Merkel’s no-fly zone in Syria. What does it mean?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for establishing a no-fly zone in Syria which is very much connected with the problem of refugee crisis. How do you see the role of Europe in Syrian conflict, what could, should EU do? Read few comments.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Georgetown University, Author of Bin Laden’s Legacy

Merkel’s call isn’t for what we generally refer to as a “no-fly zone.” She has made clear that — contrary to no-fly zones that we’ve seen imposed in countries like Libya and Iraq — her proposal depends on agreement by all parties, including the Assad regime and its backers. Thus, Merkel isn’t proposing a no-fly zone that would be enforced by fighter planes, but rather is asking warring parties to carve out a small area where civilians would be protected from airstrikes. Her idea is probably a good one, as far as it goes, but its success fundamentally depends on the agreement of parties who are strongly disinclined to agree.

Barak Mendelsohn, Associate Professor, Haverford College, Author of The Al-Qaeda Franchise

I’m not optimistic about the role of the EU in the Syrian civil war. It becomes increasingly clear that EU countries are much more interested in their self-interest – the refugees problem – than in bringing a just solution to the conflict. Yes, they can still play a valuable role providing financial inducements (that is, bribes) to Turkey and other Middle Eastern states that will persuade them to act in line with European interests and of course alleviate the suffering of the refugees. But the EU failed to respond to the suffering in time and its position about the future of Assad is so muddled that nobody can seriously argue that the EU stands behind the weak calls for Assad’s departure. The EU risks generating hostility by Sunni states and people while also forced to absorb millions of refugees that will increase internal friction among member states. Unfortunately the US hesitancy, and now the fact of Russian power, give the EU cover from acting boldly. Europe appears comfortable underestimating its power, and it is no wonder then that in a battle of wills and nerves with Russia one would put his/her money on Putin. But Europe’s disastrous Syria policies will end up hurting it for a long time, costing it money, lives (terrorism), international standing, and Sunni hostility.

Jeffrey VanDenBergChair, Political Science & Geography Department, Professor of Political Science, Director of Middle East Studies, Drury University

The prospects of a no-fly zone, at least in the near term, are slim. Although Chancellor Merkel’s declared humanitarian motivations for the no-fly zone are admirable, it has little chance of being implemented as long as Russia and the Assad regime continue to aggressively attack the non-ISIS Syrian opposition through the air. Russia’s military intervention on behalf of the Syrian government has dramatically altered the equation and constrained the options available to Europe and the United States. It must also be admitted that the Europeans and Americans appear somewhat self-serving when it comes to the connection between the no-fly zone and the refugee crisis. It is easy to question the timing, since if the motivation were truly concern for the suffering of the Syrians, a no-fly zone should have come much earlier when it was more realistically attainable. Although it is understandable (given security and economic concerns) why Europe wants to stem the flow of refugees, their solution of keeping them in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, which are suffering tremendously under the strain of this responsibility, can be questioned. Of course, the United States government has shamefully failed its humanitarian responsibilities to the Syrians, when even the negligently small number proposed by President Obama of 10,000 refugees can’t be admitted into the US because of partisan gridlock.

Sadly, the options now available to the EU are limited and less than optimal. There is no appetite for confronting Russia, so the EU and the US must admit that the only option is to acquiesce to the continuation of the Assad regime. Only by swallowing this bitter pill can the attention be placed entirely on fighting ISIS, and by doing so create enough stability for Syrians to begin returning home.

Nadim Shehadi, Director, Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies, Fletcher School at Tufts University, Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House

The EU can do nothing other than sometimes deal with the symptoms, it cannot even acknowledge the existence of a problem. Russia, Iran and the Assad regime have produced tens of thousands more refugees in the last two weeks and we have not even heard it mentioned.


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