US Senators Call for Safe Zones in Syria

After four years of conflict in Syria – with a humanitarian atrocity that emerged from peaceful protests on the streets of Damascus and Aleppo – the horror of the statistics may have surpassed fully comprehendible proportions; many Americans seem to have turned a blind eye to this atrocity, unable to see a way past the unmitigated violence. Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Senator John McCain and Senators Graham, Durbin, and Kaine present an option, a step towards making right all that has gone wrong in Syria. In a letter they presented to President Barack Obama on April 21, the Senators urge the United States establish and enforce one or more humanitarian safe zones in Syria.

They highlight the nature of these war crimes: nearly 2,000 barrels bombs dropped in this past year alone, the ongoing use of chlorine gas, and the use of torture, rape and disappearances well documented by the UN and other humanitarian organizations. Chairman McCain and the other Senators urge for an immediate establishment of humanitarian safe zones fully consistent with UN Security Resolutions 2139, 2165, and 2191 to ensure effective distribution of much needed humanitarian aid and an alleviation of some of the human suffering within Syria. 

Here at the Atlantic Council, Ambassador Frederic C. Hof, Senior Resident Fellow in the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, has also been pushing the issue of humanitarian safe zones forward. He worked with Senator Kaine in preparation of this letter and met with members of the administration, US State Department, US Department of Defense, and US Congressional staff to discuss an initiative that requires the establishment of humanitarian safe zones in Syria: putting “train-and-equip” on steroids.

While a solution to the conflict is ideal, a reduction in barrel bombs and delivery of humanitarian aid will at least show the Syrian people that they are not forgotten and their suffering is not being overlooked. Individuals unwilling to accept the humanitarian atrocity in Syria must work together to keep this discussion going.

Click here to download the letter.

Andrea Taylor is an Assistant Director for Syria research at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.