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Some US Military Options in Syria

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By Debbie Gregory.

When considering a U.S. military option to help end the Syrian civil war, following the collapse of a temporary ceasefire negotiated in September, the Obama administration could be considering these options.

Imposing a no-fly zone over Syria: This would mean all aircraft would require prior permission to fly over Syria, or risk being shot down.

This action would require a number of aircraft in the skies to monitor and patrol, take out threats or violators, and conduct search and rescue missions, which would be resource intensive. Opponents believe this action would take resources away from the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Another downside would be the threat of the U.S. being drawn into a war with Russia or Syria, if they violated the no-fly zone and sparked a confrontation.

Establishing safe zones: A safe zone would be a designated area where civilians can take refuge from military threats. The zones could be protected on the ground by an international coalition of forces, with air support provided by the U.S. Patriot missile systems in Jordan and Turkey.

The downside to a safe zone is that this would require a lot of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to detect violations, as well as ground forces to protect the zone.

Target Assad’s air force:Another option would be grounding Syrian leader Bashar Assad’s air force.

Ret. Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, said grounding the air force would take far fewer resources than implementing a no-fly zone, and could be done within 24 hours.

The downside to this option is that it could cross over into “acts of war” against Syria — something the Obama administration has wanted to avoid thus far.

Another option could be providing anti-aircraft systems, including man-portable air-defense systems to the rebels fighting the regime. That could help them take down Russian and regime aircraft, particularly low flying military helicopters dropping barrel bombs.

But the administration has had concerns antiaircraft weapons would fall into terrorists’ hands and be smuggled into the U.S. or used against U.S. air assets.

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