France tells Turkey that inaction in Kobane will be costly for its image

France tells Turkey that inaction in Kobane will be costly for its image

“We want to convey our deep concern to Turkey. This is an alarming situation. Inaction over Kobane could be costly for Turkey’s image,” a high-level French official told a small group of journalists yesterday.

It is worth listening to these assessments, as they come from a country with which Turkey sees eye-to-eye on the situation in both Iraq and Syria.

“We have the same analysis as Turkey that [former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri) al-Maliki’s policies were extremely detrimental. We have the same analysis as Turkey on the Syrian issue. The two countries with which Bashar al-Assad has the worst relations are Turkey and France,” the official added. “We also agree with Turkey that military solutions need to be coupled with political processes; that we need to have an inclusive government in Baghdad endorsed by the Sunnis; and that we must have regime change in Syria, which requires help for the moderate Syrian opposition, the Free Syrian Army. We also support Turkey’s proposal for a secure zone in the border.”

However, the French official also warned that Turkey is currently at a dramatic point, as Kurdish Syrian forces continue to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the border town of Kobane.

“We’re telling our Turkish friends that the image Turkey is giving abroad is of a country that remains indifferent to the massacres. There is an outcry in international public opinion that Turkey is standing by to the massacre of those who are fighting a ferocious group, ISIL. Turkey should not consider this issue to be a Turkish issue. This is a regional, international issue,” he added.

However, precisely because Turkey sees the Syrian crisis as a regional and international issue, it has tried to attract the world’s attention to the bloodshed that is going on for the past three years, calling for joint international action. Why this outcry over Kobane today, when the world has been deaf and blind to a war that has so far left more than 200,000 dead in total?

Why is it that some countries apparently want Turkey to send its troops to Syria while they refrain from doing the same?

The French official admitted that there are no easy answers to certain questions on the issue: “We are not encouraging Turkey to take this or that action. But we want to convey our opinion that Turkey will have trouble managing the negative public image that this situation is creating.”

On the one hand, Turkey believes an aerial operation is not enough for Syria and asks for more robust international action involving some kind of ground intervention or the creation of a secure zone, (though nobody volunteers to have boots on the ground); but on the other hand it does not allow military support for those on the ground (Kurdish Syrians) who are willing to fight. It therefore appears to be remaining indifferent to the ISIL assault.

This is the image that Turkey projects abroad, say French officials. Turkey does not want arms and ammunition to be sent to the Democratic Union Party (PYD), fearing that they will end up in the hands of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and it also wants the PYD to join the anti-Assad coalition. But this reasoning has not reached public opinion, in the eyes of which Turkey’s Islamist government is sympathetic to an Islamist movement.

Well, it’s not that simple. Indeed, Turkey’s own contradictions on this issue are no smaller than those of the Western powers, whose own confusions and inconsistencies have led to the current situation in Syria.

In this respect, French intellectual Bernard Henry Levy’s article questioning Turkey’s NATO membership in the event that Kobane falls is extremely misplaced. It’s one thing to criticize Turkey, but it’s quite another to question its solidarity and loyalty as a NATO ally. This was a rather cheap tactic on the part of Levy to attract public attention.