Reports from the Reuters news agency suggest that Donald Trump, the new American President, is expected to order the Pentagon and the State Department to craft a plan for setting up “safe zones,” a move that could be in violation of international law and could put the lives of vulnerable people at risk.
The move would be a reversal of the previous American administration policy and would mean escalating the U.S. Military involvement in Syria’s civil war.
The former U.S. President Obama said, “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.
Last April, UN and aid workers rejected a similar idea proposed by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and warned against the safe-zone plan unless there is a way to guarantee the refugees' safety in the war-torn state.
Creation of safe zones would almost certainly mean an increase in the U.S. military involvement in Syria and increase air power if Trump chooses to enforce “no fly” restrictions, and ground forces might also be needed to protect civilians in those areas.
U.S. military officials had long warned that the creation of no-fly zones inside Syria would require a large number of additional resources beyond the fight against Islamic State and it would be difficult to ensure that those areas would not be infiltrated by groups like the Islamic State amid the chaos of Syria's civil war.
However, fighter jets are far from being the only danger. Experts warn that a safe zone imposed without the consent of all warring factions will make it a target and that barrel bombs can be dropped from helicopters. Demilitarisation, one of the main principles of a “safety zone” according to the Geneva conventions, seems near impossible as numerous armed groups vie for supremacy.
Despite hopeful signs that the cessation of hostilities brokered by Russia, Iran and Turkey may provide a window of opportunity, it remains to be seen whether Trump’s proposal can help to overcome the refugee crisis and help stabilise the region.
Read: Trump bans 7 Muslim Countries from entering the United States