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Iraq/Syria

Published on August 21, 2014
Interview given by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, to the daily newspaper Le Monde
Paris, August 21, 2014

(…)

Q. – In eastern Europe and the Middle East, American leadership is being shaken up. Some people are saying Barack Obama isn’t demonstrating enough authority.

THE PRESIDENT – For a long time people have complained about the American superpower and its multiple interventions. We’re not in a position to criticize Barack Obama for being too timid. But I believe the international situation is the most serious one we’ve seen since 2001.

The world must fully appreciate this. We’re having to face not a terrorist movement like al-Qaeda but a virtual terrorist state, Islamic State. We can no longer confine ourselves to the traditional debate: intervention or non-intervention. We must look at a comprehensive strategy against the group, which has created a structure for itself, has major financing and very sophisticated weapons and is threatening countries like Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. So I’ll shortly be proposing to our partners a conference on security in Iraq and the fight against Islamic State.

Q. – France has decided to supply Iraq’s Kurds with sophisticated weapons. Why give the Kurds what we refused to give the Syrian rebels?

THE PRESIDENT – Who told you we didn’t give any weapons to the rebels, i.e. the democratic opposition? The international community bears a very heavy responsibility in Syria. Two years ago, if action had been taken to establish a transition, we wouldn’t have had Islamic State.

One year ago, if there’d been a reaction from the major powers commensurate with the use (by Bashar al-Assad) of chemical weapons, we wouldn’t have been facing this terrible choice between a dictator and a terrorist group, when the rebels deserve all our support.

Q. – What weapons did France deliver to the Syrian rebels?

THE PRESIDENT – Materiel in line with European commitments. We’re not doing this simply to support the Kurds or Iraqis: we’re acting for the sake of our security. We’re facing a real threat, with jihadists who have been recruited for operations of appalling barbarity and who may, at some point, come back to strike. They include French people.

Q. – By arming the Kurds, don’t we risk speeding up their march towards independence?

THE PRESIDENT – I’ve made sure these deliveries are carried out in full agreement with the Baghdad authorities so that there can be no doubt about the use of these resources and so that the framework remains that of Iraq’s unity. France has been a pioneer: it’s persuaded Europe about its choices – although, along with the United States, we’re the only ones to have made them for the time being. (…)./.

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