Is the French Foreign Office more Atlanticist than the White House?

Bashar al-Assad’s return to American calculations puts France once again in an absurd position. Although Jennifer Psaki denies it, both John Brennan, head of the CIA, and John Kerry, the Secretary of State, have called for Assad and his regime to be included in any resolution to the Syrian crisis. This is merely a statement of the obvious as, five years into the civil war, Assad’s troops control more than half the population while a large proportion of the rest of the population is under the control of ISIS.

Romain Nadal, spokesman for the French Foreign Office, immediately reacted by saying that “It is clear to us that Bachar al-Assad cannot fit within such a framework”. Since 2011, the French position has been fixed on the Alawite leader’s departure. As with the Iranian issue, the rigidity of the French Foreign Office continues.

After the Chirac-Villepin years and the Atlanticist shift of the Sarkozy government that followed, we could have expected a return to fundementals on the part of the Socialist government. For five years, the Socialists had criticised this sudden shift in foreign policy made by the Sarkozy-Kouchner duo.

In 2007, Henri Emmanuelli, had entitled one of his articles “Alignment: the new focus of French foreign policy”. Pierre Moscovici had criticised “a neo-liberal and a neo-Bonapartist foreign policy”. In 2008, François Hollande had called for a vote of no-confidence against France’s return to the NATO military committee. Martine Aubry in 2009 believed that “nothing justifies that we back the US, which would deny our freedom and align us with their policies”. Laurent Fabius himself had warned that “We are a bridge between East and West, South and North. That bridge will be destroyed”.

Despite the change in French government in 2012, there was no change in the position on the Middle East. It was just the opposite, in fact.

If today France seems to be returning to a form of non-alignment “an ally, not aligned”, according to the phrase, it is against the very thing that made French foreign policy original ever since General de Gaulle. France today is more belligerent than ever before. Even more so than America. Just as George Bush had dreamed of creating a new Middle East from the ashes of the Saddam regime, France wants to eliminate all trace of Syrian history. So much so that France seems more Atlanticist than even the Obama government.

“But in any event, France is an independant country and our foreign policy as regards the apalling events in Syria has not changed”, claims Laurent Fabius. The head of French diplomacy probably believes that his voice is a singular one. But in fact he is aligned with the Republican hawks and the Democratic Party. Regarding Syria and Iran, François Hollande is in tune with John McCain. At the same time, he visits Saudi Arabia where he secures lucrative contracts. But he is very careful not to ask for more details on the ambiguous links between Ryad and ISIS.

Moreover, Paris obstinately refuses to bomb ISIS in Syria. The government berated a group of MPs from both the right and the left who went to visit Damas in order to witness the situation. Laurent Fabius had the audacity to say to his an American counterpart “Any other solution which would put Bashar al-Assad back in office would be a totally outrageuos and fantastic gift to the ISIS terrorists”. But who can believe that ISIS and Bashar are partners when they fight each other ruthlessly in the suburbs of Deir Ez-Or? Who’s been bombing the Kurds with chlorine bombs these few weeks?

François Hollande and Laurent Fabius, with their proxy-war in Syria, have put France in an ultra-Atlanticist position along side Britain. So much so they embarrass Wahsington…

22 July 2015

Translated from French

The orignal author was Hadrien Desuin, a journalist who writes for the French magazines Causeur and Conflits. He graduated from the elite French Military College, Saint-Cyr, and the Officers Training College for the national gendarmarie, and holds a masters degree in strategy and international relations.



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