Saturday, February 15, 2014

Intervention in Syria : How the Americans dropped the French

Barack Obama , Hollande G8 , June 18
In the summer of 2013 , France was about to intervene in Syria with its allies , particularly the United States, after etching in a suburb of Damascus. Back on a diplomatic failure with the last part of our investigation.

Find the first two parts : Syria (1 /3): In the summer of 2013, the impact of the etching on the outskirts of Damascus and Syria (2 /3): In march to war

On Saturday 31 August, when François Hollande takes Barack Obama on the phone , late afternoon , he did not expect a complete about -face . U.S. President explained at length that he finally chose to consult Congress. And thus postpone the strikes. The blow is scathing for Holland. More than any other Western head of state, he pleaded for an intervention in Syria. It now finds itself isolated . One observer present during this exchange says that Barack Obama has , in essence, justified this reversal dramatic situation by saying : "There is no international coalition for intervention in Syria , no majority in the Council security, no support in public opinion, it takes at least I Congressional approval , because I am not George W. Bush ".

The change of foot Obama takes the Syrian opposition by surprise. Jarba Ahmed , leader of the Syrian opposition , learns by watching the president's speech on TV. " Half an hour before his speech, I received an email from a senior member of the opposition , who explained to me on flatly that Obama would announce strikes ," says the researcher Khaled Saleh, on a bitter tone.


The explanation of this head - to-tail Is Obama to look towards Iran? The question is immediately posed a few weeks later, when the American press revealed that the U.S. led secret negotiations with Tehran on the thorny nuclear issue Iran since March 2013. Extent telescoping of this case, a top priority for Washington, he urged Americans to spare Tehran renouncing hit his Syrian ally? The Quai d' Orsay, it is estimated that these parallel discussions have not weighed decisively on the U.S. decision . "If this were the case , the Obama reversal , in the space of one night, would not have been as brutal ," said a senior diplomat.

After the phone call from Mr. Obama to François Hollande, the staff , a bit groggy , reorienting its plans. Minister Jean- Yves Le Drian stopped the rise of military force - but it does not cancel it . And his firm embarks on the exegesis of about U.S. presidential . The entourage of Mr. Le Drian is shared that evening : for some, it is clear, nothing will happen, and Obama , whatever happens, do not hit . For others, first and foremost the special adviser Jean- Claude Mallet, Obama's words - which then invokes " endangering national security " of the United States - mean that "really launched his machine " " it engages the battle of Congress, which means that it will go through . "

The first few days seem to support this analysis. In Paris , the feeling that Obama can win is acquired : it gets the support of Republican John McCain and other important figures in the Senate - in return, he drops ballast saying the need to strengthen support for the opposition Syrian . "We still believe in the 72 hours that it will happen ," says a near Le Drian . The defense asked Americans where is the military planning and reassuring too. Exchanges between the operations center of the Staff in Paris and its equivalent Tampa continue : on both sides of the Atlantic , it keeps the device fully operational .


Wednesday, September 4 , the day of the scheduled debate in the National Assembly , François Hollande summoned his key ministers and staff for a small board at 11 : 30 pm , at the Elysee. "The president stressed the need to make French original information to validate arguments in four points, a witness says : this is a massive chemical attack , against civilians, orchestrated by the regime of Bashar Al -Assad " . The other point of the meeting focused on the nature of the intervention: it is an "operation limited, targeted chemically " no regime change . " At no time is the question of Libya again ," said one diplomat.

The issue of chemical weapons is a long-standing concern . The Department of Defense is working on mastering the Syrian chemical sites since early 2012. Disposal plans are developed with the British and Americans. Consultation between the three allies on possible action to stop the Syrian program began even before the election of François Holland in May 2012 and accelerated after . Stocks , products and employment scenarios of these weapons by the Assad regime are so well known.

In spring 2012 , the French services begin to identify movements around the Syrian chemical sites. From there , Francois Hollande meets every two months, a small board on the subject . He ordered that cooperation is maximized with the United States, Turkey and Jordan. End of 2012, the first signs of a chemical weapons use appear : small amounts of gas are dropped on the battlefield rockets, smoke bombs , helicopters . Instruction is then given to the DGSE foreign intelligence services , to exploit sample. Until the declaration of Laurent Fabius, beginning in May 2013 , which refers to the "certainty" acquired by Paris that chemical weapons were used by the regime in Syria. The massacre of 21 August 2013 marks a major transformation and control act .

