Robert Harneis – TDO – French President François Hollande is on a visit to French troops serving with the US lead coalition in Iraq. “Acting in Iraq is also to prevent acts of terrorism on our territory”, he claimed. His visit was immediately preceded by that of his Defense Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, visiting the French air force in Jordan, where 12 Rafales fighters are based. The French political class is divided on the wisdom of this policy.
The French President arrived in Baghdad on Monday morning. This is his second visit to Iraq since France joined the American lead anti ISIS coalition in September 2014 and he is to date the only coalition head of state to have done so. France claims to be the second largest contributor to the Coalition’s military effort.
Meanwhile leading critic, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, calls for France to return to her ‘vocation as an initiator, a mediator through dialogue.’ In the past, he has attacked the coalition’s efforts in Iraq as ‘absurd’. Speaking on BFMTV when the coalition was set up in 2014 he said ‘It is time for the Western countries to draw the lessons of experience. Since Afghanistan we have multiplied military interventions, for what? In 2001 there was one host country for terrorism. One. Today? Fifteen or so.’ He added ‘Islamic State is the monstrous child of the inconsistency and arrogance of Western policy.’ Leading presidential candidates François Fillon for the Republicans and Marine Le Pen the Front National, representing around 60% of French electors, according to polls, are both calling for a foreign policy less tied to the United States.
When Hollande visited French coalition military units for the first time in 2014, officials accompanying him said ‘In full agreement with the United States, we wish to enlarge this initiative to show that it is not just a military operation in Iraq, but a wider operation which contains all the necessary dimensions for a struggle, which will take time.’
Since then France has suffered a series of major Islamic terrorist attacks and is in a prolonged state of emergency, recently extended to July 15th of this year.