Report: Obama Asks Pentagon For Plan For Syria No-Fly Zone
Josh Rogin is out with an exclusive report that could indicate that President Obama is preparing to substantially increase the nation’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War:
The White House has asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for a no-fly zone inside Syria that would be enforced by the U.S. and other countries such as France and Great Britain, two administration officials told The Daily Beast.
The request was made shortly before Secretary of State John Kerry toured the Middle East last week to try and finalize plans for an early June conference between the Syrian regime and rebel leaders in Geneva. The opposition, however, has yet to confirm its attendance and is demanding that the end of Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s rule be a precondition for negotiations, a condition Assad is unlikely to accept.
President Obama’s dual-track strategy of continuing to pursue a political solution to the two-year-old uprising in Syria while also preparing for more direct U.S. military involvement includes authorizing the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the first time to plan for multilateral military actions inside Syria, the two officials said. They added that no decisions on actually using force have yet been made.
“The White House is still in contemplation mode but the planning is moving forward and it’s more advanced than it’s ever been,” one administration official told The Daily Beast. “All this effort to pressure the regime is part of the overall effort to find a political solution, but what happens if Geneva fails? It’s only prudent to plan for other options.”
Some Syria experts praised the White House’s decision to plan more options in Syria, but doubted that Obama would actually make the decision to intervene in the near term.
“No doubt, the United States and its like-minded allies and partners are fully capable, without the use of ground troops, of obviating the Assad regime’s degraded fixed and mobile air defenses and suppressing the regime’s use of airpower,” said Robert Zarate, policy director at the Foreign Policy Initiative, a Washington-based group that advocates for aggressive U.S. military action in support of human rights and democratic allies. ”But the question is whether that’s something President Obama actually has the will and resolve to do.”
Obviously, the fact that plans are being requested doesn’t mean that action is imminent or even that it will occur. Indeed, the U.S. military has planned for things that were very unlikely to happen many times in the past, including a plan for the invasion of Canada more than 100 years after the end of the War Of 1812. Additionally, it’s generally always good for the military to be prepared for the possibility of future action, and for the President to have some kind of realistic estimate of what the cost of the various decisions he might make would be. At the same time, though, this is the kind of stuff that just seems to be pushing us closer toward getting sucked into the sectarian mess that is the civil war in Syria, so it’s probably time to start becoming concerned that the President is going to commit us to something we shouldn’t really be a part of.