If the international community chooses to pursue a no-fly zone in northern Syria it must commit fully, the U.S. Marine Corps general who led a no-fly zone over Iraq said Monday.
"If we're going to save lives, [if] we're going to secure an unstable part of the world that affects us all, make the damn commitment," retired Gen. Anthony Zinni said, noting that doing so would require "a hell of a lot of" ground troops.
"You can't do it with piecemeal commitments," he said during a Middle East Institute-hosted conference on Operation Provide Comfort, the U.S.-led mission to enforce a no-fly zone in Iraq after the first Gulf War. "Once you commit you're in for all of it."
President Barack Obama has largely opposed such calls, emphasizing the complex military-political dimensions of the Syrian conflict, particularly the strong support the Syrian government has from Russia and Iran.
Russia began an air campaign in Syria last September and has since installed sophisticated anti-air munitions in the country, including its touted S-300 and S-400 systems, which can reportedly cover all of Syria and parts of neighboring countries.
But Col. Richard Outzen, a senior military fellow at National Defense University, doubted that Moscow would necessarily oppose a no-fly zone in Syria.
"I personally am not convinced that the Russians would never agree to a protection zone anywhere in Syria," he said speaking during a later panel discussion. "I think that would be a task for diplomacy to take on."
Still, he acknowledged that Russia's integrated air defense system "raises a major problem".