Obama is considering a range of weaponry to the rebels, as described in the Washington Post, including surface-to-air missiles. The idea would be to ship them the weapons, bolster their war effort, and watch them topple the blood-soaked dictator — without a deeper U.S. military commitment.

Except that few strategists consider that realistic. Assad has a variety of advantages — an adaptive military estimated at over 50,000; complete air superiority; chemical weapons — that he will retain even if Obama opens a new arms pipeline. Overcoming those advantages means getting, at the least, U.S. and allied airpower involved — a step the Obama administration, and especially the military, want to avoid. Especially since it might involve shooting down Iranian planes, a fateful step.

“The Syrian regime is not collapsing, nor is it on the verge of collapse,” says Christopher Harmer, a former U.S. Navy officer and analyst with the Institute for the Study of War. “Everyone has been saying that for about 18 months. It has contracted, and may be forced to contract further; as long as they have control of their chemical weapons, I don’t think there is a collapse scenario.”…

There’s another option, one several senators have called for: using American and allied air power to take away Assad’s control of the skies. However you construct a no-fly zone — launch Tomahawk missiles from submarines in the Med against Syria’s recently upgraded air defenses; use the U.S.Patriot missile battery in Turkey as the basis for an anti-aircraft effort; scramble F-15s, F-16 or F-22s; whatever — it takes away “an indespensible element of Assad-regime survival,” Harmer argues. The important thing is to stop the Iranian planes filled with weapons and stop the Beechcraft-sized Syrian planes from conducting aerial intra-theater resupply of Syrian Army forces.