U.S., Turkey aim to create buffer zone on Syrian border. Nobody knows how

The Washington Post reports: Mohamed Jlelati is not sure whether a de facto “safe zone” along the Turkey-Syria border will include his home town. But he is preparing for it anyway.

Jlelati is a member of the Syrian opposition’s local government in Aleppo, about 40 miles from the Turkish border. And he has plans for his city.

“If people have water and electricity, they will feel stable,” he said, sketching out Aleppo’s water and power grids on a piece of paper. “Then you can provide food. And then start cleaning up the rubble.”

U.S. and Turkish officials last month announced a landmark deal to fight the Islamic State, the militant group that has seized large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria.

The agreement allows the United States to launch aircraft from inside Turkey for swifter strikes against militants. It also envisions an area along the border that is free of extremists and protected by U.S. air power. Turkey hopes the zone will be a haven for the millions of Syrians who have fled across the border into its territory.

But while news of the deal has spurred hope among Syrians, neither the United States nor Turkey has offered details on how such a zone would be established and enforced. In the past two weeks, the Islamic State and al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, have launched attacks in the area where the United States and Turkey hope to establish the zone. Analysts say that any plans for a buffer zone will fail unless there is a will to organize, administer and police the region.

“I don’t think we will see anything approaching what even resembles a safe zone” in Syria, said Yezid Sayigh, a senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.

“If you’re going to have significant numbers of people sheltering in the zone, you’ll need various things — like electricity, fuel, water tanks, piping, clinics,” Sayigh said. But instead of planning for large humanitarian or reconstruction operations, Turkey and the United States are “mostly trying to do PR” for an unworkable plan, he said. [Continue reading…]

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