UPDATE: The provision discussed below did not end up in the final draft of the refugee executive order. It remains unclear if the Trump administration continues to pursue such a policy behind the scenes.
An early draft of an Executive Order Pres. Donald Trump will likely issue Jan. 26 features a provision that sets the stage for further military intervention in Syria.
You will find this relatively short directive buried deep in the EO.
Sec. 6. Establishment of Safe Zones to Protect Vulnerable Syrian Populations. Pursuant to the cessation of refugee processing for Syrian nationals, the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Defense, is directed within 90 days of the date of this order to produce a plan to provide safe areas in Syria and in the surrounding region in which Syrian nationals displaced from their homeland can await firm settlement, such as repatriation or potential third-country resettlement.
How exactly would the U.S. establish a “safe-zone” within the borders of another sovereign country? That remains unclear, but it would undoubtedly require military force.
At the least, the U.S. would need to enforce a no-fly zone over the area. Trump called for the establishment of a no-fly zone during the campaign. Last fall, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, said maintaining a no-fly zone in Syria would likely lead to war with Russia.
Right now… for us to control all of the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia.”
The Kremlin has already reacted to Trump statements relating to the establishment of a safe-zone ahead of the official executive order.
No, our American partners did not consult with us,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said according to a Radio Free Europe report. “It’s a sovereign decision.”
Peskov said it was necessary to “thoroughly calculate all possible consequences” and that “it’s important that this [plan] does not exacerbate the situation with refugees.”
Maintaining a safe-zone in Syria would likely take more than air power. Germany floated the idea of Syrian safe-zones last spring. Pres. Obama hinted at what such a move would require.
Sadly, it is very difficult to see how it would operate short of us essentially being willing to militarily take over a big chunk of that country,” he said.
That would almost certainly require boots on the ground. In other words, Trump’s EO may well pave the way for full involvement of U.S. troops in the Syrian civil war.
No doubt, this would please the neocons on both sides of the political aisle. The defeat of Hillary Clinton certainly hasn’t dulled their appetite for regime change in Syria. During the campaign, Trump at least hinted at a less interventionist foreign policy, but this EO could easily lead the U.S. straight into all-out war with the Syrian government – and Russia.
Trump supporters will cheer the plan because they don’t want refugees in the U.S. And most of them probably won’t mind cracking a few skulls in Syria to get the job done. Of course, they remain completely ignorant to the fact that their country’s incessant military intervention helped exacerbate the very refugee problem they will now trust military intervention to help solve.