National Security

Trump Mulling Safe Spaces For Syrian Refugees … In Syria

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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President Donald Trump indicated he is committed to creating a safe zone inside Syria for affected civilians to curb refugee flows to the West, according to a Thursday interview with ABC News.

Trump couched safe zone implementation in Syria as a way to protect the U.S. from prospective infiltration by terrorists posing as refugees. “I’ll absolutely do safe zones in Syria for the people,” he declared in his interview.

Trump’s comments mesh with a leaked copy of an executive order he is expected to sign titled, “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals.” The order cancels visas from Muslim majority countries with active war-zones and directs the Secretary of State to produce a plan to create a Syrian safe zone within 90 days of the order’s issuance.

Any plan to establish a safe zone in Syria will require extraordinary diplomacy by Secretary of State designate Rex Tillerson. The zone would likely have to be coordinated with the Russian and Turkish governments, who would in turn solicit the acquiescence of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

If the U.S. government decides to unilaterally enforce a safe zone in Syria, it would require the military to shoot down any aircraft that violated the U.S. edict.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford told Congress in September that establishing a unilateral no fly zone in Syria “would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia.” He continued, “That’s a pretty fundamental decision that certainly I’m not going to make.”

Trump has indicated a central tenant of his Syria policy will be coordination with Moscow. Russia is currently spearheading a peace effort in Kazakhstan, designed to bring an end to the nearly 6 year Syrian civil war. The peace process includes some rebel groups, the Assad regime, along with Iran and Turkey.

Turkey’s foreign ministry tacitly endorsed the plan saying, “setting up of safe zones is something Turkey has advocated from the start.” A spokesman for the Russian government demurred on the safe-zone proposal saying “it is important that this does not exacerbate the situation with refugees, but probably all the consequences ought to be weighed up.”

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