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Originally published in the Huffington Post.
Several big questions remain about President Donald Trump’s possible policy for safe zones in Syria, but any plan will shift the dynamics of the conflict and risks creating deeper divisions in the country’s political and social landscape.
BEIRUT – When Hillary Clinton advocated a no-fly zone and safe areas as part of her Syria policy, the then presidential candidate Donald Trump replied, in his typically dramatic rhetoric, that her strategy would “end up in World War Three.” But President Trump has recently said that he would “absolutely do safe zones in Syria for the people,” raising significant questions about how his plans would differ from past proposals.
Safe zones were included in last month’s draft executive order, “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals,” which also outlined the suspension of the Syrian refugee resettlement program in the U.S. The draft stated that the U.S. secretaries of state and defense would have 90 days to produce “a plan to provide safe areas in Syria and in the surrounding region.”
“In principle, a safe zone could work to defend civilians,” said Kyle Orton, a research fellow at the London-based Henry Jackson Society think-tank. “The devil is in the details, though. What is its purpose? Does the regime coalition sign off on it? In practice, a safe zone could lessen casualties in the short term and increase them over the long term – or vice versa.”
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