Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Syrian Crisis: France's Stance and Its Strategic Partnerships.

“I am struck by how eager Great Britain and France appear to be in favour of military action. And I am also mindful of the fact that both of these two powers are former imperialist, colonialist powers in the region.” -former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski
France has been more hawkish over Syria throughout the conflict there than either Britain or even the US. When news of the alleged chemical weapons strike on East Ghouta broke on 21 August, the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, was first out calling for a 'reaction with force'.

A continuous stream of the most belligerent rhetoric has emanated from Paris since then, with calls from President Hollande that France was 'ready to punish' Assad to Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault claiming the attack involved a "massive use of chemical agents".

France's knowledge about Syria's chemical weapons stock may come from the fact that in the 1980s it was French pharmaceuticals that were imported for 'dual use purposes'. The French dossier is technically specific about Syrian CW capabilities but adds nothing towards exact responsibility for the attacks.

The 'public diplomacy' behind the dossier is to back up Washington's version on Saturday and John Kerry's rhetoric about 'we know' everything and 'we have assessed'. Indeed France has been more persistent in backing the Syrian opposition than the US as it was responsible for setting up 'Friends of Syria'.

The 'Friends of Syria Group' or 'Friends of the Syrian People Group' was set up in June 2012 by Sarkozy to bolster support for the Syrian National Council and to prepare for a post-Assad government. The aim is 'revolution' but the reality from the French perspective is its national interests.

France is a staunch ally and strategic partner of Saudi Arabia and Qatar both in the Friends of Syria Group and which support militias with arms and money against Assad. French military ties with the oil rich kingdom have put it at the forefront of the push to directly provide weapons to the Syria rebels.

The FT reported on June 21 2013 an analyst close to ruling circles, Jamal Khashoggi, revealing that Saudi Arabia would never let its Persian Gulf rival Iran 'win a victory in Syria' because Assad had had the upper hand until the alleged chemical weapons attack by his regime occurred.
'”Saudi Arabia has to do something now, even if it will do it alone. The goal now must be toppling Bashar, even if the US is not involved. If Saudi Arabia leads the way, Sunni tribes and o ther countries, including France, will eventually join.
France, concerned that Syrian opposition forces are losing ground, has suggested it is ready to push ahead with increasing the scale of equipment it supplies to the rebels, but it remains coy on what weapons it may be prepared to include.
Officials said this week that Paris had already “ticked the boxes” of materiel it was willing to deliver on a list presented to the Friends of Syria members by the Free Syrian Army. But they declined to say what these included.'
France's defence of Saudi Arabia's policy in Syria so as to check Iran, its main regional geopolitical rival and Shia enemy, is a lucrative and mutually beneficial partnership. On the August 30 news broke of 'a billion euro defence contract with Saudi Arabia to overhaul four frigates and two refuelling ships'.

France's bilateral ties with Qatar, the other main funder of the Islamist militias, brings numerous benefits from Total's stake in the liquefied natural gas ( LNG ) market and the supply of it as an increasing part of the gas energy portfolio for north west Europe via France's EDF group.

France's energy policy is interconnected to geopolitical strategy and competition with Russia and Gazprom for control over the global market for LNG. The volume of Qatari LNG threatens to displace the importance of Russian gas. The proposed Qatar-Turkey pipeline would rival Russian imports and so it backs Assad.

France's interest in energy diversification coincides with many EU states. However, only France ( apart from Britain ) is a military power that can assert those energy security interests in the Middle East. More than that, Qatar invests billions of petrodollars in French real estate and grand projets.

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