No magic wand

François Heisbourg advocates NATO-backed military intervention in Syria without a UN Security Council resolution, based on Turkey’s right to self-defense under Article 51 of the UN charter.

That is daring, but then he pulls his punches:  he wants no more than a 50-mile no-fly zone along the Turkish-Syrian border.  No intervening aircraft would fly into Syrian air space.  Enforcement would be by missiles fired from the Turkish side of the border. France and Britain would somehow “join.”

Then he waves a magic wand:

The zone would include Aleppo, which means the regime’s bombardment of Syria’s largest city would cease.  Its fall, along with unimpeded access to logistical support from Turkey, would give the insurgency the upper hand.

And with no boots on the ground, this intervention would not require an exit strategy.

I guess it could work that way, but the odds are at least as good it would not.  Aleppo is barely within 50 miles of the Turkish border.  Missiles fired from Turkey won’t keep the Syrian army out of Aleppo.  Nor will they do anything to block the Syrians from bombarding the city with artillery.  The Syrian regime would surely escalate Kurdish guerrilla attacks inside Turkey, intensifying the already considerable political opposition to the Turkish government’s aggressive posture on Syria.

What if I am wrong and it works?  An “exit” strategy might be unnecessary, but an entrance strategy would be vital.  There is no reason to think that a sudden collapse of the Assad regime will be a peaceful and loving affair.  The Turks and Americans are not going to sit around letting the chips fall where they may, since they might well fall in the direction of an extremist Sunni regime.  Neither will the Iranians and the Iraqi Arabs and Kurds, or for that matter the Qataris and Saudis.  Each will have his own agenda.  The aftermath of the fall of this regime could be even bloodier than its lengthy and sanguinary demise.

I hesitate to repeat what I have said many times previously:  safe areas are target-rich environments that will attract the murderous instincts of the Assad regime.  If you want a no-fly zone, it will have to be far wider than 50 miles and enforced with active patrols, as we did in Iraq.  That means destruction of Syrian air defenses, and continued willingness to destroy them on a daily basis.

Heisbourg is also hoping the Americans will rouse themselves from inaction after the November 6 election.  I doubt it.  More arms may flow then to the Syrian rebellion, but people in Washington is really worried about empowering more jihadi in ways that we will come to regret.  “Fast and furious” in the Middle East could be a lot more serious than in Mexico.

The best bet for a decent outcome of the Syrian rebellion is a negotiated exit of Bashar al Assad, followed by an internationally supervised transition.  I know that’s not on the horizon yet.  But until it is we are likely to see the fighting continue.


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