Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria will Inflame the War
By Shamus Cooke
The road to war is paved
with a thousand lies. A fresh fib was tossed on the lie-cluttered
warpath to Syria, when it was announced that the U.S. and Turkey
would create a “safe zone” inside of Syria — supposedly to be aimed
This “safe zone” is a major escalation of war, but
it was described in soft tones by the media, sounding almost cuddly.
In reality, however, a “safe zone” is a
“no-fly zone,” meaning that a nation is planning to implement
military air superiority inside the boundaries of another nation.
It’s long recognized by the international community and U.S.
military personnel as a major act of war. In a war zone an area is
made “safe” by destroying anything in it or around that appears
Turkey has been demanding
this no-fly zone from Obama since the Syrian war started. It’s been
discussed throughout the conflict and even in recent months, though
the intended goal was always the Syrian government.
And suddenly the no-fly zone is happening — right
where Turkey always wanted it — but it’s being labeled an
“anti-ISIS” safe zone, instead of its proper name: “Anti Kurdish and
anti-Syrian government” safe zone.
The U.S. media swallowed the name change without
blinking, but many international media outlets knew better.
For instance, the
International Business Times reported “ [the safe zone
deal]…could mark the end of [Syrian President] Assad…”
The Middle East Eye reported:
“…[the safe zone] marks a breakthrough for Turkey
in its confrontation with the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria.
If the no-fly zone does come into being it will be a body blow for
Assad and his supporters”
Even U.S. media outlets acknowledged that the
primary goal of Obama’s safe zone ally, Turkey, was defeating the
Kurdish fighters and the Syrian government, both of whom have been
the most effective fighters against ISIS.
Syrian regime change is also the goal of the
ground troops who will be filling the void left by ISIS, who The New
York Times labeled “relatively moderate Syrian insurgents,” a
The New York Times
confirmed the goals of the safe zone allies:
“…both the Turks and the Syrian insurgents see
defeating President Bashar al-Assad of Syria as their first
If the Syrian government wasn’t the target of the
safe zone, then Syrian government troops would be the ones to
control the safe zone post ISIS, as they did before ISIS. And if
regime change wasn’t the target, then the Syrian government would
have been consulted and coordinated with to attack ISIS, since Syria
is involved with heavy fighting against ISIS in the same region that
the safe zone is being carved out.
These steps weren’t taken because the “safe zone”
plan is much bigger than ISIS.
Obama hasn’t detailed who the “relatively
moderate” fighters are that will control the safe zone, but it’s
easy to guess. We only have to look at the Syrian rebels on the
ground who are effective fighters and control nearby territory.
The most powerful non-ISIS group in the region
recently re-branded itself as the
“Conquest Army,” a coalition of Islamic extremists led by Jabhat
al-Nusra — the official al-Qaeda affiliate — and the group Ahrar
al-Sham, whose leader previously stated that his group was “the real
al Qaeda.” The Conquest Army actively coordinates with Turkey and
Saudi Arabia, and is also populated with U.S.-trained fighters.
These groups share the ideology and tactics of
ISIS, the only difference being their willingness to work with the
United States and Turkey. It’s entirely likely that once the “safe
zone” operation starts, many ISIS troops will simply change shirts
and join Jabhat al-Nusra, since there is no principled difference.
Obama knows that the foreign ground troops
controlling the “safe zone” are targeting the Syrian government;
consequently, U.S. military planes will be acting as the de-facto
air force for Al-Qaeda against the Syrian government.
Thus, direct military confrontation with the
Syrian government is inevitable. President Assad is already
attacking ISIS in the area that the U.S.-Turkey alliance wants to
make “safe” via its coordinated military operation. Syrian fighter
jets will eventually be targeted, since the goal is to allow
extremist groups a “safe zone” to continue their attacks on the
Syrian government after ISIS is dealt with.
This danger was also acknowledged by
The New York Times:
“Whatever the goal, the plan [safe zone] will put
American and allied warplanes closer than ever to areas that Syrian
aircraft regularly bomb, raising the question of what they will do
if Syrian warplanes attack their partners [“relatively moderate
rebels”] on the ground.”
The answer is obvious: U.S. and Turkish fighter
jets will engage with Syrian aircraft, broadening and deepening the
war until the intended aim of regime change has been accomplished.
This is exactly how events developed in Libya,
when the U.S.-NATO led a “no-fly zone” that was supposedly created
to allow a “humanitarian corridor,” but quickly snowballed into its
real goal: regime change and assassination of Libya’s president.
This epic war crime is still celebrated by Obama and
Clinton as a “victory,” while Libyans drown in the Mediterranean
to escape their once-modern but now obliterated country.
If Obama’s goal in Syria was actually defeating
ISIS, this could have been achieved at any time, in a matter of
weeks. It would simply take a serious and coordinated effort with
U.S. regional allies, while coordinating with the non-allies already
fighting ISIS: Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah.
If Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Jordan were
involved in the fight on ISIS it would be quickly strangled of cash,
guns, and troops, and be massively out-powered. War over.
The only reason this hasn’t happened is that the
U.S. and its allies have always viewed ISIS as a convenient proxy
against Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran, not to mention leverage against
the Iran-friendly government of Iraq.
Turkey remains the biggest obstacle to defeating
ISIS, since it’s been helping it for years. ISIS has long used the
Turkish border to escape Syrian government attacks, seek medical
assistance, and get supplies and reinforcements. ISIS is so welcomed
inside Turkey that ISIS promotes Turkey on social media as the
international transit hub for jihadis wanting to join ISIS. Turkish
immigration and customs looks the other way, as does the Turkish
In discussing the “safe zone,” the U.S. media
always ignore the concept of national sovereignty — the basis for
international law. The boundaries of countries are sacred from the
standpoint of international law. The only just war is a defensive
one. When one country implements a no-fly zone in another country,
national boundaries are violated and international law is broken by
an act of war.
The Obama administration is aware of the above
dynamics, but has again tossed caution to the wind as he did in
2013, during the ramp up to its aborted bombing campaign against the
A U.S.-Turkish no-fly zone will deepen an already
regional war: Iran and Hezbollah have recently ramped up direct
support of the Syrian government. As Turkish and the U.S. military
enter the war space for the first time, confrontation is inevitable.
Confrontation is the plan.
Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade
unionist, and writer for Workers Action. He can be reached at