No-Fly Zone over Syria


DAMASCUS/BERLIN/WASHINGTON (Own report) - German government advisors are calling for intensifying the military engagement in the Syrian war. According to an article published by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), western countries "must seriously re-think their original strategy" for overthrowing the Assad government, because it had placed too much emphasis on the "promotion of civilian structures." The establishment of a no-fly zone over the entire Syrian airspace would be one of the necessities. At the same time, demands are being raised in the USA to cooperate with the Assad government and Iran in the war against IS. The US once had even "allied with Stalin to fight Hitler," reasons an influential US foreign policy expert. The demand is being opposed, not only in Germany but also in the USA, where a former CIA analyst is calling for the establishment of a conventional Syrian exile army in a neighboring country, which, in two to three years, should intervene in Syria.

US Air Strikes

German demands that the West intensify its military engagement against Syria coincide with similar demands in the USA. Since September 23, the USA has carried out nearly 200 air strikes against targets in Syria aimed primarily at the "Islamic State" (IS), but also at the "Jabhat al Nusra" and other jihadist organizations. More that 550 people, among them 32 civilians have already been killed. The air strikes obviously are carried out with the consent of Bashar al Assad's government. In any case, observers note that Syrian air-defense seems to be turning off when US aircraft attack. The US also has not hit major oil fields, presumably on Assad's demand who "wants them working when he takes over again."[1] However, since it has become evident that the war cannot be won with air strikes alone, options for the deployment of ground troops should be developed.

Only Against IS

Officially, Washington is preparing to train militias of the "Free Syrian Army" (FSA). Secular and moderate Islamist insurgents are to receive training to wage war against IS -de-facto, as ground troops of the US and its allies' Air Force. For this, US President Obama will provide up to US $500 million. Gen. John Allen, Obama's special envoy for the war on IS, is currently touring the Middle East to discuss the necessary coordination of these plans. The training should take place at least partially in countries neighboring on Syria. Allen declared that the training is only aimed at the war against IS. It is not the intention that the FSA also attack Assad, after the expected victory over IS. Washington does not expect the FSA to become strong enough to overthrow Assad. The US government would be content if the FSA achieves enough credibility for Assad to be forced to accept it at the negotiating table. The long-term objective is to find a comprehensive solution for conflicts throughout the entire Middle and Near East. An arrangement for Syria should be part of that solution.[2]

With Stalin against Hitler

In this context, prominent government advisors are beginning to publicly suggest that cooperation with the Assad government and with Iran should also be included in the war on IS. Only they can provide plausible ground forces, says Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus of the US think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Even if Assad only has half of his alleged 100,000 troops on hand, they would be the best positioned for waging war on IS. Iran’s forces are even more potent. Gelb admits, "Iran and Assad’s Syria could emerge from this anti-jihadi alliance with much more power." Historically, Washington is not allergic to cooperation "with devils." "The U.S. allied with Stalin to fight Hitler."[3] Gelb does not specifically mention the fact that following the victory over Nazi Germany, Washington returned to the struggle against Moscow.

An Exile Army

Plans for cooperation with the Assad government and Iran in the war against IS - which would signify a reorientation of western Middle East policy - are being opposed from within the establishment in the US and Germany. In the prominent "Foreign Affairs" periodical, for example, former CIA analyst Kenneth M. Pollack made a case for a comprehensive expansion of the planned FSA training program. According to Pollack, two to three brigades of from 1,000 - 2,000 strong, should be trained outside Syria - in Jordan or Turkey - trained not only in insurgent activities but rather trained to become a conventional army. The troops should be recruited inside Syria as well as in the Syrian diaspora, and be provided with long-term conventional training and be equipped with heavy weapons, surface-to-air missiles, including tanks. They should then move into country, steadily conquering territory currently in the hands of Assad's troops. Systematically, they must establish control over their area. At a given moment, the USA and its allies can recognize them as the legitimate government and in the long-term, they can completely overthrow the Assad regime. The training of these brigades will take one to two years; the conquest of the country, one to three years more. Pollack explicitly mentions the West's wars in Afghanistan (2001) and in Libya (2011) as models for this operation.[4]

A Double War

The author of a recent article published by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) is also making a plea for enhancing military engagement and the overthrow of the Syrian government. She writes that western countries must "seriously rethink their original strategy" for the Syrian war, which had placed too much emphasis on the "promotion of civilian structures."[5] At the same time, the West should not focus too much on its war against IS, but simultaneously also against Assad. What is needed is "the creation of a no-fly zone over the entire Syrian airspace," as well as the total elimination of the Syrian Air Force. This should force the government into negotiations, where the internal power elite around Assad will remain excluded from any transitional arrangement." In addition, a fund should be established, from which the self-proclaimed "transitional government" of Syria and the "Military Council" of the insurgents will be financed. This is the only way "to stabilize the situation in insurgent-held areas." The establishment of a no-fly zone throughout Syria, which would have to be maintained militarily, would, in fact, mean waging a double war, against IS and against the Assad government.

Other reports and background information on Germany's policy toward Syria can be found here: Market Economy for Syria, Smuggle Supervisors, The Day After, The Day After (II), The Day After (IV), The Islamization of the Rebellion, A Proxy War, In Rebel Territory (II), In Rebel Territory (III), The End of Artificial Borders, In Rebel Territory (IV), German War Assistance, Democratic Interventionism, The Rivals' Alliances, The Law of the Jungle, Germany's Chemical Weapons Expertise, Marching Toward Baghdad and "Biting the Syrian Bullet".

[1] Leslie H. Gelb: There's Only One Way to Beat ISIS: Work With Assad and Iran. 18.10.2014.
[2] Exclusive: General Allen discusses coalition plans for defeating ISIS as regional tour starts. 25.10.2014.
[3] Leslie H. Gelb: There's Only One Way to Beat ISIS: Work With Assad and Iran. 18.10.2014.
[4] Kenneth M. Pollack: An Army to Defeat Assad. Foreign Affairs September/October 2014.
[5] Petra Becker: Hilfe für Syriens Zivilgesellschaft - ineffektiv und fehlgeleitet. SWP-Aktuell 64, Oktober 2014.