“The best option” which doesn’t involve direct US military intervention in Syria would be a “safe zone” “located on the Syrian side of the Turkish border that is defended by Turkish artillery, missile, and antiaircraft systems located on the Turkish side of the border,” Robert Ford, former US ambassador to Syria has written.
In an op-ed in foreign Affairs, Ford, who served as US envoy to Syria from 2010 to 2014, and who helped incite the protests against the Assad government which later turned violent, cited the dreadful humanitarian situation in Idlib. He suggested that if the Syrian Army “captured” the region’s civilians it would arrest or simply kill them. “When Assad’s forces reach the Turkish border, the grim fate of the refugees will be sealed unless Turkey allows them to cross,” he warned.
Praising Turkey’s operations in Syria, Ford claimed that Ankara was simply “unable to absorb another wave of refugees of this scale,” and argued the only thing that may be holding it back from a full-scale offensive against Damascus is the “Russian warplanes [that] control the skies over western Syria.”
Under his ‘safe zone’ concept, Ford suggests Turkey could shoot down Syrian aircraft from within Turkey’s borders, and attack Syrian ground forces approaching the safe zone “with artillery and rocket fire, coordinating with Syrian opposition fighters.” (Ford doesn’t mention that the ‘opposition fighters’ operating in Idlib include the Nusra Front,* i.e. the Syrian offshoot of al-Qaeda,* and other Islamist fundamentalist terrorists).
Ford says his “safe zone” “could be less than ten miles [16 km] deep – only as far as the Turkish military could reliably cover from its side of the border.”
Admitting that his former boss, President Obama, rejected the idea of a Syria safe zone in the 2010s amid fears of getting into a war with Russia, Ford nevertheless argued that Washington and Ankara should sweep their problems under the rug and “stand by Turkey if its forces defend a safe zone just inside Syria.” He added that NATO must make clear to Moscow that the bloc would “defend its member states’ borders.”
'US Should Support al-Qaeda'
This isn’t the first time President Obama’s former envoy has come up with such a ‘non-conventional’ strategy for Syria. In 2015, Ford joined former Obama CIA director David Patraeus in calling on the US to work with al-Nusra to fight both Daesh (ISIS)* and the Syrian government. Later, he suggested that the US should prop up jihadist groups and allow them to participate in the peace process. Ford quit from his job as ambassador in 2014 over Obama’s handling of the Syrian conflict.
Once characterized as the chief architect of the US regime change strategy in Syria, Ford admitted in 2015 that Washington had already “looked the other way while the Nusra Front and armed groups on the ground, some of which are getting help from the US, have coordinated in military operations against the [Assad] regime.”
* Banned in Russia and many other countries.