In an apparent break with the Obama White House, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for the creation of a no-fly zone inside Syria Thursday, the day after Russian warplanes started bombing rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
“I personally would be advocating now for a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridors to try to stop the carnage on the ground and from the air, to try to provide some way to take stock of what’s happening, to try to stem the flow of refugees,” Clinton said in an interview with NBC affiliate WHDH in Boston after a campaign event nearby.
U.S. officials confirmed Wednesday that Russian planes had started bombing anti-Assad forces in Syria, but that they did not appear to be targeting Islamic State forces as promised. “I think Putin is playing a very dangerous and cynical game. He’s clearly doing everything he can to prop up Assad and to establish sort of a Russian presence in Syria and the broader Middle East,” Clinton added.
The former secretary of state had not publicly called for the creation of no-fly zones previously, a Clinton spokesperson confirmed Thursday night. But the spokesman did not elaborate on her plans for Syria if elected president. She previously floated the idea in 2012.White House Press Secretary Josh Ernest seemed to rule out the idea of a no-fly zone as recently as Tuesday. “On the no-fly zone, our position on that hasn’t changed, which is at this point that’s not something that we’re considering,” he told reporters during a gaggle aboard Air Force One. “It raises a whole set of logistical questions about how exactly what would be enforced, what sort of resources would be used to actually protect that area. So that’s why at this point we’ve indicated that that’s not something that we’re considering right now.”
While serving in the Obama administration, Clinton tended to advocate a more interventionist policy on Syria’s civil war than some of her counterparts, including Vice President Joe Biden, who is close to deciding on his own presidential run.
Clinton advocated for arming Syrian rebels long before the Obama administration agreed to do so.