Tuesday, 7 January 2014

“They can’t aim very well”

Last June, President Obama argued against a No–Fly Zone in the following terms:
Responding to calls to shut down Syria’s combat aircraft with American air power, Obama said “the fact of the matter is for example, 90 percent of the deaths that have taken place haven’t been because of air strikes by the Syrian air force.”
“Syrian Air Force isn’t particularly good. They can’t aim very well,” he said, adding that most of the action was taking place “on the ground.”
That’s from a June 17th 2013 report by Dan De Luce of AFP, here and here.

That same figure of 90% of opposition casualties not being caused by air strikes was also at the centre of Mark Thompson’s article of the same date for Time. It was attributed to Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Violations Documentations Centre in Syria lists 5,160 individuals killed specifically by aircraft up to June 17th 2013, the date of those articles.

Killed by an air force that “isn’t particularly good.”

Today the VDC’s total number of records of men, women, and children, killed by Assad’s air force has reached 7,510 individuals. By the time you click on this link it may be more. This is a minimum count of confirmed killings by aircraft. The actual number of people is likely over 10,000. Of whom at least 2,000 are children.

Killed by an air force that “can’t aim very well.”

Syria still needs a No-Fly Zone.


Anonymous said...

It is not only a question of the capabilities of the Syrian air force but also of the American air force. A no-fly zone would have impacts beyond downing aircraft. As in Iraq, ground targets would likely be hit. Syrian and American governments realize this. This is an American president who does not want to act because he is afraid of the political implications. The last thing he wants is a decline in his popularity at home and as a result he is absent on the international stage, "leading from behind" and all that.

kellie said...

Yes. The comments were made to downplay the impact of the Syrian air force in order to argue against imposing a no-fly zone, but if one considers their implications re. the relative strength of Syria’s air force vs the US, they indicate that grounding Assad’s planes would not be militarily difficult. The obstacle is clearly political.

The range and number of ground targets that would be hit would depend on the kind of no-fly zone strategy chosen. See Denying Flight: Strategic Options for Employing No-Fly Zones by Karl P. Mueller, RAND Corporation, (PDF). More NFZ reading here.