Syria and France: Hollande – A Second Sarkozy?
November 14, 2012
Syria and France: Hollande – a second Sarkozy?
France has officially recognized the Syrian opposition as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people. This step on the part of Socialist Francois Hollande doubtless delighted his right-wing predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.
On March 10, 2011, Sarkozy became the first foreign head of state to recognize the opposition National Transitional Council in Libya. Nine days later, NATO aircraft began bombing Colonel Gaddafi’s strongholds.
Hollande recognized the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces on November 13 and pledged arms supplies to the rebels as soon as the opposition forms a transitional government.
Sergei Fyodorov, a senior analyst at the Institute for European Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, notes that the two scenarios have much in common.
“As for potential intervention, it’s not just about juridical matters like lifting the EU arms embargo. The problem is that the President Assad’s army is far stronger than that of the former Gaddafi regime in Libya. Assad possesses chemical weapons. So barging in hot-mindedly the way Sarkozy and Premier Cameron did in Libya could prove much more complicated. The latter circumstance as well as a tough position taken by Russia and China has apparently prevented Western leaders from rash decisions.”
Syria’s so-called “donors” are expected to meet on London on November 16 to discuss ways of financing the Syrian rebels and their future “transitional cabinet”. Britain has not been making a secret of the fact that “donations” from oil-rich Gulf monarchies will be used to purchase weapons for the Syrian opposition. There will be no need to lift the current arms embargo against Syria since weapons will be supplied through Persian Gulf counties.
In the opinion of Russian analyst Dmitry Danilov, though Europe is close to a common stance on Syria, there is no unanimity on the issue of military intervention.
“The process of recognizing the opposition government in Syria will take some time. The European Union also needs time to forge a consensus, including a consensus on the recognition of the Syrian opposition government. This doesn’t seem to me to be a matter [to be determined in the] near future.”
The position of the United States is not unambiguous. The State Department has recognized the Syrian opposition as a legal representative of the Syrian people but is obviously unprepared to go beyond that. Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon with predominantly Shiite populations [majority in Iraq, plurality in Lebanon] have refused to recognize the Syrian rebels so far, to say nothing of Iran. President Assad belongs to the Alawi faith, a branch of Shia Islam.
Incidentally, the latest opinion polls in France show that President Hollande’s popularity rating has plummeted to below 40% from 60% in May, the fastest ever decline for a president in the Fifth Republic’s history.