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Bobby Ghosh

Syria Cease-Fire May Not Be a Win for Turkey

Any number of players — including Trump — could undermine the plan negotiated by Erdogan and Pence.

Hasty gathering.

Hasty gathering.

Photographer: SHAUN TANDON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

At first blush, it appears the five-day cease-fire in northeastern Syria puts Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the catbird seat. If all goes according to the plan he worked out with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, he will assume control of a significant swath of Syrian territory along the southern Turkish border.

Syrian Kurdish militias — which Erdogan regards as an existential threat to his country — are to withdraw to a “safe” distance of 20 miles, leaving space for millions of non-Kurdish Syrian refugees to resettle. In effect, this will create a human buffer between the militias and Turkey’s Kurdish territories, where the militias might otherwise stoke separatist tendencies. There should be an economic dividend, too: A lot of new building in the safe zone — homes, schools and other infrastructure for all those refugees — would be a boon for the Turkish construction sector.