With the apparent goal of 'protecting civilians' from ISIS and Syria's al-Assad, the US and Turkey appear to be close to agreeing on the creation of a no-fly-zone along a portion of the Syrian border. As WSJ reports, U.S. and Turkish officials have narrowed their differences over a joint military mission in Syria that would give the U.S. and its coalition partners permission to use Turkish air bases to launch strike operations against Islamic State targets across northern Syria. The no-fly-zone would provide sanctuary to Western-backed opposition forces and refugees. As Bloomberg notes, this is a significant reversal of Obama's earlier policy (fearing it would be a significant strain on the U.S. Air Force and put fliers in mortal danger) pushing US closer to outright proxy war with Russia via direct confrontation with al-Assad's airforce.
U.S. and Turkish officials have narrowed their differences over a joint military mission in Syria that would give the U.S. and its coalition partners permission to use Turkish air bases to launch strike operations against Islamic State targets across northern Syria, according to officials in both countries.
As part of the deal, U.S. and Turkish officials are discussing the creation of a protected zone along a portion of the Syrian border that would be off-limits to Assad regime aircraft and would provide sanctuary to Western-backed opposition forces and refugees.
U.S. and coalition aircraft would use Incirlik and other Turkish air bases to patrol the zone, ensuring that rebels crossing the border from Turkey don’t come under attack there, officials said.
Turkey had proposed a far more extensive no-fly zone across one-third of northern Syria, according to officials. That idea was, however, a nonstarter for the Obama administration, which told Ankara that something so invasive would constitute an act of war against the Assad regime.
Which the US could never admit to - putting the US in direct conflict with al-Assad's airforce and thus engaging the proxy war with Russia.
Ever since the Syrian civil war broke out in early 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama has resisted calls from Congress to establish a no-fly zone in the country. Now we have learned that one of Obama’s top envoys is negotiating just such a plan with Syria’s neighbor Turkey.
The new proposal would be called an “air-exclusion zone,” a buffer area inside Syria along the Turkish border that would be manned by Turkish troops and protected by U.S. air power, according to three senior U.S. officials who have been briefed on the discussions. The goal would be to give some Syria rebels and civilians protection from both Islamic State and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and increase the flow of humanitarian aid to Syria through the zone. The idea was last floated in 2012 by the French government, and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was reported to support it at that time.
John Allen, the retired Marine general who is the Obama administration’s lead coordinator for the international coalition against IS, discussed the air exclusion zone with high ranking Turkish officials during his trip there earlier this month, according to these three officials.
If Obama approves the plan being negotiated by Allen, it would mark a reversal from his earlier policy. Since 2012, the White House has resisted calls from both parties in Congress to establish such protected areas in Syria, in part because it would be a significant strain on the U.S. Air Force and put fliers in mortal danger. But the White House has also been wary that a no-fly zone could drag the U.S. into a shooting war with the Syrian regime at the very moment it is trying to wage a war against the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, two groups that have also fought the regime.
“You can’t have an exclusionary zone and not be in conflict with the regime," said a former Obama administration Pentagon official who worked on the Middle East. "You can’t have your cake and eat it too."
“Ultimately, I’m not sure this division of labor between sectarian rebels against ISIS but not against the regime is sustainable,” he said. “Ultimately if we are going to arm a moderate rebel force, we are going to have to protect them. That means if the regime goes after them, we are going to have to take the necessary steps to protect them.”
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We can only imagine the quid pro quo Kerry had to offer to get Erdogan in on the deal given his recent strong anti-American rhetoric. However, the crucial point is Obama's reversal and more explicitly aggressive stance against al-Assad that will likely warrant a Russian response (in words or deeds).