US officials have been courting Turkey on joining the ISIS war from the beginning, and when they finally came to terms with them on this new cooperation deal late last month officials started loudly hyping the plan, presenting it as a game-changer in a war that’s been going extremely poorly.
Yet as the days turn into weeks, the doubts about the US and Turkey creating a “safe zone” in northern Syria only grow. Other than a 60-mile long zone, there has still been no formal agreement on anything, like where it’ll be located, how wide it’ll be, and who’s going to be in charge on the ground.
The disagreements on these issues center on the reality that the US and Turkey have very different agendas in Syria, and very different allies. For Turkey, ISIS has always been a secondary concern, at best, with their focus on Kurdish factions growing on the border. The US, by contrast, has treated the Kurds as their natural allies, and has targeted ISIS and al-Qaeda, another faction which Turkey has more or less ignored.
These disagreements may ultimately keep the “safe zone” plan from going anywhere, and Turkish border village residents are extremely pessimistic about the idea, saying they don’t believe it will lead to a reopening of the border, through which much of their commerce actually goes.