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Opinion: France needs help in Syrian crisis

Turkey's downing of a Russian fighter jet has sabotaged the French president's attempt to form an anti-"IS" coalition. This is especially true given France's lack of political clout, says DW's Miodrag Soric.

As if things weren't bad enough. Now, the Turkish Air Force had to go and shoot down a Russian fighter jet. Things have been complicated enough already at the Syrian border without this happening.

Officially, NATO supports the actions of its member, Turkey. In Washington, the French and US presidents have made it clear that Ankara has the right to defend its own air space.

Unofficially, the Turks will get an earful of criticism. The timing couldn't be worse for this unnecessary escalation: things are becoming tense just as French President Francois Hollande is making his way to Moscow in the hope of convincing Russian President Vladimir Putin of withdrawing his support from Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

Russia is partially to blame for the current situation. It is acting in Syria as it likes, and is not coordinating its attacks with Western powers. That is risky, and this time it cost a Russian pilot his life.

The incident shouldn't have any long-lasting effects as long as Turkey doesn't exacerbate the situation further and Putin can contain his rage. If the situation escalates, the only party that will profit is the so-called "Islamic State."

US must lead, not France

Hollande's mission in Moscow will not be made easier by the incident. His attempt to create a sort of "super coalition" of powers, including countries like Russia and Iran, to fight against Islamic State deserves praise. But, ultimately, France's taking the lead won't be enough on its own. France doesn't have the political gravitas of a super power. And the Europeans – as always – are undecided and at odds with each other and don't want to spend money on their military.

The US is the only country powerful enough to bring together a coalition against these stone-age Islamists. Washington can discipline Ankara, it can give Moscow the official recognition it yearns for and also, it can put pressure on Saudi Arabia and the Emirates to sit together – initially at least – for talks with a representative of the Assad regime. A political solution for Syria has to involve everyone.

Finally, the US has to be a role model. It has to want to lead the way. Does this desire really exist in Washington? Looking at the last few years in US politics, it seems doubtful. But, international crises like the one in Syria don't solve themselves.

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