The concept of the Safe Zone in South Syria and its options

Wrote by: Issam Khoury


 The Syrian opposition have not succeeded during the past five years in establishing a safe zone, despite intense statements from both the Turkish side and the Syrian opposition to do so. The international community has repeatedly ignored pleas, and preferred to support the Syrian Kurdish parties in the fight against Islamic State, which has more authority than the Kurdish organizations. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s remarks led to what ultimately pushed Turkey to enter through Jarabulus. They then deployed into the Turkish-Syria border, west of the Euphrates, and formed a geographic area under their influence. We don’t know whether this region will continue to succeed and what identity it may shape in the future. It should be noted that the Syrian regime did not oppose Turkish Forces on the ground and didn’t  bomb the Turkish territory as repeatedly stated in 2012.


Safe areas are considered zones of self-administered councils that are able to protect all civilians in the area.They take on the following forms:

This is one of the means to prevent criminality against the state’s own people. They have been organized in several countries, so as to provide the military administration which occupies the country organized control over specific areas. An example of this is the former Yugoslavia, where safe havens were set up to protect people from certain military forces.

The Mandate features the framework for a partnership with the state military or political party from the people of the country. The second party is responsible for the administration of the country in public, while the administrative nominations are decided by the Mandate. An example of this is what Syrians have experienced in Lebanon.

Soft diplomacy:
The concept of partnership according to the framework of a common interest through an honest broker. Countries may resort to coordinating their activities through the United Nations or other international peacekeeping institutions. They are intended to coordinate their activities with the civilians.

The steps to establish a safe zone:
Any institution or country wishing to prepare for the establishment of a safe zone must prepare a series of strategic geographical studies. They must deal with the dimensions of the establishment of these areas, with a detailed view of the reality of demographic and social changes of the population. There should certainly be a fully prepared and capable political team which is willing to negotiate. These parties should be prepared to apply pressure onto state and government campaigns, in order to persuade them of the importance to establish these safe areas. In the Syrian case, there are three key aspects to focus on:

First: The Human Rights Aspect. This must be considered the general aspect of human rights. There should not be any confusion here, human rights laws are and should be indivisible. No one person should experience bias or violence due to their religion, sex or ideologies.

Second: The Solution to the Refugee Crisis. This aspect requires persuading both international and private parties to contribute to providing a safe zone which will allow for restoration.  It will also allow civil society to develop itself inside the safe zone, reduce the large resort size of some European countries and relieves the burdens imposed on the UN High Commissioner for refugee rights.

Third: The Counterterrorism Aspect. The safe areas should be freed of armed manifestations, except for police stations, so there is no justification for the presence of armed militias who claim to protect civilians. These areas should be safe so that armed action will be abroad, and the civilians themselves will be more encouraged to flush out potential terrorist elements in the area. In general, the Syrian Society are religious but moderate, they will not allow the existence of promoting terrorist ideologies to continue. ‘Jihadists’ will not be tolerated and must leave the safe area and collide directly with the regime, without being among the civilian population. This almost certainly would lead to the liquidation of pan-Syrian civil war criminals in the area, whether they are from the regime, the opposition or other groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, Islamic state, The PKK, Hezbollah, Iraqi militias or Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops.

In the instance that one of the humanitarian organizations or countries succeed in persuading the warring international and regional parties that Syria should set up a safe zone in the Southern Border, they need to achieve one of the following conditions:


Decision under section VII:
This requires a decision by the Security Council to impose the establishment of the safe zone, and if the Syrian regime decided to breach this matter, it can be subjected to military strikes. However, the possibility of concluding this decision is slim, as Russia and China have repeatedly utilized a veto in favor of the Syrian regime. Still, this possibility should be taken into consideration, especially in studies which will be used to convince the international community of the importance of the establishment of the safe area. Two causes that may pertain to these communities are human rights violations and international/regional interest to end the Syrian Refugee Crisis.

Binding recommendations:
By virtue of the presence of international partners of the Syrian regime, Russia, “State member of the Security Council”and Iran, “The country emerging from international sanctions” may be imposed by the Syrian regime to ignore the South of Syria during the war. They may warn the regime from expanding their military activities in the South, the regime will accept this and focus on the battles in the north and center of Syria.
Jordanian and Israeli sides will completely commit to prohibiting ground troops to infiltrate areas under Syrian Army control. There will be two choices, ‘Mandate’ and ‘Occupation’. These two options are excluded, and the option to come to a decision within Section VII is also unlikely. Therefore, the ‘Binding recommendations’ option through the application of the ‘soft diplomacy’ strategy, is more likely to result in a safe area. However, we must still  think of the former two options:

Occupation into Syrian land:
It is one of the more difficult challenges to fulfill, especially after the presence of American and Russian military bases within Syria. Russia and America will prevent any regional country from the occupation of Syria. Both sides are in dialogue regarding the Syrian case. Currently in south Syria there is no interest for Jordanians or Israelis to occupy the area, as the Jordanian army has a relatively small makeup. If they did wish to do so, they would need to request U.S. support which would result in U.S. bases in Jordan. This would not be economically wise for the Jordanian or Israeli government, the latter having abandoned Southern Lebanon. There will not be progress on this matter because of the consequences and circumstances, especially since the region replete with various militias can’t be predicted. Lastly, the Syrian people in the South don’t have a good relationship with those on the Israeli side.



Israel and Jordan are two states with legal qualifications to intervene with ground forces, and to achieve the mandate from the UN Security Council as a result of “the fight against terrorism”, which the Turkish government was focused on in the invasion of the Syrian border, West of the Euphrates. Terrorist organizations located in South Syria exist in varying numbers. Hezbollah, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (previously Jabhat Al-Nusra) and ISIS are active there, as there is an ISIS organization active along the Turkish-Syrian border.

