August 24th, 2016

Did Washington Just Declare a 'No Fly' Zone in Syria?


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Reading between the lines in today's Pentagon press briefing, a bombshell US policy shift is becoming more apparent: Syrian forces and their Russian partners are being told that conducting military operations in some parts of Syrian airspace opens them up to being shot down by the US military.
Pentagon Spokesman Peter Cook was asked numerous times in numerous ways whether this amounts to a US "no fly zone" over parts of Syria. His first response was vague but threatening:

We will use our air power as needed to protect coalition forces and our partnered operations. ...We advise the Syrian regime to steer clear of [certain] areas.

The policy shift was so apparent that, one-by-one, the press corps asked for clarification. Does this mean that the US would shoot down Russian or Syrian planes if they attacked any US-backed partners even if they were engaged against Syrian government forces? Are those "coalition forces" and "partnered operations" receiving US protection against attack from the air always in receipt of that protection, or only when they are actively engaged in military operations? What are the rules of engagement?
There was no clear answer from the Pentagon spokesman.

"Is this a 'no-fly' zone, then," asked another reporter. It's not a "no-fly zone" Cook responded.
Another journalist tried to get some clarity:

How is telling Syria not to fly in certain areas not a 'no fly' zone?

"Call it what you will," Cook eventually said.
Another journalist asked, "Do you think the Syrian regime has the right to fly over its own territory?"
Same answer: "We will use our air power as needed to protect coalition forces and our partnered operations."
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