Romney Campaign Refuses to Endorse Syria No-Fly Zone

Even the hawkish GOP presidential contender has backed away from direct military intervention in Syria

Republican nominee for President Mitt Romney is not ready to support a policy of establishing a no-fly zone inside Syria amid a stalemated civil conflict being fueled by foreign powers.

“The governor has not called for a no-fly zone. Close friends of his such as Sens. McCain, Lieberman, and Graham have called for a no-fly zone for weeks. That is not a step that Governor Romney has made,” senior campaign advisor Rich Williamson told Foreign Policy reporter Josh Rogin at the Republican National Convention.

Along with those three habitually pro-war Republican Senators, a number of Democratic members of Congress have expressed support for a no-fly zone as well. Lobbyists in Washington peddling the interests of the unscrupulous Free Syrian Army have also called for a no-fly zone.

Last year, the Obama administration adopted a no-fly zone policy in Libya only to turn it into an effective tool for a rebel air force for regime change. Both Russia and China have pledged to block such action at the United Nations Security Council this time around.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier this month expressed skepticism that such a move would give the US and its allies an opportunity to intervene militarily in Syria.”If you try to create no-fly zones and safety zones for military purposes by citing an international [humanitarian] crisis — this is unacceptable,” he said.

So-called safe zones are simply not a viable option. “Humanitarian corridors,” explained Marc Lynch of George Washington University in testimony before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, ”would be extremely difficult to protect, and could create a new refugee crisis if desperate civilians rush into designated safe zones or neighboring countries.”

Safe areas might also require airpower in some form, but Assad’s “anti-aircraft capabilities are located in or near urban areas, which means that significant civilian casualties could result from any attempt to eliminate them.” Lynch said. ”Creating and protecting a safe area in Syria would therefore require a significant and lengthy investment of troops and resources, and would not likely hasten Assad’s collapse.”

Romney is treading lightly as his campaign enters its apex preceding the presidential debates with Obama. Direct military intervention in Syria is widely acknowledged, even in Washington, to have a likelihood of worsening the situation, rather than mitigating it. But it is notable that even the hawkish Romney, who has advocated for more activist support to the rebels, doesn’t support no-fly zones.

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