France and Syria: The American president’s trailer?

BEFORE his election last year as French president, François Hollande had no foreign-policy experience. He had never met Barack Obama. And he led a party which invented the term “hyperpower” to deplore American military might.Today Mr Hollande has cast himself as a war leader for the second time in a year, after the French-led military intervention to evict Islamist rebels in Mali in January. He finds his country described as America’s “oldest ally” by the American secretary of state, after Britain’s parliament rejected military strikes against Syria. And yet his ability to project French military power in this case depends on the outcome of a vote in the American Congress. After bold words, France is finding itself uncomfortably constrained, and politically divided over what to do next.For the past year France has been particularly outspoken about Syria. The French government was the first to recognise the Syrian opposition coalition. Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, led calls for the use of force against those responsible for the chemical attacks of August 21st. Before the British vote, Mr Hollande gave a bellicose speech, declaring that France was “ready to punish” those who “took the decision to gas innocents”. On September 2nd the government published a nine-page intelligence report, which concluded that only the Assad regime could have been responsible. After the…

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