My first duty is to ensure France’s security. I have responsibility for this. Yet the world, as I was saying, is threatened. Seriously threatened by a terrorism which has changed dimension. A terrorism which has never had so many financial, military and human resources at its disposal. A terrorism which intends no longer simply to challenge states but to take their place. A terrorism which attacks, of course, the most vulnerable members of the population, whatever their religion.
These are the groups we fought – and what’s more, victoriously – in Mali. Others are taking action in Nigeria, Libya and Somalia, but the danger is greatest in Iraq and Syria. The terrorist movement, which is called Daesh, has thrived in Syria’s state of chaos and – let’s spell it out – also because the international community has continued to stand by.
I also remember what I said – it was a year ago – after Bashar al-Assad’s regime had used chemical weapons. The chemical weapons are no longer there, but terrorism has stepped into the breach. It occupies large parts of the territory and is now in Iraq.
It slaughters all those who stand up to it. It hunts down minorities, particularly Christians. It commits atrocities against civilians, beheads journalists, even crucifies its opponents and kidnaps women. This is the movement we’re up against.
There are hundreds of thousands, even millions of refugees. I’m not forgetting that 200,000 have been killed in the Syria conflict – 200,000! And many others are trying to flee, however they can, and are trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea at great risk to their lives.
Moreover, this terrorist group, Daesh, is attracting combatants from all over the world. In France, nearly 1,000 French or foreign nationals have joined the group in Syria and Iraq. Young people – often even minors – indoctrinated, recruited, are risking their lives – 36 have died – and may return with the worst plans in mind. Everyone remembers what happened at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, with the murders.
It isn’t just Iraq which is threatened, not just the Middle East: it’s Europe, the world!
I’ve come back from Iraq, and in particular Iraqi Kurdistan. President Barzani told me he’d found a tank containing terrorist attackers. He gave me their nationalities. There was a German, a Czech, a Russian and a Libyan. That’s what the movement is today: a movement which comes from everywhere and wants to conquer territories.
So France has shouldered its responsibilities. In August, I authorized the delivery of weapons to the Iraqis. Laurent Fabius travelled to the country to ensure those brave fighters could hold back terrorism. On Friday, along with the Foreign and Defence Ministers, I went to Iraq to meet the new legitimate authorities there. They asked me for just one thing in addition to the humanitarian aid and material assistance we’d already supplied: France’s support for air protection operations. I told them then of my willingness.
At France and Iraq’s initiative, an international conference was held in Paris on Monday. It provided a political framework for support to Iraq in all areas. I’ve mentioned them: humanitarian, security, health but also military. The threat has also been identified by the United Nations Security Council.
This morning, I convened the [Select] Defence Council and decided to respond to the Iraqi authorities’ request to grant air support. Our aim is to contribute to peace and security in Iraq by weakening the terrorists. I say – just as clearly as I state the necessity of this backing and this air support – that we won’t go any further: there will be no troops on the ground and we’ll intervene only in Iraq.
In accordance with the constitution, Parliament will be informed as soon as the first operations are embarked on – i.e. soon. Next week, the Prime Minister will convene the chairmen of the parliamentary groups in the Senate and the National Assembly. It will be possible for a debate to be held in those assemblies.
That’s the decision I’ve taken. It’s based on the vital objective of our own security. It also means that we, here in France, can combat terrorism. At the National Assembly, the Interior Minister – who is today busy visiting the victims of the storms of recent hours in the Hérault [department] – almost unanimously got the bill adopted to combat terrorist networks and ensure that young people can’t be recruited onto battlefields where they have no place.
I’ve heard the appeals from parents, from those mothers, from those fathers who saw girls, young girls, leave without knowing where they were going, only to find themselves on a battlefield, sometimes exploited under the worst conditions. So we must act, with due respect for freedoms. Act for our security. (…)./.