A No Fly Zone in Syria

Following the collapse of another ceasefire, an end to Syria’s five-year-old civil war seems as far away as ever. The international response has been extremely confused and this vagueness, fuelled by a western obsession with deposing Bashar al Assad, is making a sensible military response almost impossible. Politicians seem to be reacting to a series of media stories instead of following any clear plan, and the danger is they’ll let sensationalist journalists drive us right to the brink of a major war – and maybe over it.

The latest media-powered disaster is unfolding around the city of Aleppo. When the rebellion began in 2011 Aleppo residents were, in general, not interested. The rebels were, though, and moved to seize partial control of the city. Since then they’ve prevented residents from leaving and used the areas they hold as a base for attacks. Now government forces, backed by Russia and regional allies, are fighting to recapture the whole city – and they’ll probably do it. Talk of Syria after Assad has faded away, because it looks like he’s going to survive. And that means the various rebel groups probably aren’t.

russian-planeOur priority in Syria should be the obliteration of the Islamic State. Militarily it poses little threat, but for jihadis all over the world it’s a symbol; the physical representation of the caliphate they want. Wipe away that symbol and their morale will suffer. No doubt that will provoke some more terrorist attacks, but while the deaths these cause are a tragedy, in the big scheme of things they’re pinpricks. The UK suffered 43,000 civilian dead from German bombs in the winter of 1940-41, and endured; there’s no reason why the west should flinch from the annihilation of ISIS for fear of a couple of hundred murders. How many will die if we don’t destroy it? It took 1,200 years, from Martel’s victory at Poitiers to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, for the west to eliminate the threat of a caliphate. It would be utter stupidity to let that menace re-establish itself.

And it would also be utter stupidity to provoke a completely unnecessary war with Russia over differing opinions on Syria. The blunt truth is that Syria is not important to the west. It doesn’t matter to us if Assad stays in power or not; our only interest is in ending the islamist threat. So what’s the sense in trying to impose a no fly zone over Aleppo?

Yes, the USA and its NATO allies could probably put an end to Russian and Syrian air attacks on the rebels – at least for a while. We could wipe out Putin’s air group in Syria without taking too many losses ourselves. But what happens then? Never mind the fact that all we’d accomplish would be to prolong the Syrian civil war and take some pressure off ISIS for a while. How would Russia react to this?

Talk of a no fly zone is all based on the assumption that Putin would accept defeat and back down – but, based on his actions in Georgia and Ukraine, I don’t think he would. Either he’d double down in Syria with a much more powerful air group, one that would take a major battle to dislodge, or he’d retaliate somewhere else. And while Russia’s military still isn’t a match for NATO on a level playing field, it’s far too strong for us to easily impose our will on. Russia’s military power is recovering while the west’s continues to fade. This is not the time, and Syria is not the cause, to force a confrontation that would cost a lot of lives and money in exchange for a small and self-harming “victory.”

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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