Anthony Cordesman er en respektert security analytiker. Han sier lette våpen ikke kommer til å gjøre noen forskjell. Heller ikke mellomtunge våpen. Det må langt tyngre skyts til for å snu krigen til opprørernes fordel.
Han ser for seg direkte amerikansk engasjement. Det mest effektive vil være en policy om at regimet ikke får flytte hverken mannskap eller kjøretøy eller våpen noe sted. At amerikanske fly eller droner tar ut alt som beveger seg. Det var det som avgjorde utfallet i Libya.
Men merkelig nok vureder ikke Cordesman hvordan alliansen Russland, Hizbollah og Iran ville svare på en slik politikk.
Generalsekretær Nasrallah holdt nylig en tale der han lovte at Hizbollah kom til å gjøre det som var nødvendig for å vinne, uansett. Ifølge the Independent er allerede 4.000 revolusjonsgardister i Syria eller på vei dit.
Hva gjør USA i en krig der motstanderen er villig til å gjøre alt for å vinne?
Russland vet at USA vil bli påført et stort moralsk nederlag hvis det viser seg at det er på parti med jihadister og islamister.
Og i bakgrunnen har Russland diplomatisk støtte fra Kina som vil være motstander at USA nok en gang går inn og avgjør en konflikt i et annet land.
The most decisive action would be no fly zones. The U.S. public will not tolerate any serious U.S. ground presence. As Iraq and Afghanistan have shown, doing it that way leads to major problems rather than stable outcomes, and we might well end up alienating Sunni hardliners, as well as Alewites and a good part of the Arab public.
However, one needs to be careful about the kind of no fly zone that emerges. Simply using long-range U.S. surface-to-air missiles to shield Jordan so the United States and Jordan can train moderate rebel forces now seems likely to take too long and do too little. It may well mean rebel defeat or giving the Assad regime control over so much of Syria that little is left to the rebels except for the equivalent of armed refugee camps at Syria’s margins or borders. Such a no fly zone, like supplying too few arms of too little lethality, falls in the half-pregnant category.
So does the idea of using surface-to-air missiles to protect humanitarian zones in Turkey and Jordan. Given the unfortunate reality that the world is round, their real-world low- to medium-altitude range is too limited to cover enough of the country to create a zone large enough to solve the humanitarian problem and allow the rebels to keep their gains. Moreover, Assad’s armored forces, militia, and Hezbollah would still have a decisive value on the ground. As a worst case, they might also end up shielding Syrian refugees near the border area without offering any real hope for the future.
For a no fly zone to work, it has to be at least serious enough that Assad cannot fly fighters or helicopters without losing them and without losing his air bases if he persists. This takes fighters, AWAC-like aircraft, drones, and other intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets. It means a clearly observable commitment without UN (and almost certainly without Russian and Chinese) support. It may well mean U.S. combat losses.
It is questionable whether a single carrier task force and cruise missiles could enforce this option safely with the level of deterrence and intimidation required, and it might well require access to Turkish and Jordanian air bases. It would also require hard decisions as to whether the United States would lead a no fly zone that covered all of Syria or just rebel gains. The former might decisively tilt the balance; the latter is more of a status quo option.
The word «lead» is critical not only because the United States needs bases, but because it needs European and Arab allies-a mix of British, French, Saudi, and UAE support. Qatari air forces would send a far more powerful signal, somewhat defuse a Russian or Chinese focus on the United States, and provide far more international legitimacy. In fact, taking a week to 10 days, and the time before the G8 meeting, to accomplish this offers a far higher probability of success that negotiating a meaningful deal with the Russians.
It also could lay the groundwork for the most decisive option: making a no fly zone a de facto «no move zone.» This is the quickest and most effective way to allow the rebels to defeat Assad if they can. It is the most costly, involves the most forces, and carries the highest risk of serious air combat and escalated Iranian and Hezbollah intervention (although these seem certain to occur in any case). However, it also means that Assad cannot use armor, move artillery, or even use civilian vehicles. As Libya showed all too clearly, it cripples the key advantage Assad’s forces now have. Given the timing involved, it might be best to begin with the more limited no fly zone discussed earlier and escalate-again, as happened in Libya. Escalating half way does not alter the suffering, and it gives Assad, Iran, Hezbollah, and all of the United States’ critics more time to react and find military countermeasures.