Sunday, 29 January 2017

Trump’s First Big Mistake – Justin Raimondo

It’s not too late for this nonsense to be stopped.

The text of a draft executive order on “Protecting the Nation From Terrorist Attacks From Foreign Nationals,” expected to be signed by President Trump, which deals primarily with excluding citizens of selected countries from entering the United States, includes what may be the biggest mistake the newly elected President will ever make:

“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.”

As of this writing, such an order has not been signed by the President, but Trump told reporters “I’ll absolutely do safe zones in Syria for the people.”

This idea is a disaster waiting to happen, and could augur the unraveling of the President’s “America First” foreign policy, which supposedly abjures regime change operations in the Middle East and elsewhere. In 2013 testimony submitted to Congress by then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, the reality of what this would have to mean was outlined:

“Thousands of U.S. ground forces would be needed, even if positioned outside Syria, to support those physically defending the zones. A limited no-fly zone coupled with US ground forces would push the costs over one billion dollars per month.”

John Kerry, citing Department of Defense estimates, testified that “safe zones” would require up to 30,000 troops on the ground.

This wacky idea is something Trump floated during the campaign, when he averred that he would create a “big beautiful safe zone” in war-torn Syria. Vice President Pence also endorsed the idea in his debate with Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine. And the neoconservative faction of the GOP – which bitterly opposed Trump during the campaign, and continues to do so to this day – issued one of their frequent “open letters” demanding the establishment of a safe zone in conjunction with increased support for the “moderate” Islamist rebel campaign to overthrow the regime of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.

A viable space for such a zone is the area currently controlled by the Islamist rebels: the towns of Jarablus and Azaz and surrounding area, next to the Turkish border. Establishing a “safe zone” here would, in effect, carve out a mini-state under the control of Islamists, most of whom are indistinguishable from al-Qaeda and ISIS.
And of course this plan would run into opposition from the Syrian government, which is presently fighting the rebels in conjunction with their Russian allies. It would only be a matter of time before US troops and Syrian forces collided. The Russians, for their part, are already signaling their displeasure, and it is bound to interfere with the Trump administration’s stated desire for a rapprochement with Moscow.

The Russians will need to argue and make a deal with Trump in order to stop such an action. If the US and Russia team up to knock out ISIS, and cut off outside support from countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar, then there will no need for any safe zones.

[Posted at the SpookyWeather blog, January 29th, 2017.]

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