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France to join alliance against Islamic State

France to join alliance against Islamic State

Published on September 9, 2014
Iraq/NATO summit – Press conference given by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic
Newport, September 5, 2014

THE PRESIDENT – We came together for this NATO summit nearly 48 hours ago. The two subjects, which events dictate and responsibility demands that we deal with, are Ukraine and the situation in Iraq and Syria. (…)

The situation in Iraq gave rise to a lot of discussion, because I emphasized that we’re looking at a global threat, the threat from Islamic State, which, by the way, is neither a state nor can be regarded as representing Islam, because it distorts it for terrorist purposes. So a terrorist group exists there that wants to organize an occupation of territories and massacres of people who might not share its views. That’s the enemy we have to combat.

How can we do that? A global threat calls for a global response. You know how keen I’ve been to ensure that the new Iraqi President can form a new government, appoint a prime minister and enable the communities, the strands of opinion in Iraq to come together and also bring together all the players, all the partners in the region to help Iraq combat this scourge. That’s the purpose of the proposal – which I reiterated here – for a conference on Iraq and against the terrorist group that threatens its integrity, and not simply Iraq, moreover; not only Iraq and Syria.

It’s a threat that concerns us directly – first of all because there are, sadly, fighters arriving from many countries, including ours, and also because the group may carry out actions against our own interests. So the conference was seen as a necessary, useful initiative to create this unity.

I had several discussions, including with President Obama, about what should be done in terms of help to Iraq to combat this terrorist group. The assistance which we’re going to provide, which we’ve already provided, is humanitarian and security assistance. You’re aware of the deliveries we’ve made. We were also the first to begin this type of support.

Can we do more? France is ready for action, but [only] if there’s a political framework and in accordance with international law. The political framework is precisely for the Iraqi government itself to request this support. And the international legitimacy is that of the United Nations and whatever alliance we can create.

So France will shoulder its responsibilities, as it always has in recent months in other areas, and on the basis of a single criterion, namely security: the security of countries that may be attacked by terrorists, but also our own security. We act on the basis of that imperative alone: the security of our compatriots, ensuring that no threats can extend to them. And threats do exist! We can’t intervene everywhere. It’s not about that. But there, in Iraq, we know that what’s happening is extremely serious, not only for the region but for the whole world.

I’ll add a word about Syria. This terrorist group is in both Iraq and Syria. Moreover, we don’t know where it comes from – whether it comes from Syria or Iraq. Ultimately it has the same intentions. But Syria is a different case.

For France, it’s inconceivable for any action to be taken in coordination with the Bashar al-Assad regime, because there can’t be a choice between a dictatorship of terror and a terror that wants to impose its dictatorship.

So we’ll look at what we can do and what we’ve already done, because for us there’s a force that exists, namely the democratic opposition in Syria, and a free army that must be supported. (…)

Q. – At this summit, the United States called for an international coalition against Islamic State. You’ve just told us France will shoulder its responsibilities. Does that mean France will be part of this coalition? And if so, in what way? With what means? Will there be, for example, French airstrikes in Iraq and Syria – even if it’s not in coordination with Bashar al-Assad – or even troops on the ground?

THE PRESIDENT – First of all, are we going to be part of an alliance at the Iraqi authorities’ request, in the framework of respect for international law, to combat this terrorist group? The answer is yes.

What will the different operations be? We’re going to define them. We’re already having discussions. I’m not going to reveal them to you here. I’m not even going to give you the locations, the details of what we’re going to do, but I can tell you it’ll be about ensuring that this group can be prevented from doing harm and acting. And we’ll do it with the Iraqi authorities.

That’s why the conference on Iraq is so important – because it can’t be an alliance coming only from the West. That would also be the greatest disservice we could do. It must be an alliance of the region, with the neighbouring countries concerned. Need I talk about what’s happening in Jordan and Turkey? Need I mention the terribly nagging issue of refugees in Lebanon? There are the Gulf countries. So it’s our role to bring those countries together.

Finally, we must act on the basis of international law. So the conference will enable us to lay down the very principles that will make this broad alliance possible – an international alliance, an alliance requested by the Iraqi authorities and an alliance that will necessarily be broad. In the face of a global threat, we must have a response that isn’t only military, moreover: economic and humanitarian aid will also have to be provided, and it will be.

On Syria, we’re not involved because we don’t have sufficiently clear evidence of whether what we will or could do might benefit Bashar al-Assad.

That doesn’t prevent us from acting, because we’ve already acted by helping the Free Syrian Army. But there too, it will require other conditions, because the international law situations aren’t the same.

In one case – Iraq – what we regard as Iraq’s legitimate authorities are calling on us; in the other, who would be calling on us? (...)

Q. – Almost a year ago, the US ally let you down a bit regarding Syria. Today, it’s clearly more of a driving force on the Islamic State issue. How would you describe the Franco-American relationship today? Do you think France is trusted? And in the framework of NATO, where the Americans are asking for burden-sharing, do we, when all’s said and done, have the resources to follow through? (…)

THE PRESIDENT – France makes up its mind in full sovereignty, completely independently, and in accordance with what it believes to be Europe’s security, because France is fully committed in Europe, to Europe, and also with what it thinks about its own security and the interests of the world. So every time I’ve considered it important for France to get involved in combating terrorism, with due regard for international law, I’ve taken action.

I took action on Mali, and we’re seeing the results of that today – they’re convincing; I took action on the Central African Republic. I didn’t act alone – the Europeans came, sometimes taking what we considered quite a long time to do so, but they were and still are there.

The Americans helped us, particularly in Mali. The Africans were more than partners, players in their own struggle for security and independence, and thus against terrorism.

A major event occurred there several months ago now, which – you’re quite right – we could have dealt with sooner. Only a year ago, France was willing. It was willing – as soon as chemical weapons were used in Syria by the regime – to carry out operations.

In the end, through diplomatic pressure and also by the threatened use of force, there were negotiations and the chemical weapons left Syria. But the regime didn’t. We’ve seen what’s happening. (…)

So, that being the case, I don’t have any doubts. I know there’s a need to help Iraq. I didn’t wait for others to deliver weapons – which we did – to the Iraqi authorities. The United States is willing to form an alliance to take action against that terrorist group, which is erroneously called “Islamic State”, and to help Iraq.

We’re there. Or, more precisely, we will be. But on certain conditions, still the same ones. I’ve confidence because I know what France will do.

So I’ve confidence firstly in us, I’ve confidence in France. But I’ve understood that the American President also has confidence in France, because he knows that when what’s essential is at stake, we’re allies. (…)./.

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