Petraeus: 'It's not too late' for a no-fly zone in Syria

Former CIA Director David Petraeus on Wednesday said "it's not too late" for a safe zone or no-fly zone to stop Russian and regime bombing in Syria. 

"People keep asking, 'Is it too late?' And the answer is no, it's not too late," he told PBS host Charlie Rose. 

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"It's not too late to declare a safe zone. And it's not too late to declare a no-fly zone. And indeed if the regime air force, for example, bombs folks we're supporting or we're concerned about, we tell them we're going to ground your air force," Petraeus said.  

Calls for a U.S. military option in Syria are growing, as a deal between the U.S. and Russia to implement a seven-day ceasefire and the delivery of humanitarian aid, in exchange for U.S.-Russian military cooperation in Syria, appears to be on the brink of failure. 

Petraeus, former commander of U.S. Central Command, said establishing a safe zone or no-fly zone where Syrian refugees can flee is doable. 

"You can do that. That is very, very straightforward. Very, very quickly. And you don't even have to enter their airspace. You could do it with cruise missiles, air-launched, sea-launched and others," he said. 

Petraeus acknowledged there is no guarantee it would work, which has caused reservation within the Obama administration. But, he said, "the fact is where we are right now is absolutely tragic." 

U.S. military leaders have also been skeptical of a safe zone due to the amount of resources it would take to enforce it on the ground and in the air.

But, Petraeus said, "we have now built forces that can do that on the ground." 

He said if it were up to him, he would have "long since done a safe zone, as well as a no-fly zone." 

"We did a no-fly zone to support the Iraqi Kurds for a better part of a decade or so following the Gulf War," he said.  

Petraeus, as CIA director under President Obama, had advocated, along with then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and then-Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE, for arming vetted anti-regime rebels early on in the civil war, before ISIS officially established itself in Iraq or Syria. 

Petraeus also argued a safe zone or no-fly zone would help alleviate the flood of refugees flowing into Western Europe, he added. 

"This is, again, very doable. Yes, there are risks, and yes, those risks have increased, and gotten more complex and complicated," he said. "But again ... this is a war crime."