The U.S.-brokered semi-reprieve from the fighting was fundamentally a bargain between Turkey and the United States, in which the U.S. message was: Stop attacking the Syrian Kurds, who helped us beat ISIS; they’ll get away from a piece of your border; and we won’t come after your economy.
Yet in the days since, it’s only become clearer that each of the key players—the U.S., Turkey, and the Syrian Kurdish leadership—all believe they agreed to different things. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to “crush the heads of the terrorists” if they didn’t withdraw from an unspecified safe zone within the cease-fire period. Redur Khalil, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, told the Associated Press that the SDF had agreed only to the American agreement, not the Turkish one.
Besides, there was no geographic limit to the “safe zone” spelled out in the U.S.-Turkey deal; if the Kurds withdrew from the 75-mile strip between the towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad, where the Turks had concentrated their assault in mid-October, Erdoğan could still claim there were terrorists who needed crushing elsewhere on his border; he has previously said he wanted the Kurds out of a 260-mile stretch of that frontier, more than three times the length the Americans had in mind.