A top legislator of President Barack Obama’s party said on Sunday that the United States should consider implementing a no-fly zone over Syria if the opposition there unites.
Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan, who chairs the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, told NBC News’ Meet the Press that he could support a no-fly zone over the wartorn Middle Eastern country, “provided the opposition in Syria comes together.”
At present, the groups that are battling President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are far from united. Many of the Islamists who form the backbone of the revolt are reluctant to submit to the National Coalition for Syrian Opposition and Revolutionary Forces that was set up earlier this month in Qatar in an attempt to unify Assad’s opponents and garner international support.
Moderate elements in the rebel movement, on the other hand, worry that it will be hijacked by religious fanatics who seek to establish a Sunni Muslim regime in Assad’s place.
The United States and their allies in the region, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, have been providing Syria’s rebels with communications equipment and weapons but The New York Times reported in October that most of the latter end up in the hands of the very jihadists that the West abhors.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia, both majority Sunni states, have sectarian and strategic interests in propping up the now eighteen month old resistance to Assad’s secular dictatorship. He is Iran’s only Arab ally. The Gulf Cooperation Council states, led by Saudi Arabia, are engaged in a struggle for regional hegemony with Iran. Replacing Assad’s with a Sunni government would weaken the Shia axis in the Middle East and inhibit Iran’s retaliatory options in case there is an American or Israeli attack on its nuclear sites which Arab and Western nations suspect are part of a weapons program.
America’s interests in the Syrian Civil War are therefore aligned with those of its Middle Eastern allies. As Senator Levin said on Meet the Press, “All this goes looking to keep the pressure on Iran and to keep taking away from Iran the kind of weaponry, both psychological and real, that they are using.”
Syria’s Assad has been among the main financiers and weapons suppliers of the Shia terrorist organization Hezbollah in Lebanon which is also backed by Iran. The group could renew hostilities on Israel’s northern border if there is a confrontation between Iran and Western nations. If Assad’s regime collapses, Iran would be hard pressed to continue to arm the group and threaten Israel indirectly.