Obama Directs Military to Prepare Plans for No-Fly Zone in Syria, Officials Say

Smoke and fire rises after explosives were dropped by a Syrian government warplane in Yabroud near Damascus, Syria, Monday May 20, 2013. Smoke and fire rises after explosives were dropped by a Syrian government warplane in Yabroud near Damascus, Syria, Monday May 20, 2013. Shaam News Network/AP

President Obama has directed the Defense Department to draft plans to establish a no-fly-zone in Syria that would be enforced by NATO members, the Daily Beast reported on Tuesday, citing two anonymous U.S. officials.

The White House issued the directive prior to last week's visit to the Middle East by Secretary of State John Kerry, according to the website. Washington is seeking to build up regional support for a planned international conference in Switzerland that aims to find a political resolution to the Syrian civil war that has killed an estimated 80,000 people and reportedly involved a number of chemical-weapon strikes.

"The White House is still in contemplation mode but the planning is moving forward and it's more advanced than it's ever been," a U.S. official said in an interview. "All this effort to pressure the [Bashar Assad] regime is part of the overall effort to find a political solution, but what happens if Geneva fails? It's only prudent to plan for other options."

Defense Department spokesman George Little on Tuesday said the White House had not requested any "new military planning effort" regarding possible intervention in Syria, The Hill newspaper reported. "The Joint Staff, along with the relevant combatant commanders, continue to conduct prudent planning for a range of possible military options."

The European Union's decision to lift a prohibition on exporting weapons to Syria is aimed at signaling to the Assad regime and to its ally Russia that if the planned peace talks in Geneva are not productive, Western nations are resolved to help opposition forces win, high-ranking European envoys told the New York Times on Tuesday.

The easing of the arms embargo is also aimed at strengthening moderate rebel factions, which have lagged behind better-armed opposition Islamist militias, according to the diplomats.

The State Department on Tuesday said it welcomed the lifting of the arms ban, Agence France-Presse reported. "We do support the easing of the EU arms embargo as part of the international community's effort to demonstrate its full support for the Syrian opposition," spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

The United Kingdom and France are seen as the most open to supplying the rebels with weapons but they are being urged to hold back over the short-term, according to the Washington Post. Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said Paris and London have promised not to send any arms to the rebels before August so as to give internationally sponsored peace negotiations a chance to succeed.

Ventrell also castigated Russia's announcement that it would export S-300 air-defense batteries to Damascus, United Press International reported. "We condemn the continued supply of Russian weapons to the regime, and this includes all class of weapons," Ventrell said. "We've seen how the regime uses those arms."

Moscow has said the air defenses would serve regional stability and has lashed the EU withdrawal of the arms embargo.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.