Monday, September 02, 2013

France, the US and Syria

The British Parliament surprisingly rejected Prime Minister David Cameron's request for endorsement of a direct military attack on Syria. This leaves France and its Socialist President François Hollande as President Obama's most important EU ally in going to war with Syria. Canada has also rule out participating in an attack. (Severin Weiland, War Weary Europe: The US Loses an Ally Spiegel International 08/30/2013; Frankreichs Präsident: Hollande hält sich Militäreinsatz in Syrien offen Spiegel Online 30.08.2013; Stefan Simons, Frankreich im Syrien-Konflikt: Plötzlich Obamas wichtigster Waffenbruder Spiegel Online 31.08.2013)

Hollande is taking a hard line on the need for an attack on Syria. He is also expressing confidence that the accusations against the Syrian regime on the use of chemical weapons are accurate. But he is mirroring Obama's legislative strategy in asking his Parliament for approval (France will not attack Syria alone, PM to meet parliament leaders Reuters 09/01/2013):

France will not launch an assault on Syria alone and will wait for U.S. Congress to decide on whether to punish President Bashar al-Assad's government for a gas attack that killed hundreds of civilians, Interior Minister Manuel Valls said.

Valls made the comments on Sunday to Europe 1 radio as pressure mounted in France for President Francois Hollande to put the question of intervention to a parliamentary vote.

Also on Sunday, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he would meet with the heads of the two houses of parliament and the opposition on Monday to discuss Syria before a scheduled parliamentary debate on Syria on Wednesday.

"France can not go it alone," Valls said. "We need a coalition."
The idea of going to war with Syria is unpopular among the French public: Syrie: 64% des Français opposés à une intervention militaire Libération/AFP 31.08.2013. As Reuters reports, "A BVA poll on Saturday showed most French people do not approve of military action against Syria and most do not trust Hollande to conduct such an operation."

This is a big reversal of the posture France took in relation to the United States against the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Syria was a French protectorate from 1920 to 1946. France's current Socialist President obviously seems some continuity of French interest from its colonial role during that period. So not only is there the Syrian government's interest and that of its Allawite base in surviving, but the participation of a former colonial overlord like France - two if you count Turkey as the successor of the Ottoman Empire which long controlled what is now Syria - to contribute to the determination of the government and its supporters to survive.

So at least our Nobel Peace Prize President will have one big European power supporting him in launching yet another war against a country that has not attacked the United States.

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