Of course, this option must have a popular consensus from the international community and must receive support from the joint command center in Jordan, in order to implement this along the Jordanian border. Forces that are cooperating with the center are not authorized to remain active in the Israeli border, as Israel is not a friend among those forces in the war room. This means the Syrian opposition parties need to coordinate with the Israeli government in a discrete manner.

As we know from the Jordanian war room, active during the past four years, they did not provide missiles to the opposition militias. They did not consider the option to enable the armed opposition by providing air support to protect it. This resulted in opposition battles in north Jordan and withdrawal battles. Neither on the side of the Israeli border is the situation any different. If any fragment or missile lands into Israeli territory, the Israeli response would be against the regime. As a result of this, the Syrian Army avoids shelling of the Israel-Syrian border. This is something which must be built upon in the establishment of a safe zone in the future, the fact that the Syrian regime fears confrontation with Israel as a result of ‘red lines,’ and does not see any incentive to attack Israel.


We understand that the success of the mandate across south Syria must be done in coordination with the Israeli side, the only party that has the operational mechanisms to achieve this purpose, and there are obstacles to prevent interference from Israel in the Syrian instance.

  1. The relationship with the American coordination center in Jordan:
    Israel is not a member in this room, and the relationship between the Netanyahu and Obama administrations have faltered in past years. That may be changing however, according to the results of the upcoming elections in the United States. If we assume the Netanyahu administration will be satisfied with the choice of the safe zone in northern Israel and Jordan, it may be due to the likely increase in the population in the area. Something may also be troubling to the Netanyahu administration from the Knesset.

  1. The need to build a social and political partnership within different parties in Syria:
    National education, which the Syrians learned in schools, has created a rift between the Syrians and the Israelis. If Israel wants to bridge on this rift, they must create education, relief and media programs to bring the two communities closer. In turn, intellectuals from the Syrian party have a responsibility to encourage dialogue between Israel and Syria, and to start building trust programs. To combine the programs require years of dedicated work however, so we must rule out this option because it is not a guaranteed and reliable method. So, we will favor the ‘soft diplomatic’ option.




:The concept of soft diplomacy

As a result of the large number of countries which overlap its interests on the Syrian territory, and as a result of permanent differences regarding internal interests and disputes over the classification of the warring factions, it is difficult to coordinate amongst themselves and with the Syrian people directly. This is especially so since much of the opposition lost confidence in the statements of major political world powers. In addition, much of the intelligence from major countries hit by the shock caused some Muslim factions to sell weapons which they received from intelligence about terrorist organizations. As a result of this, it is necessary to find a new partner who can implement new agreements in the Syrian crisis.

‘Soft diplomacy’ must have a partner who serves the regional countries and serves the Syrian people at the same time. In south Syria, this may be Jordan, but Jordan will not take this case forward without full approval from  countries with ties to Syria, Israel and Russia. This may be difficult to achieve due to the absence of Israel involvement in Jordan’s coordination room, as well as Russia’s potential to disapprove.

But there is a possibility in the “Quneitra” district, which is adjacent to Israeli areas in this region, that there will be a significant impact of the coordination center. Israelis and the Russian Federation signed a memorandum regarding flights in the area, which means there is a chance Russia will agree to the establishment of a weapons-free safe zone on the Israeli border. If that agreement is successful, the region may expand in coordination with Russia and the coordination center to include all of southern Syria. This will likely resolve refugee issues both outside and inside Syria.

Since we excluded any ground proceedings of IDF troops based on Israel’s clear statement, Israel can offer an international organization to provide protection for the Syrian people in cooperation with Israelis and Syrians. Without this, there will be no direct confrontation between the two sides. This is what is feasible to Amaliah, a non-profit NGO organization in the U.S, which during the past few monthes  has provided ambulance services for injured kids and women across the Israeli-Syrian border. Of course, the activity of Amaliah Foundation is part of a program supervised by a number of researchers in order to provide complete studies for the following projects:

  1. Relief and health support: Provide health care and vaccines for children in coordination with International relief organizations.
  2. Educational support: Schools will be available to the general population of Syrians and will provide for all levels of education, in coordination with the Syrian curriculum.
  3. Organizational and administrative support to local councils: To protect Syrians and to establish a complete management system, capable of coordination with the Syrian regime when it becomes stable.

  1. Reconstruction: This will take several steps and includes restoration and construction of temporary shelters to refugees according to health standards. These health standards include main infrastructure and upkeep “of electricity, water and sewage.”
  2. Investment: Supporting development projects carried out by the local population in order to create a simple income available to citizens.

Certainly this region will be provided with significant development services, and in the future the investment will expand from South Syria to the pan-Syrian territory. This will provide a benefit to Jordan and Israel. Both countries in this matter must support the projects in the safe zone according to the balance of  “Common interests,” which is known from previous experiences in several countries suffering from civil war. This project will also serve the European countries that suffer from the massive number of refugees, and will reduce the security and intelligence sources of Russia in South Syria. If both Russia and the U.S. can ensure that this region remains free of terrorist organizations and can guarantee Syrians will develop in their areas without international or regional interventions directly, this will negate feelings of  espionage, which were brought on by accusations against the Christians in Lebanon by the Arab World during the Lebanese Civil War.

The administration in Southern Syria will be coming from local councils associated with an International Council Organization Department, which will provide those communication channels with the pan countries that are wishing to invest with southern Syria. This will develop southern Syria and make it safe for civilians whom often attempt to escape from the war, and will last until the complete end of the war and the return of a functional Syrian state.

      :Article in Arabic

مفهوم المنطقة الامنة في الجنوب السوري وخياراتها

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