There has been talk of safe zones for Syrian civilians for years, but given the situation on the ground, it may be a better idea to create "unsafe zones" for President Bashar al-Assad and his allies and forces, Sen. Tom Cotton said Wednesday.
"Ultimately, Bashar al-Assad, like Iran and Russia, responds to pressure and confrontation," the Arkansas Republican told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program. "For some years, there was talk of safe zones for civilians. Given the situation on the ground, I'm not sure that's feasible now."
But that doesn't mean it wouldn't be a good idea to form unsafe zones for al Assad, as well as bringing more pressure to bear on Iran and Russia in the Middle East and around the world, "because they are his main patrons," said Cotton.
"We shouldn't see Syria in isolation but as a broader struggle of mastery in the Middle East," Cotton said. "Until we can confront those adversaries in the Middle East and throughout the world Bashar al-Assad will remain in power."
The policy moving forward should be what was stated under the Obama administration, but not pursued, Cotton continued.
"I was one of the few Republicans in Congress at the time for removing chemical weapons," Cotton said of the previous chemical weapons attack on Syrians four years ago. "Now, President Donald Trump is president, not President [Barack] Obama . . . Bashar-al Assad must ultimately go. It may not be tomorrow, next week."
The Islamic State may be facing a threat from Syria, but the United States "cannot be safe as long as the Assad, Iran, Russia axis is in charge in Syria."
Meanwhile, Cotton said it's important to keep all options on the table, whether military or classified covert, but "ultimately we can't be expected to stay safe ourselves from the threats of the Middle East as long as Bashar al-Assad stays in power."
It is also premature to announce any kind of doctrines toward Syria or North Korea.
"Most presidents don't develop doctrines, they confront situations on a practical basis trying to protect U.S. interests and defend U.S. aspirations," said Cotton.
"I know the administration is undertaking a policy review process through the National Security Council and I expect that they will be reaching a conclusion ultimately."
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