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French Ambassador Says Washington Could Do More to Help Shape Syria’s Future

The Bashar al Assad regime’s ever-tightening circle on Syrian resistance fighters could send a million or more refugees into Turkey and scatter thousands of Islamic extremists around the region, France’s ambassador to Washington warned Monday.

Speaking at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., he added, France’s President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met over the weekend in Istanbul to discuss the possible fallout as resistance crumbles in Idlib, city and province, Gerard Araud said.

“Someone [was] missing,” he asked said, referring to the United States. American news outlets also largely ignored the conference over how to de-conflict military operations, handle the expected flow of refugees and what to do about foreign fighters who would be fleeing the onslaught of ground forces from the regime and Iranian-proxy militias backed by Russian air strikes, he said.

The Iranians and the Syrian regime and resistance groups also were not present.

The broader aims of the Istanbul talks were to arrange a ceasefire and lay the groundwork for a peace process to begin that would include the return of refugees from Syria’s neighbors and Europe.

“Russia and the regime have the upper hand” in Syria now, Araud said.

As the meeting concluded in Turkey, Macron was quoted as saying, “There will be no real, sustainable, credible return of the refugees if the political process is not initiated.” The U.N. estimates that 400,000 Syrians have died in the war that began in 2011 and millions have fled the country, seeking refuge first in neighboring Turkey and Jordan but many pressing onto Western Europe.

“We don’t have any illusions about Russia” in the Middle East or in Europe, Araud added. He noted Moscow’s stepped up naval air operations in the North Sea, its political pressure on the Baltic States and its past behavior in backing separatists with arms and intelligence in Georgia and Ukraine.

At the same time, “we don’t see Russia as the U.S.S.R. revisited.” He said the combined defense spending of France, the United Kingdom and Germany exceeds Moscow’s. “Russia is raising some political problems,” especially with its behavior in Ukraine, but is not the intimidating superpower of Cold War days.

Syrian President Bashar al Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia on Oct. 21, 2015. Kremlin Photo

And when it comes to putting its money where its mouth is in confronting Moscow’s new aggression, Araud said, “we have done the job” in applying increasingly severe sanctions on Russian banks, businesses and individuals as a member of the European Union and as a nation. “Our trade is 10 times the United States’ trade with Russia,” so the sanctions’ impact is felt far more in Europe than America. As an example, he said for France their impact has been particularly felt in agriculture, a sector that had been heavily engaged in trading with Russia, he said.

While France is the United States’ oldest continuous ally, dating to the Revolution, the relationship has not always been a smooth one. To French leaders, Washington’s walking away from the Iranian nuclear agreement and willingness to impose tough sanctions on third party nations and businesses trading with Tehran is “a bit weird [since] we have the same diagnostics” on its behavior.

Araud cited Tehran’s ambitious missile program, its meddling in affairs of other Middle Eastern countries and backing of Shia extremist groups as examples of where Washington and Paris see eye-to-eye; but when it came to continuing to remain in the agreement, Paris and Washington have moved far apart.

Adding new tensions to that split is the looming Nov. 4 deadline set by the administration of President Donald Trump to impose a new round of broader sanctions. The wording of the proposed ban is general and sweeping, he said, and that is extremely worrisome to Europeans, Russians and Chinese. France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, China and the United States signed the agreement with Iran in 2015. The EU was also included in the pact.

So far, international inspectors have found Iran abiding by the pact that halted for a decade its nuclear weapons development program; and countries like France and Germany have been working with Tehran to keep it in place in exchange for freer trade with their nations.

Even the sale of medicines and other goods considered humanitarian assistance by France or any other country to Iran could fall under the scope of the new sanctions. “Let’s see if we can work together” in defining what is liable and what is acceptable. France is “expecting our American friends to make some moves” in clarifying Washington’s position.

“You need to be more precise,” he said.

Araud, speaking before Merkel’s announcement she would not seek re-election in 2021, said France has emerged as a leader in the European Union at a time when political leaders in Italy, Hungary and Poland are questioning its value to their nations and the continent as a whole.

As the EU nations face elections this spring to its parliament, Araud said it was vital for EU backers like France to show citizens in member nations that it “it is important for our security” and they benefit from free trade on the continent and in their economic dealings outside Europe.

As an example of its security guarantees being used, France invoked its EU membership when terrorists launched a wave of attacks in Paris in 2015, rather than seeking assistance through NATO. “The fact is the EU is muddling through” on migration from economically stressed regions such as the Sahel in Africa and refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria. Immigration was at the top of the list of nationalists’ concerns about the viability of the EU, Araud said.

“We are not naive” when it comes to growing Chinese economic influence globally. “China is on the rise,” Araud said. “In relative terms, the U.S. is in decline.” He called this dynamic “a re-balancing” and power politics that can be mitigated through international law and dialogue between the two powers.

Russia is no longer the global superpower that the Soviet Union was, he said earlier. “Now the major relationship” is between Beijing and Washington.

  • Bryan

    It’s about spending money for no perceived benefit. If Turkey is going to be a religious dictatorship then they should spend their money to fight the Kurd. Russia wants to regain it’s foothold in Syria. No problem, but why should we spend the money and lives to pacify the country? Let them do it. Being babysitter of the world takes a lot of money.

