During a visit to Istanbul on Saturday US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the establishment of a no-fly zone over some parts of Syria would strengthen the hand of the anti-Assad opposition. The creation of such a zone over Libya last year seriously constrained the use of pro-Gaddafi aviation and artillery. France, Britain and then NATO made ample use of it to eventually bring about a regime change in Libya and this is exactly what may now happen in Syria. Says Adzhar Kurtov, an expert with the Institute of Strategic Assessments in Moscow.
"An analogy with what happened in Libya is hard to ignore here, but the decision to establish a no-fly zone over Libya was made by the UN Security Council, which is still able to make balanced decisions. However, the Americans may try to make it happen in circumvention of the Council, which will set the stage for a ground operation and we already see signs of this in the recent concentrations of armor and artillery along the country’s border with Turkey and Jordan"
Fighting broke out between Jordanian and Syrian forces in a border region between the two countries on Friday involving a number of armored vehicles on both sides. There have been no immediate reports of any one killed or wounded, but it is already obvious that the Syrian conflict is spilling over into neighboring Jordan. Moreover, the Tel Shihab-Turra area where Friday’s clash happened, is used by Syrian refugees to cross into Jordan where an estimated 150,000 Syrians have already found refuge. According to eyewitness reports, the border clash occurred after Syrian refugees tried to cross into Jordan.
Jordan has thus far been more moderate on the Syrian issue than the neighbouring Turkey or some Gulf nations. Worsened relations between Amman and Damascus would obviously have a negative impact on Syrian refugees in the first place. This would also prove helpful to the West, Ankara, Riyadh and other nations seeking to overthrow Bashar al-Assad in beefing up their arguments for toughening the stand on the Syrian government.
But Lebanon has, perhaps, been the worst affected by the dramatic events in Syria. Beirut has traditionally had especially strong ties with Damascus. This is what former Lebanese President Emile Lahoud said about the situation in a comment.
"The Syrian crisis has been raging for 18 months now, but the government still remains in control, which is evidence that it has the support of a very big part of the population. If Syrians really wanted a different president, this would have been the case long ago. The opposition has been getting arms, the latest military hardware; it has the support of western and some Arab mass media, but to no avail. The reason is that many in Syria support their president. If the current Syrian Cabinet falls, the country will be dismembered, and the region, including Lebanon, will plunge into chaos."
Appointing another UN and Arab League special envoy to replace the resigning Kofi Annan could obviously prevent further escalation of the crisis around Syria. But the effort to appoint the successor is clear being delayed by the forces in the West which energetically pressed for the abolition of the office when Mr. Annan was still in charge. These forces are also pressing for the wrapping up of the UN monitor mission in Syria. If the forces in question prevail, the aggravation of the ongoing civil war will prove inevitable. This would, in turn, encourage those seeking the imposition of no-fly zones on the Syrian borders to pass from words to deeds.