U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, September 2016.
Darren Ornitz / Reuters

With the Syria ceasefire he strenuously advocated for in tatters, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry faces what might be the biggest test of his career. Russian and Syrian forces are relentlessly pounding Aleppo, with an intense focus on civilian infrastructure. And it might seem like there is no plausible step, besides threatening to suspend engagement with Moscow, that Kerry could take on Syria in the Barack Obama administration’s four remaining months.

But that is not correct. Kerry could convince the president to do what the presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump—and notably, their running mates in last night's otherwise contentious debate—have advocated: establish a safe haven in the north of Syria. Distinct from so-called safe areas, like the disastrous Srebrenica safe area in Bosnia, Kerry could advocate for a neutralized zone, a particular type of demilitarized zone set up under international humanitarian law by

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  • EDWARD P. JOSEPH is Executive Director of the Institute of Current World Affairs and a lecturer at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. DR. JEFFREY A. STACEY was a State Department official in the Obama administration. He is the author of Integrating Europe, from Oxford University Press. Currently, he is an international security consultant residing in Washington, D.C.
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