The demand for an international No Fly Zone over Syria has been raised by protestors there. Yesterday, another 29 people were killed for taking to the streets to protest against the dictatorial Assad regime and for democracy. The toll in Syria stands at around 3,000 dead, since the people’s movement began its current phase in late January this year. Local coordinating committees exist in many parts of Syria and these grass-roots organisations organise the protests, which are invariably met with violent suppression by the state, including the use of snipers.
I don’t know enough about the circumstances to have an opinion about the No Fly Zone. My impression has been that the regime uses ground troops to suppress resistance. I’m not aware of any Gaddafi-style strafing from the air. But what I do like is the people’s call for international support of a practical military nature, not just ‘moral support’.
The protestors know how the NFZ was effective in helping to bring down Gaddafi’s regime, and they know it involved an invasion of Libyan sovereignty (air space) and an effective naval blockade on the part of the British Navy. I’d be surprised if they are not aware, too, that the NFZ over Libya involved much more than mere protecting the people from the Libyan Air Force, though that was its pretext. The US and NATO used the NFZ (read: more than a hundred Tomahawk missiles) to destroy the Gaddafi regime’s facilities and forces on the ground. And the French went further with direct hardware assistance to the rebels, including air-drops of assault rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades and launchers. A NFZ over Syria would make sense if used in that way: namely, to weaken the military capabilities of the regime on the ground (especially its tanks) and demoralize it. And, of course, military hardware should be supplied to the Free Syria Army, which consists at this stage of regular Army defectors. As in any democratic revolution, the people need to defeat the regime militarily.
The Syrian protestors’ call for a No Fly Zone is essentially a call for international support of a military interventionist nature on the part of foreign governments to weaken the Assad regime militarily and support the people’s democratic aspirations.
In Syria, as in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, etc., you do not see the protestors burning the US flag but rather seeking, and supporting, imperialist intervention when it serves their (the peoples) strategic objective.
Since the victory in Iraq, those who prefer to leave oppressed people to their own devices, even if it means massacre and the likelihood of regional conflagration, have been unable to mobilize anything resembling an “anti-war” mass movement. Some of the prominent activists who opposed the Iraq War even supported the No Fly Zone over Libya. (Yes, ‘the times they are a-changin’). And the anti-war mass movement against the Iraq War collapsed in a heap as soon as millions of Iraqis went to the polls to actually vote for a parliament and government of their choice – much to the anger, fear and chagrin of just about every dictator in the region.
Those sections – or sects – of what passes for the Left who advocated defence of Libya against US imperialism couldn’t mobilize anyone other than themselves. At this site, we called for a NFZ over Libya immediately after the first strafing took place there.
Now, with Syrians demanding a NFZ, does anyone have enough knowledge of the situation there to know whether that is the best way to go?