Donald Trump may have a plan, however hazy,
to take on ISIS. But it doesn't take into account the Syrian civilians living in opposition-held areas
for whom being bombed and massacred is a fact of daily life.
Trump sees Syria in broad foreign policy terms -- a balancing of powers and interests -- not as place where hundreds of thousands have bled out in their fight for freedom.
"Are we better off with Assad?" Trump wondered aloud to CNN
in September of last year. "We have no idea who these people [the rebels] are. We give them weapons, we give them ammunition, we give them everything. I mean, maybe it's worse than Assad. So what are we doing? Why are we involved?"
Trump's take on Syria's opposition -- and on the Syrian President -- have shocked many activists and shattered their hopes of finding a friendlier American president who might have been more more helpful to the rebel cause.
in the war on the side of Bashar al-Assad's regime has led to intensified shelling and air raids in opposition-held towns -- and to intensifying resentment from the people living in these "liberated areas," as the locals call them.
Despite the failure of the international community to react to the Russian bombardment, the people in opposition areas held onto a thread of hope that a new face in the White House might at least act to protect civilians.
But that won't happen if the next President is Trump, who has contradicted himself on the issue in the past.
A "no-fly zone" over Syria -- proposed by several US officials in the past, including Hillary Clinton
, but never implemented -- means a lot to the people here.
While Trump has stopped short of calling for one, he suggested in October 2015
that the US and Gulf states should create a "safe zone" for Syrian refugees.
But a month later, Trump signaled his support for Russia's air campaign
in Syria: "If [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants to go and knock the hell out of ISIS, I am all for it 100 percent, and I can't understand how anybody would be against it."
His support of the Russian campaign -- which is known to have targeted hospitals, shops and schools -- raises serious doubts about whether he would institute a safe zone of any sorts for civilians here.
Many in Syria say the war can't end unless Assad goes. But Trump is against removing Assad -- and he refuses to support even moderate opposition factions who are battling against ISIS.
Trump's views make Syrians living in areas beyond the regime's reach feel helpless, like their struggle could last forever.
The civilians of Syria have also realized that there are no US presidential candidates who are concerned about them -- especially not in opposition-controlled areas, where concern is needed most.