As violence in Syria deepens, with the Assad regime using ballistic missiles and, reportedly, nerve gas, against civilians, the U.S. and its allies continue to search for viable options to shorten the conflict and place Syria on the path to political transition. Few options have received as much attention as the idea of creating a no fly zone (NFZ) over part of all of Syria. However, while debate over the NFZ option intensifies, far less attention has been paid to the military, diplomatic, and regional complexities that such a move would entail. To inform and deepen this debate, the U.S. Institute of Peace convened a panel of distinguished experts to discuss the diplomatic, strategic, tactical, and political implications involved.

Panel at USIP: A Syrian No Fly Zone: Options and Constraints
Photo Credit: The New York Times

Now in its third year, with no end in sight, the Syrian uprising against the authoritarian government of Bashar al-Assad has brought devastation, death, and displacement to the country.  Today, more than a quarter of Syrians have fled their homes. Some 250,000 Syrians have been killed, wounded, or are missing. By the end of 2013, half of all Syrians, more than 11 million people, could need assistance in what the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, has called the worst humanitarian crisis the U.N. has ever faced.

As violence deepens, with the Assad regime using ballistic missiles and, reportedly, nerve gas, against civilians, the U.S. and its allies continue to search for viable options to shorten the conflict, bring the regime and the opposition to the negotiating table, and place Syria on the path of political transition.

Few options have received as much attention as the idea of creating a no fly zone (NFZ) over part or all of Syria. The Syrian opposition has appealed to the international community to create a NFZ. Members of Congress have called on the Obama administration to embrace an NFZ as the most effective way to protect Syrian civilians and achieve a political solution.

While debate around the NFZ option intensifies, there has been far less attention to the military, diplomatic, and regional complexities that such a move would entail. To inform and deepen the debate over an NFZ for Syria, the U.S. Institute of Peace convened a panel of distinguished experts to discuss the diplomatic, strategic, tactical, and political implications involved.

Speakers

Steven Heydemann, Moderator
Senior Advisor, Middle East Initiatives, U.S. Institute of Peace

Ambassador Frederic C. Hof
Senior Fellow, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, Atlantic Council

Lt. General David A. Deptula, USAF (Ret.)
Senior Military Scholar, U.S. Air Force Academy

Jon Alterman
Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy and Director of the Middle East Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Joseph Holliday
Fellow, Institute for Study of War

Related Publications

Event Extra: Syria’s Brutal Civil War and the Elusive Quest for Justice

Event Extra: Syria’s Brutal Civil War and the Elusive Quest for Justice

Monday, November 21, 2022

By: Adam Gallagher

In 2016, the U.N. General Assembly established the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria (IIIM), after vetoes in the U.N. Security Council prevented referral of the Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court. IIIM Head Catherine Marchi-Uhel discusses the obstacles to this work, the progress made to date and what lessons it can provide for delivering accountability and justice in other conflicts.

Type: Podcast

Justice, Security & Rule of Law

ISIS is a Problem of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

ISIS is a Problem of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Thursday, July 28, 2022

By: Sarhang Hamasaeed

More than three years after its military defeat in Iraq and Syria, ISIS is a downgraded threat thanks to the collective efforts of the U.S.-led global coalition that coalesced to defeat it along with Iraqi and Syrian partners. While the extremist group’s capacity has been drastically reduced and millions of people have returned home, ISIS has managed to continue attacks year after year despite no longer holding territory. Meanwhile, some of the most difficult human legacies — the challenges facing the people the ISIS conflict left behind — are still with us, with no end in sight.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Violent Extremism

Putin and Erdogan in Iran to Discuss Syria’s Future, Ukraine War

Putin and Erdogan in Iran to Discuss Syria’s Future, Ukraine War

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

By: John Drennan;  Sarhang Hamasaeed;  Mona Yacoubian

The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran are gathering in Tehran, with Ankara’s threat of a new incursion into northern Syria likely to top the agenda. While Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has both domestic and strategic reasons for the move, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi want to maintain the status quo in Syria, where both their countries have expended significant resources to prop up the Assad regime. Russia’s war on Ukraine will also feature prominently at the trilateral summit. Iran has offered to provide Moscow with drones and Putin and Erdogan are reportedly set to discuss restarting Ukrainian grain exports in the Black Sea.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & PreventionGlobal Policy

Could Syria Have Been Saved by a U.S. Effort to Bring It to Peace with Israel?

Could Syria Have Been Saved by a U.S. Effort to Bring It to Peace with Israel?

Thursday, July 14, 2022

By: Adam Gallagher

Over a decade into Syria’s civil war, it’s hard to fathom the country at peace and integrated with the international community. The Assad regime’s brutal oppression of protests in March 2011 sparked more than 10 years of violence, conflict and tragedy in the country. But in the weeks before, there was quiet hope that a clandestine U.S. effort could broker a land-for-peace deal between Israel and Syria. For Syria, such a peace agreement would have resulted in the lifting of U.S. sanctions and financial assistance, trade and investment from the international community, giving Syrians hope for a better future.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

View All Publications