi’s loyalist army and unseat his 40-year governing regime," said Deptula. 
“Modern air power, in conjunction with indigenous forces on the ground, was a very effective use of force that allowed the overthrow of Gadhafi," he said. "That is exactly what the rebel forces in Syria have called for and why they want to see a no-fly zone executed.”
Goals clear
Deptula and others said if a no-fly zone is established over Syria, the goal will be clear - regime change.
Many Western leaders, including President Barack Obama, have called on President Assad to relinquish power - but to no avail. They have also indicated that the establishment of a no-fly zone is one of the options under consideration to end the bloodshed. 
But that idea has gained little traction among international supporters of the rebels, much to their dismay.  

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Dr. Malek Towghi (Baluch) from: USA
September 11, 2012 5:14 PM
"Syrian Rebels Get Little Support for No-Fly Zone". THANKS, GOODNESS! Thanks to Russia for restraining us from committing another folly. The fall of the Alawites in Syria will mean the establishment of another Muslim Brotherhood-Salfi regime in the Middle East-- and treatment of our embassy in Damascus the way it is happening in Cairo.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs