Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

Cook examines developments in the Middle East and their resonance in Washington.

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Weekend Reading: Can A No-Fly Zone Over Syria Fly?

by Steven A. Cook
May 10, 2013

Israeli Air Force F-16 war planes fly in formation (Amir Cohen/Courtesy Reuters).


Steven A. Cook probes the arguments against a No-Fly Zone over Syria.

Gary Schmitt says it is doubtful that the Pentagon really believes that Syria’s air defenses are a significant hurdle to intervening in that country’s war.

Michael Koplow argues that a No-Fly Zone over Syria would present obstacles for the United States.

Dan Trombly claims that a No-Fly Zone over Syria would have a huge cost, and would likely result in minimal returns.

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  • Posted by Pastor Burt Wilkins

    I am amazed at the false impotency claims put forth by policy makers as to why the U.S.could not or should not impose a no-fly zone over Syria. Quite frankly, many people are simply lying.

    Logistically speaking Syria is small nation situated on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea approximate 110 miles square. The U.S. navy’s standard SM-6 surface-to-air missile has a range of approximately 180 miles. A single U.S. Navy frigate properly protected from counter-attack could easily anchor 15 miles off Syria’s coast in international waters, and enforce a no-fly zone over the entire country of Syria. No need to bomb half the country. No boots on the ground. No POWs. No U.S. Navy pilots flying in harms way over Syrian air space.

    The U.S. then simply states as policy that because Syria has used chemical weapons on its population any aircraft launched in Syria will be shot down till the end of armed violence. The U.S. Navy further has a number of its aircraft carriers that can be almost instantly stationed several hundred miles away in the Mediterranean to protect that single U.S. Navy frigate enforcing the no-fly zone. Add in a couple U.S. submarines to further protect that single U.S. Navy frigate and Syria’s ability to wage war on its own population simply ends. The Syrian air force might well try to launch a few aircraft, but the U.S. response would be to simply shoot them out of the air. Syria unable to launch its air craft means the war ends.

    How much would such a solution cost? Each SM-6 missile costs $4.6 million. Since Syria would know that its aircraft can not be launched without being shot down, just how many SM-6 surface-to-air missiles would be actually fired to enforce such a no-fly zone? Maybe one or two. Syria is not going to have all of its pilots shot out of the air by flying. No U.S. military will be lost. The Syrian air force personnel will not die either because once the no-fly zone is announced; Syria’s planes will be grounded by their own military. The killing of the Syrian population will simply be over.

    Honestly speaking, what is the problem here? The U.S. Navy is already spending its budget to maintain its ships in the Mediterranean Sea whether there is or is not a no-fly zone over Syria. What is the problem in being peace makers and gaining something positive in saving human lives for both sides and humanity in general? The U.S. government has the ability to end this horrific loss of human life at little or no expense today. The no-fly zone should be put into force today.

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