Clinton appoints pro-Syrian opposition running mate in presidential race

Clinton appoints pro-Syrian opposition running mate in presidential race
Hillary Clinton has declared Democrat Tim Kaine as her running mate, a politician with a track record of pushing for a greater US role in supporting Syrian rebels and civilians.
3 min read
24 July, 2016
Kaine has campaigned hard on Syria issues [AFP]

One of the US senate's strongest supporters of the Syrian opposition has been named as the running partner for presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

Democrat Tim Kaine has called for the establishment of safe havens and a no-fly-zone in Syria, to protect civilians from regime and Russian bombing.

His assertions that US intervention could reduce civilian suffering comes despite the potential for head-on collision with Russia, which has its own military presence in Syria, but a risk Kaine appears to believe would be worth it.

Kaine has also called for the US to ramp up its humanitarian support for Syrians and to welcome more refugee into the country.

"I've spent time with Syrians in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, and most would want to stay [in Syria] if they felt like they could stay safely," he told Vox.

"We didn't work to establish the kind of no-fly zone, the humanitarian zone, and as a result we see this humanitarian crisis that is serious."

The announcement that Kaine would be Clinton's right-hand man has led to Syrians to voice hope that a new Democratic Party regime in Washington could take tough decisions to minimise civilian deaths in Syria.

They have also supported Kaine's criticism of the current US policy of providing refuge to only 10,000 Syrians.

These views stand in stark contrast to Clinton's Republican rival, who has called for an outright ban on Muslim immigration to the US.

Clinton described Kaine as "everything that [Donald] Trump... is not".

Trump has also opposed US intervention against the Syrian regime, and said he would "leave Assad alone".

The right-wing presidential hopeful has been warmly welcomed in the Kremlin due to his pro-Putin comments and apparent backing for Russia's military campaign in Syria.

The war in Syria has left up to 500,000 dead, the vast majority civilians from regime bombing and shelling, while half the country has been displaced.

Kaine believes that the US' soft handling of the crisis has worsened the suffering for Syrians, and a new tougher approach will help end the conflict.

His criticism of President Barack Obama's perceived weakness towards Damascus and Moscow could have enamoured him to Clinton, and the many diplomats in the state department who have been critical of the US' Syria policy.

Clinton is also viewed as a liberal "hawk" and said she believes the US has a greater role to play in Syria, and backed the arming of rebels.

This partnership has led to hopes among Syrian activists and civilians that the US could use its brawn to reduce or end regime and Russian bombing in Syria.

The establishment of safe zones would also alleviate the refugee crisis in neighbouring states.

It could allow the rebels to establish a launch pad for offensives against the Syrian regime and Islamic State group, activists argue, making Syria a safer place for civilians and moderate rebel groups.