(WASHINGTON) — Washington hasn’t dismissed a plea by rebels in Syria to establish a no-fly zone over the country that would leave them better able to battle pro-government forces.
That seems to be one of the options the Obama administration is at least considering as the 18-month-long conflict there intensifies and opposition forces seem closer to ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power, even as his military has stepped up its campaign against rebel strongholds in the northern city of Aleppo and the capital of Damascus.
According to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, creating a no-fly zone over Syria, similar to what the U.S. and its NATO allies did in Libya last year, requires a “major policy decision,” one that is “not on the front burner as far as I know.”
Yet, despite his hesitation, Panetta acknowledged that it is one of a number “of possible contingencies.”
The West might be reluctant to pull the trigger on such a strategy given that the Syrian air force is larger and better equipped than Libya’s was, with 20 times the surface-to-air missiles that the late Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s military once boasted.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Holly Yan, CNN
Mohammed Tawfeeq, Joe Sterling and Susanna Capelouto, CNN