Fox News on June 16, 2013, reported that Capitol Hill lawmakers pressed President Obama on Sunday to go beyond supplying Syrian rebels with small arms and to consider imposing a no-fly zone over the war-torn country. Excerpts below:
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said supplying rebels with automatic weapons and ammunition is not enough to stop the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“We need to create a no-fly zone,” Graham told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We cannot take air power out of the equation.”
However, such a decision is not without peril.
Obama has not ruled out imposing a no-fly zone in Syria.
Graham and others think Assad’s superior air power – in addition to support from Russia and the terror group Hezbollah — has recently helped tip the balance of power in his favor and question whether Obama’s decision last week might be too little, too late.
Graham was joined on the show by Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who said the United States’ position must be based essentially on daily evaluations of the military situation in Syria.
“A no-fly zone may be the ultimate tactic that needs to be taken,” said Chambliss, the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Graham also argued the ultimate goal in Syria is to achieve a political settlement, as fighting and unrest spills into such neighboring countries as Turkey and Lebanon.
It’s a “powder keg,” said Graham, who with Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain is among the strongest Capitol Hill voices calling for a bigger U.S. role in Syria.
But such an agreement with Assad cannot be achieved as long as he continues to win on the battlefield, he said.
While the White House is undecided on whether to impose the no-fly zone, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi called for one endorsed by the U.N.
Supporters of a no-fly zone also point to the one that was established by NATO over Libya in 2011. It overwhelmed Muammar Qaddafi’s air defenses and attacked tanks and military vehicles that threatened civilians.
Creating an effective no-fly zone in Syria would require fighter jets or drones equipped with radar and weapons as well as other surveillance planes, said national security analyst Anthony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.