    What that map shows is a Kurdish homeland. That can be a buffer and a problem all at once. Syria might accept it to disrupt Iran. Iraq will be just like Turkey, afraid that the homeland will spill over into their national border. They will both find that unacceptable. Interesting times.

    • Rocco


  • Ed L

    France along with Britain screwed up the Middle East with their Sykes–Picot officially known as the Asia Minor Agreement, was a secret 1916 agreement between the United Kingdom and France. The agreement defined their mutually agreed spheres of influence and control in Southwestern Asia. Now we have been trying to clean up their mess for years. We be better off to recognize the Kurdish Nation and funnel as much heavy weapons as possible to them

    • waveshaper1

      This Middle East AO was screwed up long before Britain and France pulled the Sykes-Picot stunt. A short review of who ran this AO before the Brits/France took over and continued the tradition of war/chaos.
      The time of the Ottoman Empire was nothing but war, all the time/every day. They picked up right where the Mongol Empire stopped and come in a close second to the Mongols when it comes to being constantly at war the last thousand years. The Ottomans were involved in 139 “Major Wars” for a total of 1428 years engaged in overlapping major wars. This doesn’t include all the minor wars/sectarian/religious/tribal wars and conflicts (a couple thousand years worth of fighting) that were constanly going on inside the empire (not much different then what’s happening today in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, etc).
      – Just one of a ton of examples, Lets look at Yemen since things haven’t changed much there over the last couple thousand years; The Ottomans spent a couple hundred years fighting “minor wars” in Yemen alone and keep sending expedition after expedition there to get slaughtered. The Ottomans first expedition to Yemen (these are all considered in the minor war/insurgency category); Excerpt; Out of 80,000 soldiers sent to Yemen between 1539 – 1547, only 7,000 survived. Here’s the results of the Ottoman’s last minor war in Yemen (note; there was a bunch of expeditions/minor wars/and constant insurgency/conflict in between these two examples and they ended pretty much the the same way for the Turks); Excerpt; The northern tribes united under the leadership of the House of Hamidaddin in 1890 and a rebellion against the Turks in 1904, the rebels disrupted the Ottoman ability to govern. The revolts between 1904 and 1911 were especially damaging to the Ottomans, costing them as much as 10,000 soldier per year.

      • Ed L

        I was referring to the colonial mind set the French still seem to be mired in At least the Ottman Empire didn’t insist on religious conversation They just believe in slavery

  • Kypros

    Eventually, the interests of Assad, Russia and Iran will start to diverge. That’s when things will get interesting!

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    Does it need to be pointed out that US forces border that of ISIS in Tanf / rural Damascus provinces…..
    ….. yet they aren’t fighting.

    Though if the French are whinging about something, America is probably doing that something right.

  • RunningBear

    The US has stopped Assad from continuing his policies of genocide with WMDs. Russia has traded their support with Assad granting them ports and airbases and will kill whomever he designates, until opposed by the US. The EU should develop a policy to address their problems with illegal aliens. That EU solution would be France’s best hope.

    Fly Navy

  • Chesapeakeguy

    Yeah right. As always, the likes of France lecturing that the USA do more, while they avoid the hard work as much as possible.

    • Chesapeakeguy

      My mail notice told me that none other than Duane responded to this. But lo and behold, I see no comment here.

      • Chesapeakeguy

        So now I have yet another supposed ‘reply’ from Duane to my post above, and it isn’t showing up on these boards. I do not know of he is blaming me for ‘flagging’ his posts for deletion and/or censure. Duane, I have never, EVER, ‘flagged’ anyone on here, for ANYTHING. Why would I have to? When you post, it’s often just way too easy to take satisfaction in pointing out how wrong and/or hypocritical you are. Your inane posts allow the likes of me to shine so brightly. I not only welcome you to comment on my offerings, I DARE you to. If you are NOT blaming me for that, then I stand corrected. OK?

        For the rest of you, I will post his two replies to my post. Because I want to HELP Duane….

        • Chesapeakeguy

          From Duane…This was posted 2 days ago, on Wednesday…

          The French aren’t asking the Americans to send in a bunch more forces to Syria.

          Rather, the French are saying, “stop stabbing us in the back with things
          like your sanctions on US as we deal with Iran and Russia”.

          Seems totally fair and reasonable and intelligent.

          The problem is that the idiot Trump is anything but fair and reasonable and intelligent.

          • Chesapeakeguy

            From Duane…Posted today…

            Someone (I rather suspect I know who) is systematically flagging every
            single one of my comments, regardless of the content, or who is involved
            in the thread, even the most innocuous of comments, including those
            agreeing with a prior commenter’s remarks. This person is a despicable
            T-word (the system automatically flags and deletes T-word references)
            who is an abusive, sick individual.

            My reply to you was to the effect that France is not asking the US to
            send more troops to Syria, but rather, is disgusted that Trump keeps
            stabbing France and our other allies in the back with his economic
            sanctions designed to punish those who comply with the Iran nuke weapons
            agreement that the US approved in 2015, but which Trump does not like.

