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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More