Is Donald Trump About to Launch an Operation in Southern Syria?
Building “safe zones” has long been debated. But, because of the risks, most policymakers have stepped back. The Trump administration began seriously considering safe zones as a policy option within a month of entering office. Since then, the idea has gained more traction, principally among Israel and Jordan. In February, President Trump met with King Abdullah to discuss building and enforcing a safe zone. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported last week that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now lobbying for the creation of a buffer zone inside Syria. Yes, there are an amalgam of complexities that must be overcome, but the concept seems to have taken root among America’s regional allies. The larger question remains, is this the goal of an anti-ISIS operation in southern Syria? If so, is the Trump administration willing to put American soldiers on the ground to make such a zone a reality?
The Trump administration has left many uncertain about America’s next step in Syria, or if there will even be a next step. Senior officials have echoed several open-ended comments about the option of further action against Assad. If Trump approves a military operation in southern Syria, it will be imperative that it does not bring U.S. soldiers into open conflict with the regime. That would be hard to avoid.
Jesse Marks is a Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow based in Washington, D.C.
Image: Marines prepare to perform casualty evacuation drills during a training operation. Flickr/U.S. Marine Corps