Mattis: US Still Studying Syria Safe Zones Plan

A tepid statement of support from the US last week on the Syrian safe zones scheme doesn’t mean the US is wholly on board, though according to Defense Secretary James Mattis, the US has been told some of the “general parameters” and are still carefully studying the idea.

The deal was agreed to by the Turkish, Iranian, and Russian government, and the Assad government has said it will respect the zones. The Syrian rebels have ruled out doing so, insisting they won’t trust any deal Iran is involved in. Mattis says the US decision on this depends on a lot of “major details” still unclear.

Russian officials have conceded a lot of details aren’t known, and may not be known for months. The ones Mattis appeared particularly concerned about were enforcement of the zones, and exactly who will be kept out of the safe zones. That later question has an answer, but not one the US likes.

The whole point of the safe zones is to put demilitarized areas between factions fighting one another to try to slow the war, and this would mean effectively that all combatant forces are to be kept out of the zone, including US troops and warplanes.

Russia made this very clear when the zones were first agreed to, that they expect all planes to stay out of the airspace above those areas, and the US has already made clear they don’t intend to respect that. Right now, that’s all highly theoretical, as the extent safe zones aren’t in places the US was attacking in the first place. In the long run, however, US interest in expanding their Syria war, and imposing regime change, may ultimately preclude them agreeing to not attack anyplace.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of