Hillary Clinton supports a strategy of ‘intensification and acceleration’ of efforts in Syria, with a primary (but not exclusive) focus on ISIS. She calls for US leadership of a broader international coalition conducting intensified air strikes, US special operations forces on the ground, a no-fly-zone in northern Syria, political negotiations for Assad’s departure from power, and reinvigorated efforts to train and equip the Syrian opposition and Kurdish ground forces. Hillary Clinton has called for admitting as many as 65,000 Syrian refugees.

  • On ISIS:
    • “I want to have an intelligence surge that protects us here at home, why we have to go after them from the air, on the ground, online, why we have to make sure here at home we don’t let terrorists buy weapons” (Politico-Debate Transcript, 10/20/16)
    • “We have to defeat ISIS. That is my highest counterterrorism goal. And we’ve got to do it with air power. We’ve got to do it with much more support for the Arabs and the Kurds who will fight on the ground against ISIS.” (Time, 09/08/16)
    • “I think we also have try to disrupt their supply chain of foreign fighters and foreign money and we do have to contest them in online space.” (NY Times, 01/18/16)
    • “I have a plan that I’ve put forward to go after ISIS. Not to contain them, but to defeat them. And it has three parts. First, to go after them and deprive them of the territory they occupy now in both Syria and Iraq. Secondly, to go after and dismantle their global network of terrorism. And thirdly, to do more to keep us safe. Under each of those three parts of my plan, I have very specific recommendations about what to do.”(Washington Post, 12/19/15)
    • “A more effective coalition air campaign is necessary, but not sufficient, and we should be honest about the fact that to be successful, airstrikes will have to be combined with ground forces actually taking back more territory from ISIS…we can and should support local and regional ground forces in carrying out this mission.” (Time, 11/19/15)
  • On Assad:
    • “So I’m very committed to both going after ISIS but also… move on a political diplomatic to try to begin to slow down and hopefully end the carnage in Syria which is the root of so many of the problems that we seen in the region and beyond.” (NY Times, 01/18/16)
    • “I think it’s fair to say, Assad has killed, by last count, about 250,000 Syrians. The reason we are in the mess we’re in, that ISIS has the territory it has, is because of Assad.” (Washington Post, 12/19/15)
    • “We will not get the support on the ground in Syria to dislodge ISIS if the fighters there who are not associated with ISIS, but whose principal goal is getting rid of Assad, don’t believe there is a political, diplomatic channel that is ongoing. We now have that. We have the UN Security Council adopting a resolution that lays out a transition path. It’s very important we operate on both at the same time.” (Washington Post, 12/19/15)
    • “There is no alternative to a political transition that allows Syrians to end Assad’s rule… There is not going to be a successful military effort at this point to overturn Assad. That can only happen to the political process, so our efforts should be focused on ISIS.” (Time, 11/19/15)
  • On a No Fly Zone:
    • “I’m going to continue to push for a no-fly zone and safe havens within Syria, not only to help protect the Syrians and prevent the constant outflow of refugees, but to frankly gain some leverage on both the Syrian government and the Russians so that perhaps we can have the kind of serious negotiation necessary to bring the conflict to an end and go forward on a political track.” (Politico-Debate Transcript, 10/20/16)
    • “I think a no-fly zone could save lives and hasten the end of the conflict” (Politico-Debate Transcript, 10/20/16)
    • “When I was secretary of state advocated, and I advocate today a no-fly and safe zones.” (Politico-Debate Transcript, 10/10/16)
    • “I believe that the no-fly zone is merited and can be implemented, again, in a coalition, not an American-only no-fly zone.” (Time, 11/19/15)
    • “I am advocating… a no-fly zone principally over northern Syria close to the Turkish (ph) border, cutting off the supply lines, trying to provide some safe refuges for refugees so they don’t have to leave Syria, creating a safe space away from the barrel bombs and the other bombardments by the Syrians.” (Time, 11/19/15)
    • “I see it as both a strategic opportunity on the ground, and an opportunity for leverage in the peace negotiations.” (Time, 11/19/15)
  • On U.S. Forces:
    • “I would not use American ground forces in Syria. I think that would be a very serious mistake. I don’t think American troops should be holding territory which is what they would have to do as an occupying force. I don’t think that is a smart strategy. I do think the use of special forces, which we’re using, the use of enablers and trainers in Iraq, which has had positive effects, are very much in our interests. So I do support what is happening.” (Politico-Debate Transcript, 10/10/16)
