President Donald Trump vowed to make Arab gulf states help pay for safe zones in Syria to curb the flow of Syrian refugees at a campaign rally in Florida Saturday.
Trump’s comments echo language from his January executive order suspending immigration from seven terror-rife countries, along with past comments to the reporters. 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 an ABC News interview from his first week in office.
Trump suggested at the rally that the Gulf states have “a lot of money” that can be used to construct the safe zones in Syria.
His January executive order 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 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 Assad’s regime and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Gulf Arab states are more likely to work with the Trump administration, given his hard-line stance on Iran. Many Gulf states were deeply worried that the Obama administration sacrificed allied commitments in the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.
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 six-year Syrian civil war. The peace process includes some rebel groups, the Assad regime and 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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