BEIRUT — Britain called on the U.S. and other allies Wednesday to do more to shape the Syrian opposition into a coherent force, saying the re-election of President Barack Obama is an opportunity for the world to take stronger action to end the deadlocked civil war.
Also Wednesday, Turkey said NATO members — including the United States — have discussed using Patriot missiles along the Syrian border. It was unclear whether the purpose was to protect a safe zone inside Syria or to protect Turkey from Syrian regime attacks.
The announcements come as U.S. allies appear to be anticipating a new, bolder approach from Obama now that he has won a second term.
With the re-election of Obama, what you have is a strong confidence on the British side that the U.S. administration will be engaged more on Syria from the get-go, said Shashank Joshi, an analyst at London's Royal United Services Institute, a security think tank.
It remains to be seen, however, if the U.S. plans to change course in any significant way.
Syria's civil war, which activists estimate has killed more than 36,000 people since March 2011, has been the most deadly and prolonged conflict of the Arab Spring. World powers have shown no appetite for foreign military intervention, and there are fears that arming the fractious opposition could backfire, with powerful weapons falling into the hands of extremists.
Against this backdrop, a diplomatic process that has proven increasingly moribund and faltering has been the only real option for peace thus far.
In Washington, the State Department said the Obama administration was open to considering the deployment of Patriot missiles along the Turkish border, as was done previously during the 1990 Gulf War and at the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003.
Officials said such a deployment had been raised by Turkish officials several weeks ago at NATO but that there had been no formal request from Ankara. They stressed that Patriots are defensive and would not be used to help enforce potential no-fly zones over Syrian territory.
A Patriot missile air defense system could be a boost for Assad's enemies.
Since the summer, Assad's regime has significantly increased its use of air power against rebels as government forces are stretched thin on multiple fronts.