    • “And we’re not putting ground troops into Syria. We’re going to defeat ISIS without committing American ground troops.” (Time, 09/08/16)
    • “I think putting a big contingent of American ground troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria would not be in the best interest of the fight against ISIS and other terrorist groups. In fact, I think it would fulfill one of their dearest wishes, which is to drag the United States back into a ground war in that region.” (Time, 09/08/16)
    • In regards to deploying significant numbers of ground forces, not just specials ops, to fight ISIS in direct combat: “Absolutely not. I have a three-point plan that does not include American Ground forces.” (NY Times, 01/18/16)
  • On arming groups:
    • “The kurds have been our best partners in Syria, as well as Iraq. And I know there’s a lot of concern about that in some circles, but they should have the equipment they need so that Kurdish and Arab fighters on the ground are the principal way we take Raqqa after pushing ISIS out of Iraq. (Politico-Debate Transcript, 10/10/16)
    • “[W]e should retool and ramp up our efforts to support and equip viable Syrian opposition units.” (Time, 11/19/15)
  • On Russia and Iran:
    • “Syria will remain a hotbed of terrorism as long as the civil war aided and abetted by the Iranians and the Russians continue.” (Politico-Debate Transcript, 10/20/16)
    • “Russia hasn’t paid any attention to ISIS. They are interested in keeping Assad in power….We need some leverage with the Russians because they are not going to come to the negotiating table for a diplomatic resolution unless there is leverage over them… I stood up to Russia; I’ve taken on Putin and others and I would do that as president… But I support the efforts to investigate for crimes, war crimes, committed by the Syrians and the Russians and try to hold them accountable.”(Politico-Debate Transcript, 10/10/16)
    • “Now that Russia has joined us in the Security Council, has adopted an agreement that we hashed out a long day in Geneva three years ago, now I think we can have those conversations. The no-fly zone, I would hope, would be also shared by Russia. If they will begin to turn their military attention away from going after the adversaries of Assad toward ISIS and put the Assad future on the political and diplomatic track, where it belongs.” (Washington Post, 12/19/15)
    • “I think it would be a grave mistake to ask for any more Iranian troops inside Syria. That is like asking the arsonist to come and pour more gas on the fire. The Iranians getting more of a presence in Syria, linking with Hezbollah, their proxy in Lebanon, would threaten Israel and would make it more difficult for us to move on a path to have a transition that at some point would deal with Assad’s future.” (Washington Post, 12/19/15)
    • “Russia and Iran have to face the fact that continuing to prop up a vicious dictator will not bring stability.” (Time, 11/19/15)
    • “[T]here is an important role for Russia to help in resolving the conflict in Syria. And we have indicated a willingness to work with them toward an outcome that preserves Syria as a unitary, nonsectarian state, with protections for the rights of all Syrians and to keep key state institutions intact.” (Time, 11/19/15)
    • “We cannot view Iran and ISIS as separate challenges.” (Time, 11/19/15)
  • On Syrian Refugees:
    • “I am not going to let anyone into this country who is not vetted, who we do not have confidence in, but I am not going to slam the door on women and children. That picture of that little 4-year-old boy in Aleppo with the blood coming down his face while he sat in an ambulance is haunting, and so we are going to do very careful vetting.” (Politico-Debate Transcript, 10/20/16)
    • “We need to do our part. We, by no means, are carrying anywhere near the load that Europe and others are. But we will have vetting that is as tough as it needs to be from our professionals, our intelligence experts and others.” (Politico-Debate Transcript, 10/10/16)
    • “I don’t think a halt is necessary. What we have to do is put all of our resources through the Department of Homeland Security, through the State Department, through our intelligence agencies, and we have to have an increased vetting and screening… I would prioritize widows, and orphans, and the elderly, people who may have relatives, families, or have nowhere else to go.” (Washington Post, 12/19/15)
    • “[W]e should take increased numbers of refugees. The [Obama] administration originally said 10 [thousand]. I said we should go to 65 [thousand], but only if we have as careful a screening and vetting process as we can imagine, whatever resources it takes.” (Weekly Standard, 11/14/15)
    • “Turning away orphans, applying a religious test, discriminating against Muslims, slamming the door on every Syrian refugee, that is just not who we are. We are better than that. And remember, many of these refugees are fleeing the same terrorists who threaten us. It would be a cruel irony indeed if ISIS can force families from their homes and then also prevent them from ever finding new ones.” (Time, 11/19/15)