Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is downplaying the idea of a no-fly zone over Syria after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised the possibility over the weekend.
Secretary Clinton mentioned a no-fly zone as one option for helping Syrias rebels in their 18-month struggle to oust President Bashar al-Assad after her meeting with Turkeys foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu.
President Assad has relied heavily on air power to defeat the rebels, who have called on the United States and other nations to establish the no-fly zone, much as they did in Libya, to protect civilians and rebels under increasing air assault.
The Obama administration has rejected direct military intervention in favor of humanitarian and non-lethal assistance. Enforcement of a no-fly zone over Syria has always been problematic. Syrian air defenses are more sophisticated than those in Libya and are backed up by Russian support.
Secretary Clintons comments could have been a signal that the United States is willing to reconsider its stance.
Secretary Panetta, said that a no-fly zone would require a major, major policy decision that has yet to be made, but its not on the front burner as far as I know. A no-fly zone would have to be enforced by U.S. or allied air forces to prevent President Assad from using his helicopters and fighter jets from attacking the rebels.
Although some Arab nations are reportedly supplying arms to the rebels, the Obama administration has rejected that, citing the lack of unified leadership for the opposition and the possibility that radical groups may obtain the weapons.
Analysts have long opposed direct U.S. military intervention in a third Mideast war, which should continue as American policy.