It wasn’t his first choice, but he’ll have to take it. President Obama is looking at the possibility of setting up a no-fly zone in Syria, according to The Daily Beast’s very well sourced Josh Rogin. What now?
No decisions have been made — this could be the most difficult foreign policy decision of Obama’s presidency — but it’s been looking more and more like an international military response may be necessary to bring transition to more than two years of civil war. And now Rogin reports that Obama asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for a potential no-fly zone over Syria last week, just before John Kerry went on a tour of the Middle East. The plan would be enforced by the U.S. along with nations like France and the U.K., leaders from which have encouraged the institution of a no-fly zone, which the U.S. last instituted in full force in Libya. Of course, none of this complex backup-plan formulation means the White House is giving up on a potential peaceful solution. “The White House is still in contemplation mode but the planning is moving forward and it’s more advanced than it’s ever been,” an administration source told Rogin.
Indeed, the military option is far from the only one. There’s the peace conference in Geneva next month, and both the Syrian opposition and the Assad regime have agreed to send representatives. Rebel leaders want the end of the Assad regime as a precondition for their attendance, though, which is unlikely to happen.
President Obama has been hesitant about entering the Syrian conflict for a while. The Pentagon drew up designs for a no-fly zone, in April but military officials never showed them to the president because of his staunch position against getting involved. Even after evidence of chemical weapons use appeared, and the White House said they have proof chemical weapons were used, Obama still decided not to enter the fray. The President’s (off the cuff) remark about chemical weapons being a “red line” for engagement didn’t result in action, and the White House has treaded carefully.