“The impulse behind this is understandable in terms of the growing refugee burden that Turkey is facing inside its country, and the desirability if it could be done with sufficient security to manage displaced persons and other victims of the conflict inside their own country,” Vershbow said.
“It’s not something that you can just declare. Again, this not being examined in NATO at the present time. But the situation is moving fast: In terms of refugees, the numbers are escalating rapidly, so we shall see if this idea gains traction.”
The Obama administration has remained opposed to arming the Syrian opposition or establishing a no-fly zone, out of concern for further militarizing the conflict, while providing non-military aid.
But the situation is also made more difficult because of other factors, including the regional dynamics at play in Syria and a different kind of terrain and capability than NATO faced in Libya.
Vershbow discussed the differences between Syria and Libya and why getting involved in Syria would be more complicated. The Obama administration has also rejected comparisons between the two conflicts.
Among the differences Vershbow highlighted were a lack of clearly defined territory, an urban nature of the conflict, Syria’s more advances defenses and the lack of international consensus on the issue.
When it comes to chemical weapon in Syria — which President Obama called a red line that could change his calculus there — Vershbow said that the United States, Turkey and Israel were taking the lead on the issue.