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Wednesday 3 June 2015

Opening contributions to the No-Fly Zone debate

Articles by Syria Civil Defence head Raed al Saleh, left activist Brian Slocock, foreign and security policy specialist Bente Scheller, aid agency CEO Barry Andrews, Syria Solidarity UK founder member Mark Boothroyd, EA WorldView editor Scott Lucas, and human rights activist Clara Connolly.

Earlier in 2015 we agreed on a call for a no-fly zone for Syria, a decision that has been controversial. Even within Syria Solidarity UK opinion is not uniform: some supporters have strong objections, and some have caveats.

We make our call for a no-fly zone in solidarity with Syrians: with Syria Civil Defence rescue volunteers, with non-violent activists of the Planet Syria campaign, with Syrian doctors, with the Syrian Coalition, with Syrians who first called for a no-fly zone in street demonstrations as long ago as October 2011.

To encourage debate we wanted to publish arguments both for and against, as well as explorations of issues involved in choosing one form of no-fly zone versus another. We hope this set of articles will be only the beginning. Please respond in the comments, or if you would like to submit an article please email us at info@syriauk.org

Stop the barrel bombs in Syria

By Raed al Saleh, head of Syria Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets. This article was first published by The Washington Post.
No words can adequately describe what it is like to save a life. It is pure elation to find and rescue a baby from beneath mountains of rubble. But for us the elation never lasts because we are constantly under attack.

In Aleppo, as in many Syrian cities, the sky has become an obsession. Children on street corners stand watching for helicopters. A clear sky in the morning means we must prepare for barrel bombs.

The NFZ demand risks diversion and division

By Brian Slocock, a long-time left activist and retired political scientist.
The simple fact is that a No-Fly Zone will not happen within the next two years. The US government has recently reiterated what everyone knows to be its policy—it will not support any form of NFZ. Given the geopolitical context of the Syrian conflict—involving both a major regional power like Iran and a global power like Russia—regional states like Turkey will not act on their own.

Moreover there is nothing that the SSM can do to influence this fact. We have no prospect of mobilising a large body of popular sentiment on this issue (and anyway public opinion has little influence over security-related decisions).

Incredibly loud and extremely ignored

By Bente Scheller, Director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Middle East office in Beirut, and author of The Wisdom of Syria’s Waiting Game: Foreign Policy under the Assads.
There are many ways to die in Syria. Silently, through malnutrition as a result of starvation campaigns, or as a result of the devastation of the country’s deliberately targeted health system. Visibly, because the victims die at the hands of ISIS which wants to convey the message of its ruthlessness and absolute brutality. And incredibly loud but mostly unnoticed through the continued airstrikes the regime’s air force is carrying out on daily basis.

A measure of last resort

By Barry Andrews, CEO of GOAL, the Dublin-based international aid agency.
Four years ago the government of Syria began, in effect, to prosecute a war against its own civilian population. Since the carnage began, the world community has stood by and did little while Syria has torn itself apart. This “hands-off” attitude (one could hardly elevate it to the status of a policy) has failed miserably. The conflict in Syria continues unabated, with no prospect of an end in sight, and casualties mounting by the day. One measure of the desperation of ordinary Syrians to escape the never-ending conflagration is the growing numbers of them risking their lives in over-laden, barely seaworthy boats to cross the Mediterranean and Aegean seas.

No-Fly Zone: A dangerous illusion

By Mark Boothroyd, a founder member of the Syria Solidarity Movement.
As proposed by the White Helmets and currently supported by the Syria Solidarity Movement, the demand is that the governments of Britain, France and the US act in accordance with UN Resolutions 2139 and 2209 and implement a NFZ to stop the barrel bombing and chemical weapon attacks and provide a safe zone for civilians, refugees and aid workers.

While this demand would be supportable if those countries were honest and pure in their intentions towards Syria, they are not. They are imperialist powers whose history of interference and reactionary policy in the region goes back to the Sykes-Picot agreement and before.

A No-Fly Zone to save lives—and to change the political dynamic

By Scott Lucas, Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham, and founder and editor of EA WorldView.
I have supported no-fly zones and safe havens inside Syria since 2012. I still support them.

I support no-fly zones and safe havens, first and foremost, because I believe they will save the lives of some Syrians and improve the lives of many others.

In early 2012, to save his regime, President Assad unleashed Syria’s missiles and warplanes across the country. Cities such as Homs were devastated, tens of thousands of people were killed, and millions were displaced in the next three years.

Sins of omission can be mortal

By Clara Connolly, immigration lawyer and human rights activist.
When Assad began to show his people, and the world, that he was prepared to destroy the country so that he could continue to rule it, neither his people, nor the watching world, could comprehend the manic destructiveness to which he would descend. When things get that mad, bad, or surreal, human beings tend to think ‘surely something can stop this?’

But throughout these 4 long years, during which time a peaceful revolution has descended into a vicious and often sectarian struggle, the inescapable fact is that Assad first and last has had a monopoly of air power, and therefore a monopoly of destruction. Despite the best efforts of some of the recent Syrian actors, the regime could and did kill by far the most non-combatants.