From the bombing of Ghouta , dialogue between Paris and Washington is permanent : the Minister of Defence Drian talks to Chuck Hagel, very pro- strikes , in whom he trusts , Jean- Claude Mallet, Special Counsel, Ashton Carter line , the Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Chief of Defence Staff , Edouard Guillaud, does not leave his counterpart Martin Dempsey , while his DCOSOPS Didier Castres, manages contacts with Tampa .

The etching in Ghouta is the first use of substances such magnitude since the signing in 1993 of the Convention on Chemical Weapons .
Paul Jean -Ortiz, the Sherpa Chair , he phone every day to Susan Rice, the national security adviser , while Laurent Fabius multiply trade with John Kerry. Within eight days following the reversal of the U.S. on August 31 , MM . Obama and Holland have talked four times on the phone. " They did not smoky , provides a presidential adviser . They always told us : " We have not decided yet ", " the general thinking goes towards intervention . '"


Mr. Holland asked Le Drian bring Europeans together . Thursday, September 5 , the minister calls both British and German counterparts. Before informing his colleagues one by one defense ministers of Twenty- Eight , met informally in the evening in Vilnius, Lithuania. Mission accomplished for Jean- Yves Le Drian, a friend of thirty years of the president: "He investigated the case for the prosecution against Assad and brought to Holland certainty that the transactions were feasible , ready, in a relationship of trust with United States , "says a close . The French military records provided comprehensive targets for cruise missiles. Americans , exceptionally , have " any given " their raids, their plans for strikes.

But from Wednesday, September 4 , in Paris , we begin to understand that the American calendar stretched . The information came from Washington show that Obama will not have the majority in the House of Representatives. President Hollande is an impasse. The climate of hostility to strikes seems to prevail .

The G20 summit in Saint Petersburg , Russia.
It is in this context of increasingly tense that stands the G20 summit in St. Petersburg , Friday, September 6 . " We feel that the assumption of punitive strikes away , but we want to keep them in the landscape as a means of pressure , that's the objective of the G20 ," said a relative of Mr. Holland. Syrian crisis electrified the international meeting on the shores of the Gulf of Finland. Vladimir Putin is stiffer than ever. The Russians publicly sweeping accusations against the Syrian regime , saying that there is no " evidence " sufficient to incriminate Bashar al- Assad in the attack on 21 August. In appearance, the dialogue of the deaf is total and nothing publicly , no indication a compromise.

The summit ends on Friday in the afternoon , for a tête-à -tête between Putin and Barack Obama, who then spoke with François Hollande . During their exchange of about 45 minutes, Mr. Holland asks the American president on the balance of power in Congress. "It's tough ," Obama replied . And the question on a date for strikes , Obama then designates finger General Benoît Puga , sitting around the table : " Let our Chiefs of Staff work together , 'says cryptically Bush.


Leaving St. Petersburg, the French know that the Russians have exposed the Americans a plan to dismantle Syria chemical weapons. "But at this stage , it is said at the Elysee Palace , it was still theoretical . It was unclear whether Bashar agreed or not , this could be yet another smoke screen . " Especially since John Kerry continued the next day, Saturday, September 7 , during a stopover in Paris , to defend a hard line against Assad . "Let it go a criminal, it is encouraging to recur ," claims the U.S. secretary of state in a perfect French during a meeting at the Quai d' Orsay. To dramatize his point, he does not hesitate to resort to history. "This really is our Munich to us! This is the time to choose accountability rather than appeasement. "

Forty- eight hours later , the tone will change from completely. Syrian crisis knows another blow diplomatic theater , the second ten days after Obama's decision to use the Congress. This time , the turnaround will come from Moscow. Monday, September 9 , Russia , hitherto buttressed by an unyielding defense of the regime in Damascus , suggests placing the Syrian chemical weapons under international supervision , to his destruction.

The surprise was complete. "The Russian plane fell from the sky , 'says a French diplomat. It completely changed all that . If the Syrian chemical arsenal can be secured and destroyed , as stated by Russia , then the justification for military intervention in Syria collapses. The relief is palpable in Washington who immediately grabbed the ball on the rebound , as the prospect of involvement in the Syrian conflict was as unpopular as fraught with risks.

