In Donald Trump news today, President-elect Trump discussed his feelings about the situation in Aleppo, Syria at a rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania Thursday. The rally was part of his "thank you" tour of the United States, and was held at Giant Center, very near the Hershey chocolate factory for which the city is famous.
News from Aleppo, Syria loomed heavily in the air Thursday, as the Aleppo evacuation began amidst a ceasefire following the successful taking of the city by forces of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his ally, Russia. The embattled city of Aleppo is the center of an ongoing humanitarian crisis and is the focal point of tension between the United States and Russia, who have up until now backed different sides in the conflict. Mr. Trump will inherit responsibility for United States involvement in this conflict when he takes office on January 20.
For Donald Trump, news from Aleppo, Syria must be important indeed, and the New York Times reports that he addressed the matter during his Hershey, PA rally.
"When I look at what's going on in Syria, it's so sad," he told the packed Giant Center. "It's so sad, and we're going to help people...We'll build and help build safe zones in Syria, so people will have a chance."
The Trump plan to build "safe zones" in Syria is one that the President-elect mentioned a number of times on the campaign trail. He has framed this plan as a way to solve the refugee crisis in Europe, where great numbers of Syrians have fled from the violence within Syria. It is estimated that some nine million people have been displaced by the conflict, which has raged since 2011. The plan also dovetails with his desire to keep refugees away from American shores, by keeping them within Syria.
Donald Trump proposes that the Gulf States, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, could help defray the costs of the endeavor. The States along the Persian Gulf support the ouster of Assad from Syria and have historically been allied with the United States in opposing Iran and Syria in the region. However, there is little indication of the level of support the proposal has in the Gulf States.
Another hurdle to the Donald Trump "safe zone" plan is the logistics of maintaining these areas. The situation in all of Syria, not just Aleppo, is constantly shifting and complex. Numerous militant groups of various political leanings, ethnic backgrounds, and religious affiliations exist on both sides of the conflict, sometimes switching allegiances. In addition, the constant threat of aerial bombings by Assad government forces and Russia is a daunting obstacle. Maintaining the safety of these "safe zones" almost certainly would require direct involvement from the United States, NATO, or the United Nations and the full cooperation of a newly empowered and emboldened Assad.
However, to Donald Trump, news that Vladimir Putin and Assad are more firmly in control of Aleppo, Syria may not be entirely unwelcome. As pointed out by the Wall Street Journal, Donald Trump has signaled a willingness to work with Putin in defeating the ISIS terrorist group in Syria. This cooperation could potentially be extended to using Putin's influence with Assad to contain and control the situation in Syria, which has thus far left some 300,000 people dead, and perhaps find a solution that will lead to peace. The key will be whether or not Donald Trump can define himself as a diplomatic actor and use the negotiating skills he often taunted during the campaign to bring all the parties to the table on Syria.
Thursday's Hershey rally marked the first time Donald Trump has discussed news from Aleppo, Syria as President-elect. After January 20, the entire world will be anxiously awaiting more from Donald Trump on this issue.
[Featured Image by Matt Rourke/AP Images]