Syrian no-fly zone has Joe-mentum

Syrian no-fly zone has Joe-mentum

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) became the first senator to publicly call for an internationally imposed no-fly zone over parts of Syria, in an exclusive interview on Tuesday with The Cable.

"I’d like to see us begin to consider some safe zones inside Syria, particularly along the Turkish and Jordanian borders," Lieberman said in the basement of the Capitol, while waiting for a subway car to take him to his Senate offices. When asked if he meant there should be a no-fly zone over parts of Syria, he said. "I’d be in favor of that, yes."

Lieberman’s comments come amid increasing calls for international military intervention from protesters inside Syria. The Wall Street Journal reported on Sept. 29 that a coalition of leading opposition groups inside the country have begun calling for a no-fly zone, along with an international arms embargo and a U.N. monitoring mission to put a stop to the violence of President Bashar al-Assad‘s government.

Radwan Ziadeh, a Washington-based Syrian activist who is a member of the new Syrian National Council, told The Cable  that the Syrian opposition is split over the idea of foreign military intervention.

"The people inside Syria are calling for a no-fly zone and an intervention, but not the activists outside Syria. We on the outside know that the international community is not there yet. But the people inside are very frustrated with the international community," he said.

Every Friday, protesters in various Syrian cities raise banners calling for the no-fly zone, Ziadeh said, with those cities suffering the greatest violence being most in favor of the move. There’s also a recognition that a no-fly zone would have to include attacks on Syrian military assets, as was the case in Libya.

"We would need to destroy all the rockets, all the communications systems," he said. "Syrian society is divided on that, from one city to another."

Lieberman’s position represents growing frustration on Capitol Hill with the Obama administration’s inactivity on Syria — despite the bravery of Ambassador Robert Ford, who has been meeting with activists and who was confirmed Monday as the U.S. envoy to Damascus.

For example, Senate Foreign Relations Middle East subcommittee chairman Robert Casey (D-PA), while not endorsing the idea of a no-fly zone specifically, told The Cable today that the administration needs to step up the pressure on the Syrian government.

"We’ve got to be much more determined in our efforts to put increasing pressure on the Syrian government," he said. "I realize the sanctions have been in place for years but because of the nature of this slaughter, we have to consider stronger action…. It’s clear that sanctions alone aren’t working."