Why Not Syria?

NATO isn’t planning for an intervention in Syria, either in the form of a no-fly zone or creation of “safe zones” for internal refugees, Alexander Vershbow, NATO’s deputy secretary general, told defense reporters in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 29. There’re many parallels between the situation in Syria today and in Libya before NATO’s intervention there in 2011—and “clearly the scale of brutality has surpassed that in Libya,” acknowledged Vershbow. There are nonetheless “very significant differences,” he said. For one, there’s “no clear division” within Syria between regime-controlled and opposition-controlled areas, he said. “It’s an urban conflict” and “we could do more collateral damage than good” in trying to protect civilians, said Vershbow. Syria also has “more formidable defenses” than Libya, he said, although they’re nothing NATO “couldn’t handle.” But in Syria, NATO is stymied by not having a UN mandate as it did in Libya, he said. Also, the Arab League and Gulf Cooperation Council were “actively requesting outside military intervention” in Libya, but are not doing so with regard to Syria, he noted. For now, NATO is concentrating on how it can help keep member Turkey from being drawn into the Syrian conflict, he said.