No-fly or no-go in Syria?

US President Barack Obama walks from Marine One on the White House on 28 May 2013 If President Barack Obama can be called a liberal interventionist at all, he is a cautious one

The sabre-rattling is growing louder, and the West is making fierce faces at Bashar al-Assad.

Perhaps the US and the UK are really growing nearer to taking some action, inch by slow inch. But somehow I doubt it.

The Daily Beast reports that the White House has asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for a no-fly zone inside Syria.

In response to this report, a senior administration official told the BBC: "I'm not going to discuss our internal deliberations, but we have said for many months that the administration is prepared for a variety of contingencies in Syria and all options are on the table."

No matter that Mr Obama thought a no-fly zone was pretty much an empty gesture in Libya and eventually ordered more comprehensive action.

No matter that Nato has no such plan. No matter that the Pentagon believes such action would be complicated and risky.

It is not too hard to guess what is really going on. Although France and Britain pressed hard for the EU weapons embargo to be lifted, it does not seem they are preparing to actually supply any arms anytime soon.

This is about putting maximum pressure on the Syrian government to take part in the peace conference, although admittedly diplomats don't have much hope that will produce results either.

There are many practical problems about the US and its allies taking action in Syria, and many potentially messy outcomes if they do. But it is more than this.

We should know by now that if President Obama is a liberal interventionist at all, he is a very cautious, reluctant one. He knows that, without the US, nothing will be done, but he seems to feel that it can often be the least worst option to do nothing.

It is worth reflecting that this is the majority position of leaders all over the world. It also appears to be the view of many Americans, tired of war, and few in the region are clamouring for open intervention.

But commentators and politicians in France, the UK and the US, do demand "something must be done". The sabres may yet be unsheathed.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    115 Barbara

    "Well they were tired of Europeans constant wars, two great wars in the 20th century alone"

    Aren't you forgetting that America's whole history is based on warfare with the worst period in the 19th cent beg with War of 1812, Mexican war, civil war, Spanish and not forgetting the Indian wars which led to the destruction of the native population

    Makes Europe seem quite tame

  • Comment number 124.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Chemical weapons?

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]
    "The ****** is using chemical weapons on us" one shouts. So they casually unwrap breathing apparatus and kit-up.

    Note their sartorial elegance. Spotless clothing, well-manicured hands and white designer trainers.

    And you believe this Maria?

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    The US has no business there and neither does anyone else. This is Syrias problem and they should work it out. Both sides are committing atrocities and using chemical weapons. If the US gets involved, as I am sure it will, I just hope we do not follow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    "useless drone attacks"

    Btw. Turkey, shelled by Assad artillery, is building its own drones.

  • Comment number 120.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    111 Maria

    "hold AssadJr responsible for every single 1 of those 100K or More deaths,rapes tortures lies. Scuds&Sarin"

    176,000–189,000 people were killed in violence in the Iraq war, incl 134,000 civilians according to Costs of War Project, by team of 30 specialists from Brown University and the Watson Institute to study the effects of wars involving US since 2001

    And you want more?

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Assad's huge-but-HuuugeEgo is key obstacle to peace. Nothing else. Reasonable anti-Assad elements will slowly find their way to a consensus. Kurds will get some land.Younger people: "Syria"is anIdea; the land belonged within living memory to the OttomanEmpire&thenFrenchMandate(look it up).That's why Turkey+UK+France interested: played major roles&KnowME. Russia/Iran/China, US didn't: they careLess

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    "Assad is going to win..Not just because of backing from Russia, China, Iran, Hezbollah etc, but because the majority of the Syrian people back him too."

    Patently false. Assad is going the way of Saddam and Qaddafi.

    Overwhelming majority of Muslims in the world are Sunni: only a minority are Shiite (mostly in fanatical Iran). And in Persians vs Arabs conflict - the latter will prevail.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Another thought - perhaps it's easy for Obama to send drones into hot, dusty countries 000s of miles away. It's much more difficult for him to arrange effective policing of US ghettos. For domestic political reasons Obama is silent on hundreds of violent murders of African Americans within a mile or two of the White House, & to attack Assad instead. Problem displacement...

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    Mark says Americans are tired of war. Well they were tired of Europeans constant wars, two great wars in the 20th century alone. If we conquering heroes (America) had not joined those battles, what exactly would this planet look like today. The west has sat back too long for the Syrians who want to live free.

    "..there is a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together".

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    110, Agreed. 106: The video is incoherent. To be sure, there are Pipeline interests&even Hedge funds interested in tipping the outcome in Syria. Do you think Putin&Lavrov innocently pro-Assad? They (foolishly) are playing to their own backyard opposition &its sympathisers, hoping they get the message that too many protests might plunge Russia in Civil War II. That won't happen. Neither will "WW3"

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    #98.margaret howard
    "America under the Bushes has become the most disliked nation on the planet for its meddling and expensionism after riding so high post WW1 and 2"

    Maybe. But I note that the UK and France are the western countries whose non-assimilated immigrant communities are the most in revolt. UK- and France-style intifadas seem to be in progress. You can't blame the Bushes for that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    "The Libyians thanked the US by killing the ambasador"

    Despite earlier denials and cover ups it has been irrefutably established by now that 9/11 (sic) attack in Benghazi was organized and conducted by al-Qaeda , whose members were hardly Libyans.

    AQ always enters countries in a state of transition with a weak central government.

    Cf. Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    108: Leadership means nothing other than taking Responsibility for what happens on your watch. Syria made Assads rich; how did Assads repay Syria? In blood&tears.I hold AssadJr responsible for every single 1 of those 100K or More deaths, not to mention the rapes&the tortures&the lies. Scuds&Sarin are not a joke. Even w/FogOfWar I don't need BBC reports to analyse scene. He could have walked away.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    105.Maria Ashot
    Exactly 1 person is to blame for all this chaos, distress and for all the resulting costs imposed all across the world by these crimes. That person is Assad, of course.

    To be fair one has to add Hafez Assad, his daddy. Syrians have been living under marshal law since 1964. All attempts to protest, let alone change that state of affairs were drowned in blood by Assad sr.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    ukstudent,103: Sarin was already used once in Tokyo, not by Muslims. Problem with WMD should have been addressed long ago&we are now paying the price for tolerating these sadistic types of dictator. As an American, I opposed the war in Iraq because of glaring intel flaws. But Syria is a different matter; chemical WMD already in use. Implications for how we deal with Iran's nukes; Jalili is Extreme

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Maria Ashot @ 105:

    Do you REALLY think Assad killed 80,000?

    The invading army is made up of rebels, mercenaries & extremist who embed themselves in residential areas.

    They demand food, information & 'other' home comforts.

    Then they hold women & children as human shields.

    Please try to see the bigger picture and don't rely solely on BBC footage.

    There's always two sides to any situation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    The forces battlingAssad lack unity; we're uncertain about their ability to accept a single leader or team. There are political opportunists as well as criminal ones using the cover of war to settle scores, loot etc. But Hezbollah is no legitimate faction &Iran (soon to be even nuttier under Jalili) has zero claim to a voice. Iran is not Arabic;its Islam is extremist &its soleGoal to make trouble.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    LUFC_FR @ 101:
    The controlling criminal elements of the US government really know what they're doing despite the appearance of chaos:


    I heard about this in the past but never understood it.

    That video is dynamite and explains it in easy terms.

    EVERYBODY should watch it (please) - thanks!


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