Pentagon Spokesman Peter Cook all but declared a no-fly zone for Russian and Syrian planes Monday, a policy Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has advocated since 2011.
“We are going to tell the Syrians and anyone else who may threaten our force in that area that we will defend them” Cook told reporters on Monday. Cook was carefully inserted the caveat that his statement was “not a no fly zone.” Cook’s forceful rhetoric comes two days after the Syrian regime carried out airstrikes dangerously close to U.S. special operators and U.S. backed Syrian rebels.
The U.S. was forced to send two F-22 Raptors to cover the U.S. special operators, and signaled its intent to increase its combat air patrols over Syria.
Clinton has advocated for a no-fly zone in Syria since the beginning of the conflict in Syria. The Obama administration has been leery of the logistical requirements of implementing a no-fly zone, and fear such a policy could trigger an escalation.
The Soufan Group, an expert U.S.-based security firm interprets Cook’s statement to mean “The warning effectively creates a no-fly zone over joint U.S.-Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) units in northern Syria, despite the U.S. denial that it is imposing a no-fly zone.”
Clinton doubled down on her advocacy for a no-fly zone in October 2015 saying, “I personally would be advocating now for a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridors to try to stop the carnage on the ground and from the air, to try to provide some way to take stock of what’s happening, to try to stem the flow of refugees.”
The Soufan Group cautioned, “While no-fly zones may seem like an attractive option on paper, they are enormously complex and costly endeavors—made even more complicated with the presence of the Russian air force and new S-400 air defense systems on the ground.” They elaborate, “With so many militaries and air forces operating in Syria, the chance for dramatic escalation remains high.”
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