President Obama rang up French President Francois Hollande, who is leaning toward taking action against the Syrian regime, on Saturday. According to the White House:
The President and President Hollande spoke today as part of their continuing consultations on the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons on August 21. The two leaders agreed that the international community must deliver a resolute message to the Assad regime – and others who would consider using chemical weapons – that these crimes are unacceptable and those who violate this international norm will be held accountable by the world. The President informed President Hollande that after careful deliberation he has determined it is in the national security interest of the United States to take limited military action against the Syrian government to confront this atrocity, and informed him that he would call on the Congress to authorize the use of military force in Syria. President Obama thanked President Hollande for France’s principled commitment to upholding the international norm against the use of chemical weapons and enforcing the consequences that give this norm meaning. France is a valued ally and friend of the United States and we will continue to consult closely on Syria in the coming days.
Hollande appears to be the only European leader who has expressed willingness to strike at Bashar al-Assad:
Mr Hollande, in an interview with Le Monde, said that he was determined to act, despite the British vote.
“Each country retains the sovereign right to participate or not in an operation,” he said.
“That applies to Britain as well as France. I will have today an in-depth exchange with Barack Obama.”
Mr Hollande said that the attack could come by Wednesday. The French parliament will meet on Wednesday for an emergency Syria session.
“If the Security Council fails to act, a coalition will form. It should be as broad as possible. It will be based on the Arab League, which has condemned the crime and alerted the international community. It will have the support of Europeans.
“But there are few countries which have the capacity to inflict sanctions through appropriate means. France is one of them. And she is ready for that. She will decide our position through close liaison with her allies.”
He further explained his reasoning for supporting the planned strikes, saying that the chemical weapons attacks of August 21 “cannot and should not go unpunished.”
“Otherwise we run the risk of an escalation of events, which will trivialise the use of these weapons and threaten other countries,” he said.
“I am not in favour of an international intervention which plans to ‘liberate’ Syria or topple the dictator, but I believe that a body blow should be dealt to a regime which inflicts irreparable damage on its people.”
Hollande does not require the permission of parliament to move forward with intervention, so Wednesday’s debate is a courtesy of sorts. French officials have told reporters that its military is ready to strike once the order comes down.
France led the initial assistance of the rebels in Libya, despite Obama frequently taking credit for the liberation. France also backed up the Malian army several months ago to push encroaching Islamists out of key towns. After a month of brutal Sharia occupation, Timbuktu residents were liberated by Hollande’s troops and waved French flags in celebration.
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