The future of Syria remains of vital importance to France, both because of the Damascus- Paris relationship itself and because of France’s interests in the region. But for all of its concern, there is little Paris can do.
Six months into France’s intensified military campaign against the so-called Islamic State (IS), the Syrian issue remained a challenge for Paris on multiple levels. France’s relationship with Damascus is a long and thorny one: A French mandate between 1920 and 1946, Syria went through a violent, unstable period after World War II, ending when Hafez al-Assad took power in 1970.
Since then, many an issue has divided France and Syria, starting with the fate of Lebanon. Attacks against French interests were attributed to Damascus, its Iranian ally, and their Lebanese proxy Hezbollah: the assassination of the French ambassador in Lebanon in 1981; the killing of 58 French soldiers in Beirut in 1983; the kidnapping and killing of French researcher Michel Seurat in 1985-86; the 1986 terrorist attacks in France (which killed seven and wounded 55 in Paris), carried out by a member of Hezbollah; and the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a personal friend of President Jacques Chirac. Paris and Washington pushed UN resolution 1559, passed in 2004, to impose the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the disarmament of Hezbollah. …
Read more in the Berlin Policy Journal App – May/June 2016 issue.