See Part I
Paris tragedy: US not coming to help France at the moment of need
The emotional statements from France appeared to do little to fundamentally change Mr. Obama’s view on expanding the American role in Iraq and Syria.
The possibilities, they said, include more airstrikes, Special Operations raids, assistance to local allies and attacks against Islamic State (IS) targets outside Syria and Iraq, like the recent strike in Libya.
«We don’t believe U.S. troops are the answer to the problem», Benjamin J. Rhodes, the president’s deputy national security adviser, told reporters on November 15 at the G20 meeting in Turkey, where Mr. Obama consulted with other world leaders. «The further introduction of U.S. troops to fully re-engage in ground combat in the Middle East is not the way to deal with this challenge».
«We are going to continue to pursue the strategy that has the best chance of working, even though it does not offer the satisfaction, I guess, of a neat headline or an immediate resolution», Mr. Obama said during a press conference at a summit of leading rich and developing nations in Antalya, Turkey.
According to the Wall Street Journal’s comment, Americans were disappointed in 2003 when French President Jacques Chirac opposed the US invasion of Iraq. What a sad turnabout it would be if a US President now fails to do all he can to assist a French President as he tries to defeat another enemy in the Middle East. Until America gets a new Commander in Chief, Mr. Hollande is the best anti-terror leader the West has.
France would opt to go with a coalition of the willing to respond to the attacks rather than working through NATO, the article says.
France goes to EU for help: unprecedented move
France invoked a never-before-used European Union «mutual-defense clause» to demand that its partners provide support for its operations against the Islamic State and other security missions in the wake of the Paris attacks.
On November 17, all 27 EU members agreed to offer military assistance to France in its effort to respond with force to November 13-14 terrorist attacks. The unanimous decision by European defense ministers invokes a never-before-used EU treaty provision. Article 42.7 the 'mutual defence clause' invoked by France stipulates that «if a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States»,
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France had asked to invoke the obscure EU provision instead of NATO’s Article 5 because some of the less hawkish members of Hollande’s cabinet did not want to put pressure on the US, and also did not want to further destabilize the Middle East with a NATO intervention.
The French minister said the EU's support was a «political act of great significance».
EU countries could then contribute by providing support or staff to French operations in Sahel, Central African Republic - thereby allowing Paris to free up capacity to use internally, an EU official explained.
France invoked the EU treaty’s Article 42.7 because it can be implemented quickly. Putting it into action does not require any formal decision or Council conclusions.
It is not immediately clear exactly what form this support would take.
It is remarkable that France turned to the EU treaties instead of the North Atlantic pact and its Article 5. The priority given to the EU's backing instead of NATO echoes France's longstanding support for an autonomous European defence policy without interference from Washington. It could also become a crucial test of how the EU and NATO coordinate in case of a threat on European soil.
Asked on Twitter why France invoked the European Union treaty and not the NATO charter, Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to Washington, wrote that one reason was «the dialogue with Russia». The implication was that Russia is hostile toward NATO and therefore invoking the alliance’s aid might be provocative toward Moscow.
France and Russia get close in a pinch
French President Francois Hollande and Russian leader Vladimir Putin agreed to coordinate anti-IS efforts in the region. The two will meet this week in Moscow. The both countries have agreed to create a joint work group as the French aircraft carrier joins the fray. This could be the key reason why Paris refrained from invoking Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.
«One reason is that in vowing a strong and continued response to the attacks, France has drifted closer to Russia and to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose air force is already engaged in Syria», the Fiscal Times noted.
On November 17 the Russian President made a very important statement.
«A French Navy group headed by an aircraft carrier will soon approach your area of operations,» Putin said, according to the Kremlin statement. «We must establish direct contact with the French and work with them as allies».
In a military briefing for Mr. Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, which was televised live nationwide, it was announced that Russia had deployed cruise missiles, long-range bombers and other warplanes.
«A massive airstrike is targeting ISIL sites in Syrian territory», Mr. Shoigu said, using one of the acronyms for the Islamic State. «The number of sorties has been doubled, which makes it possible to deliver powerful pinpoint strikes upon ISIL fighters all throughout the Syrian territory».
The Russia’s military doubled its attacks in Syria on November 17, carrying out 34 cruise missile strikes and deploying long-range Tu-160, Tu-95 and Tu-22 bombers from Russian bases to hit Islamic State’s heartland in the Syrian province of Raqqa and other targets. In a speech made before the UN at the end of September, Putin made a similar proposal for a «true international collation against terrorism».
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The atrocity committed by terrorists in Paris on November 13-14 changed the mindset of Mr. Hollande, as many others in France. Some time before the tragedy he had slammed Russia for its Syria policy saying no conflict management is possible without Assad stepping down. The anti-Assad coalition did not prevent the terrorist acts. Now France has is own score to settle with the IS. The French President is ready to take on the role of the one to unify the US and Russia in the anti-IS effort. A lot depends on the outcome of the talks the President will hold in Washington. At G20 summit Obama said Russia was a «constructive partner». Unlike NATO members, Moscow was the only to side with France in the wake of the tragedy.
No wonder Paris is coordinating the activities with Moscow to renew an old friendship while the US President Obama is missing an opportunity to help an ally in its hour of need and fortify the larger Atlantic alliance.
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The world is waiting with impatience. Something very important is going to happen as Hollande is to start his foreign tour.