- By Josh Rogin
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) endorsed Tuesday the idea of establishing a no-fly zone inside Syria and attacking the air defenses and air power of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Levin chaired a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday morning during which he asked Adm. James Stavridis, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, if NATO was discussing attacking Assad’s air defenses. Stavridis acknowledged the idea was under discussion but said there was no unified NATO position on the issue.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) then asked Stavridis if NATO is doing contingency planning for military operations inside Syria.
"We are looking at a wide range of operations, and we are prepared, if called upon, to be engaged as we were in Libya," Stavridis replied.
Stavridis said that the NATO Patriot missile batteries currently deployed in Turkey have the capability to shoot down Syrian military aircraft in a radius of 20 miles. McCain pressed Stavridis to give his personal opinion as to whether or not establishing a Patriot battery-enforced no-fly zone in northern Syria would speed the end of the conflict.
"My personal opinion is that would be helpful in breaking the deadlock and bringing down the Assad regime," Stavridis said.
After the hearing, Levin directly endorsed the idea of attacking Syrian air defenses and using the Patriot missile batteries in Turkey to establish a no-fly zone inside Syria in an interview with The Cable.
"I believe there should be the next ratcheting up of military effort and that would include going after some of Syria’s air defenses," Levin said.
Regarding the establishment of a no-fly zone inside Syria, Levin said that would help both protect innocent civilians and speed the end of the conflict.
"You could protect that kind of a zone with these Patriot missiles, leaving the missiles in Turkey but having the zone inside the Syrian border," he said. "It is a way without putting boots on the ground and in a way that would be fairly cautious, that would put additional pressure on Assad and also create a zone where Syrian people who are looking for protection and safety could come without crossing the border and becoming refugees."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Tuesday called for the United States to put boots on the ground in Syria to secure chemical weapons sites, in light of new allegations that chemical weapons were used in Aleppo province.
Levin said it might come to that at some point and that the U.S. military should be prepared.
"We have to have that option," he said. "If [chemical weapons] are going to run free and fall into the hands of terrorists, we have to have some option of securing those, particularly if there’s going to be a disintegration in Syria."
Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge.| The E-Ring |
Dunford, Karzai agree on Wardak; Amazon works for the CIA; Carter reaffirms the pivot; Levin backs no-fly zone; Kelly talks Iran in Southcom; and a little more.Gordon Lubold
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.| Situation Report |