Obama rules out military intervention in Syria, weighs humanitarian corridors

Despite his strong words against Bashar Assad’s horrendous treatment of the opposition to his rule, US President Barack Obama Tuesday, Feb. 28, has vetoed plans submitted to him last week for Western-Arab military intervention to stop it, debkafile’s Washington sources report.  He is weighing an alternative plan for setting up “humanitarian corridors” in the most embattled areas. That too would be contingent on Russian endorsement, because Obama believes Moscow holds the key to Assad’s consent – or at least abstention from sending his army to attack the aid routes.
The Russians have not so far responded to feelers on this from Washington. Neither have they rescinded their threat to block any such plan if tabled at the Security Council.
Ankara provided the clincher for the US president’s decision against military intervention in Syria by its evasiveness over participation in the operation. The plan has nowhere to go without Turkey’s cooperation and the use of its bases from which Western and Arab forces would mount the operation.
debkafile’s sources note that Turkish leaders are vocal about the pressing need to save the Syrian people, but when it comes to the brass tacks of operational planning, they develop cold feet.
The eight-point military plan rejected by Obama was first revealed exclusively in DEBKA-Net-Weekly 530 of Feb. 24.  We are rerunning those points here since at some point – if the “humanitarian corridors” project fails to take off-  the plan may be put back on the table.
1. A group of nations led by the United States will reserve a quarter of Syrian territory (185,180 sq. km) as a safe haven for protecting more than a quarter of the nation’s population (5.5 million people) a under a collective air shield.
2. The operation will be exclusively airborne. No foreign boots will touch the ground in Syria. American, Turkish, French, Italian and British Air Force planes will fly out from three Middle East air bases – Incirlik and Diyarbakir in Turkey, where the US maintains substantial air force strength, and the British facility in Akrotiri, Cyprus.
3. France has offered to make its aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle available but accepts that without US air power, spy satellites and operational and logistical resources, the operation will not be feasible.
4. The safe haven will range from Tarkush on Syria’s northern border with Turkey and include the besieged towns of Jabal Al Zaweya, Idlib, Hama, Homs and their outlying villages.
5. The safe haven will be placed off limits to Syrian military and security personnel and its air space declared a no fly zone. Syrian intruders will be challenged by the Western fighter-bombers shielding the protected area.
6. The makeup of the coalition force for saving Syria is still a work in progress. Sarkozy has obtained the consent of Britain, Italy, Turkey and Qatar and is in discussion with Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Participation of the last two would make it possible to expand the safe haven to southern and eastern Syria, to include the restive towns of Daraa, Deir a-Zour and Abu Kemal.
7. A regional Syrian administration assisted by Western liaison officers would run the safe haven’s day-to-day affairs. The coalition would take care of the population’s food, medicines and medical care needs.
8. The Western-Arab expedition would not seek Bashar Assad’s ouster as a mission goal or engage in combat with Syrian forces outside the safe haven.

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