          • Chesapeakeguy

            You have such heart ache over the fact that Trump is at least trying to get these so-called allies to ante up and make real efforts in these international conflicts. You and yours are obviously content to have this country continue to be played for chumps while we often have to borrow money from those very same countries so we can DEFEND them because they won’t do that for themselves. I’m darned glad we FINALLY have a POTUS who is standing up to that. It’s been a bi-partisan failure by US Presidents in not addressing these things before. I’m glad Trump is doing what he said he would!

          • Chesapeakeguy

            This is another posting from Duane that is not showing on here. If someone is ‘flagging him’, I say that is ridiculous. I think it is cowardly. So long as profanity is not used in posts, ALL posts should be allowed. If someone is afraid of posts that they don’t like or agree with, then perhaps they should find somewhere else to partake. I clash with posters on these boards quite frequently. In no way would I ever want them to be banned or silenced, because I would not want that done to me. Whoever believes in silencing those they disagree with really should man up and grow a set!

            From Duane…posted today…

            ‘Yes I replied, and a tr*ll is continually flagging all of my comments on
            USNI, regardless of content or with whom I am engaged in discussion. I
            suspect who it is – he is a low life cretin.’

            Well, as I alluded to above, it might be snowing in Hades, because I absolutely agree with Duane here. I don’t know who it is, but it just ain’t right.

            Duane, if you find your posts not being shown on here, I will be happy to do so. Post them as a reply to any posts of mine, so I can be notified of them. I WILL do that.

          • Rocco

            I don’t agree with you stating go find another blog! If you find someone you can’t converse with then just block that person!

          • Chesapeakeguy

            No! If ANYONE cannot deal with anyone else having contrary opinions to their own then they are indeed on the wrong venue. I do not like much of what is said by certain posters on here, However, they should NOT be impeded in what or how they say things. I have had posters try to shut me down on here and on other sites. If THOSE people cannot engage with all on here, they should bail. Period.

          • Rocco

            Well if others on here & other sites try to shut you up or down as you say, means you admit you are very opinionated & argue to the point that it turns others off! Not only that what’s the point of it?? It gets you know where.

          • Chesapeakeguy

            No, it means they are not MAN ENOUGH to deal with what sites like this can be all about. I don’t run and whine to admin types when I read something I disagree with, or when someone gets personal with me. I DEAL WITH IT. Period.

            And given how YOU quite recently told a poster on one of these boards literally “FU” out loud, I don’t think you are in position to be lecturing anyone about conduct and decorum.

          • Rocco

            Your right about what I did as he deserved it!! But that’s it I don’t carry it on back & forth I say what I had to say & that’s it if it’s not agreed so be it!! You carry on like a woman with bi polar disorder!!

          • Chesapeakeguy

            “As he deserved it”. No he didn’t, because NOBODY does. But that does say it all. I also note your selective outrage, in that you have no problem with others continuing on so long as they say what YOU want. That you defend the cowardice of the clowns who can’t man up and deal with the arguments presented to them says everything about you. I guess we can all conclude that you are one of those who cry to the admin every time you can’t refute a point or you read something you disagree with, right? Hmmm? What’s next Rocco, some more juvenile profanities? Fire away. .

          • Rocco

            Yeah OK bi polar dude!! Now you have a problem because I side & agree with PW!! No I don’t cry to anyone. I tell it or them how it is !! Now go cry to mommy!!

          • Chesapeakeguy

            Geezz DUDE (hmm, you now sound like a certain LCS zealot on here!), you really don’t get anything, do you? I couldn’t care less who you ‘side’ with in here. If you need to do that, have at it. I personally don’t have to. “Telling them like it is” and being a profane punk are two different things in this life. That you can’t understand that is on you entirely. I have known for a long time now that those who must engage in such are THE most frightened individuals who partake on venues like this, If they’re not whining to the admin types, they take straight to the gutter with their inane and profane pronouncements. Take a bow Rocco, I always thought you were better than that. Goes to show that even I get some things wrong once in awhile..

          • Chesapeakeguy

            I get it, Duane, that you would take France’s side, so long as a Republican President is trying to seek changes to a horrific situation, as events in Syria have proven to be. Notice Trump doesn’t spew any “lines in the sand” garbage. The French are the most opportunistic of our so-called European allies when ot comes to their efforts to profit and reward those whose agendas are at odds with ours and some among our other allies. That is historical fact. So of course the French will whine about such things. I’m sure if those French could live here they would vote Democrat like the rest of you do. Sad but no doubt true..

  • Ed L

    Not complaining just a reminder that the First World War never really ended. My Kurdish neighbor down the street would love to educate you. His wife has scars on her back were those friendly Turks beat her when as a teenager was caught out during curfew. And the Syrians are no help. If an American Syrian was to return to Syria. That person would be imprison and most likely killed as a traitor

    • Rocco

      That’s not true last sentence

  • omegatalon

    As the old adage goes.. talk is cheap and Trump will listen when France is spending as much as the United States in Syria.

  • Jim DiGiacomo

    If it’s true that the UK, France and Germany combined spend more on defense than the Russians, then the Russians certainly get more bang for their buck.