At PA Rally, Trump Says He’ll Implement “Safe Zones” in Syria
At a rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania on Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump cycled through his usual talking points, like “America first,” but also spoke about an ongoing tragedy on the other side of the world: “When I look at what is going on in Syria, it’s so sad,” Trump told the raucous crowd at the Giant Center. “It’s so sad, and we’re going to help people,” he added, by building “safe zones” in Syria.
Trump added that he would ask Persian Gulf countries to help pay for the project. Many military analysts and experts view “safe zones” as being too difficult to manage and protect, and warn that they could come with extreme risks as well. For one, the effort would require U.S. boots on the ground to protect Syrians within the “safe zones.” Some also point to a potentially deadly consequence of establishing “safe zones:” the implication of “unsafe zones,” or the area outside the protected “safe zone” which the Syrian regime or jihadist groups could abuse and pummel as free-for-all areas with an unhinged license to kill.
Thursday’s rally was Trump’s second of the week, and was a part of his “thank you” tour of battleground states that were key to his Election Day victory. He was the first Republican to win Pennsylvania since 1988. He won 44,292 more votes than Democrat Hillary Clinton, winning by less than one percent of total ballots cast in the state. And while he recapped his election triumph, and ran through his usual themes, his mention of “safe zones” in Syria was unusual, and perhaps signals his policy plans for the war-torn nation.
Trump is not the only notable leader to call for “safe zones” in Syria. In April, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been trying to stave the building tides of Syrian refugees into Europe by brokering a deal with Turkey, said she is in favor of “safe zones.” But the UN and other human rights groups oppose such a move, as does President Barack Obama. “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,” Obama said at the time.
The situation in Syria has deteriorated since April, and it’s unclear if Merkel would stand by her remarks from then. After a three-week offensive, Aleppo is officially in the hands of government forces, as hundreds of civilians have been killed, and thousands more displaced from their homes. Refugees from Syria might find it difficult to emigrate to the U.S. once Trump is in office. In his rally on Thursday, Trump reiterated that he will restrict immigrants from countries that have a history of Islamic extremism from entering the U.S.