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New US ‘Safe Zone’ Plan for Refugees Seen as Ploy to Break-Up Syria

© REUTERS / Yuri GripasUS Secretary of State John Kerry
US Secretary of State John Kerry - Sputnik International
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US experts on the Middle East claim that the "safe zone" for refugees in Syria now being advocated by US Secretary of State John Kerry could be used as a springboard for military or guerilla operations to destabilize or topple the country’s government.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The "safe zone" for refugees in Syria now being advocated by US Secretary of State John Kerry could be used as a springboard for military or guerilla operations to destabilize or topple the country’s government, US experts on the Middle East told Sputnik.

"The current Turkish government has argued for it because it would provide a crucial beachhead for its continued campaign against the government and the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Syria," Middle East historian and analyst Helena Cobban told Sputnik on Friday.

The Obama administration has been reviewing the idea of creating a safe zone in Syria, Kerry told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday.

The idea of a "safe zone" or a "no-fire zone" inside Syria, for people fleeing the civil war's many battlefields has been around for a long time, and has been particularly strongly pushed by Turkey, Cobban noted.

A quarter century ago, Turkey used such a "safe zone" to weaken and eventually break up the state of Iraq, she recalled.

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a news conference in Vienna, Austria, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015 - Sputnik International
Kerry: Establishing Syrian Safe Zone ‘Very Much a Consideration’
"That certainly was the role of the no-fly zone that the UN endorsed for northern Iraq 25 years ago… It allowed Turkey to push back into Iraq the many Iraqi Kurds who had fled to Turkish Kurdistan in 1990-91 and was a major factor fragmenting Iraq's territorial integrity," Cobban said.

The United States and its allies have also used the excuse of supposedly humanitarian policies to topple governments in the Middle East over the past five years, Cobban pointed out.

"The lessons of the West's abuse of allegedly ‘humanitarian’ policy aims became starkly clearer after March 2011, when NATO air forces used a claim of ‘humanitarian’ action to enable a campaign of forced regime change in Libya," she observed.

Such a zone was not feasible under current circumstances and, even it could be established, would not be safe for civilians, Antiwar.com news editor Jason Ditz told Sputnik.

"[It is] neither feasible nor reasonable anymore," he said. "The ‘safe zone’ scheme has been proposed for years by Turkey, primarily as a place to herd refugees. But talk of also using it as a staging ground for pro-West rebels made it clear this would never be a particularly safe place for civilians."

Turkish soldiers on a tank sit opposite the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, at the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern Turkish village of Mursitpinar, Sanliurfa province (File) - Sputnik International
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Both Turkey and Germany have advocating imposing a no-fly zone over Syria allegedly to help speed up the process of finding a political settlement in the country.

"The plan has been talked up again recently, but is likely impossible to even attempt anymore," Ditz said.

He explained that such a zone was always predicated on the United States imposing a no-fly zone over northern Syria, to keep the Syrian Air Force away from the rebels.

"Now that Russia is also involved in airstrikes in the same area, a unilateral US no-fly zone becomes unthinkable," Ditz concluded.

Helena Cobban is a Middle East historian and publisher of Just Books Publishing specializing in issues of Middle East war and peace.

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