Two days after the US and Turkey hinted that they would be willing to set up a no fly zone in Syria to help the rebels, the head of the civilian Syria National Council called for "safe zones" to be established near the Turkish border.
Abdelbasset Sida, head of the Syrian National Council, said the United States had realised that the absence of a no-fly zone to counter Assad's air superiority hindered rebel movements.
He was speaking a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her country and Turkey would study a range of possible measures to help Assad's foes, including a no-fly zone, although she indicated no decisions were necessarily imminent.
"It is one thing to talk about all kinds of potential actions, but you cannot make reasoned decisions without doing intense analysis and operational planning," she said after meeting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul.
Though any intervention appears to be a distant prospect, her remarks were nevertheless the closest Washington has come to suggesting direct military action in Syria.
"There are areas that are being liberated," Sida told Reuters by telephone from Istanbul. "But the problem is the aircraft, in addition to the artillery bombardment, causing killing, destruction."
He said the establishment of secure areas on the borders with Jordan and Turkey "was an essential thing that would confirm to the regime that its power is diminishing bit by bit".
A no-fly zone imposed by NATO and Arab allies helped Libyan rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi last year. The West has shown little appetite for repeating any Libya-style action in Syria, and Russia and China strongly oppose any such intervention.
Insurgents have expanded territory they hold near the Turkish border in the last few weeks since the Syrian army gathered its forces for an offensive to regain control of Aleppo, Syria's biggest city and economic hub.
I think it is no longer a distant possibility that we intervene in some way in Syria. It is getting very messy there and every day that goes by ups the chances that the war will spread.
Our newest best buddies, the "moderate Islamists" who run Turkey, would be an ideal partner in any intervention. Prime Minister Erdogan is making noises as if he is resigned to some kind of military action and since the Arab League and the rest of the world seem unwilling to act, the US and Turkey could partner for some kind of minor intervention.
An extremely dangerous proposition with unknown consequences.