The French authorities are taken by surprise. This is the second time they are pushed by the Americans. Dropped in flight, some might say. François Hollande is more isolated than ever on the international scene, now only have defended through military sanctions against Damascus. " Bashar has sacrificed its chemical device to save his regime, console does at the Elysee . Without the threat of strikes he would not budge. "


Marginalized since the beginning of the Syrian conflict , Russia replace dramatically in the heart of the diplomatic game, now led by head -to-head with the United States. John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov agreed to meet , Thursday, Sept. 12 , in Geneva , to tie the outlines of an agreement. It will be completed in record time and announced Saturday, September 14 .

" On the eve of the Kerry- Lavrov statement , the statement of votes ( Congress ) is reversed in Obama's disfavor and say it's going to be complicated ," says one close to Le Drian . Then everything will fall . "The Russian solution when it comes out , we know it . But Russians and Americans have spoken in bilateral talk without us , and it is the Russians who proclaim . It was infuriating , "recalls one expert dossier to the Ministry of Defence.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov before the announcement of proposals to the Syrian crisis conference in Geneva from September 14, 2013 .
Less than a month after the attack on the Ghouta , the Damascus regime will thus gone from international outcast, that of key contact to the implementation of an agreement on the dismantling of its chemical arsenal , which receive the anointing of the security Council of the UN on September 26 .


However , the level of military planning as mobilization bombers will be maintained until the Kerry- Lavrov Geneva Declaration . Person around François Hollande , has pushed the option of a French solo hits after the U.S. turnaround. This possibility was on the table from the beginning, as technically feasible, as confirmed by the Air Force . But the head of the French state has not taken into account. "From the start , we know that the president does not want to go alone," they say at the Elysee.

At least three factors led François Hollande to renounce intervention alone, said an informed source . First, " the operation had more legitimacy if it was conducted several " indispensable to counter the skepticism of French opinion argument. Then there was the risk of diplomatic isolation . " All alone , there was no safety net if the Security Council asked us accountable ," says this source. Finally, there was the fear of " reprisals on other fronts , particularly in Africa ." "It would have been easier for Damascus to take to France if she had been alone ," says this close to the case .

In decisions on military operations planned , " we have never had something else in mind that the dismantling of the Syrian ability to use chemical weapons" , assures us in the entourage of Mr Le Drian . "The plans show the strikes ." Presidential line was that of a disconnect between operations airstrikes and aid the Syrian opposition.

" TAKE THIS GUN , I still have FULL HOME "

But the war aims , the official language has evolved over the days. The defense was first mentioned " limited strikes ": they were to " any chemical , but only the chemical ." Then he was admitted , at least unofficially , that the strikes had to change the balance of political power on site. Because chemical weapons was under the direct supervision of the highest authorities of the regime and Bashar himself, it was good to reach the heart of the regime. "It was carrying a dynamic that would have been positive , keystrokes have changed field conditions ," now recognizes a source at the Elysée. Cancellation, recognizes this party was "a very hard blow to the opposition, which needed to show that it benefited from outside support ."

A woman carries a portrait of President Bashar Al- Assad, in a street in Damascus, September 11 , the day of the forty-eighth anniversary of the Syrian president.
" Very , very hard, confirms Monzer Akbik , the Chief of Staff Ahmed Jarba , head of the Syrian National Coalition ( CNS) . Informants within the regime suggested a near panic , an exodus of executives safe to Lebanon. It was felt that the scheme would not have withstood strikes. We could have saved many lives . "

PLAN reinforced

"The agreement itself was very disappointed we added Najib Ghadbian , the representative of the CNS in Washington. We did not understand why the United States did not seek more concessions from the regime. In addition to the chemical , they could also prevent him from using his Scud missiles . Finally, Bashar has emerged stronger from this whole affair. It is as if he said the international community , "Take this gun , I still have full home" , " grimace opponent .

For the French executive, the conclusion is bitter. " By dint of setbacks , we now let the destruction of Syria ," said a near Le Drian .
"The agreement on chemical weapons has set a puzzle , but it did not resolve the heart of the problem. There is a hole in the racket , the political transition is not resolved , " adds at the Elysee . The process of dismantling the chemical arsenal as it unfolds " reinforces and legitimizes the regime , 'says the senior official .