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Fight against terrorism/Iraq/Syria/continuation of the armed forces’ intervention

Published on January 16, 2015
Speeches by M. Manuel Valls, Prime Minister, and M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defense, in the National Assembly (excerpts)
Paris, January 13, 2015


THE PRIME MINISTER – (…) We intervened because Iraq’s stability was under threat. Its very existence was in danger. Consequently, the risk was great: of a profound destabilization of the whole region and, beyond that, of Europe and France. Since the fall of Mosul in June, Daesh [ISIL] had in fact succeeded in controlling nearly a third of Iraq’s territory and the main communication points and strategic routes, threatening the capital, Baghdad. Daesh was showing the world its true face: that of a criminal, ultra-violent and sectarian organization. Daesh is synonymous with chaos: looting, massacres and decapitations. There’s also hostage-taking, slavery, trading in women, persecution of the Christian and Yazisi minorities, the terrible choice given to the Sunnis to join or die, and the permanent hunting-down of Shias.

We had to act to weaken Daesh and therefore terrorism. We had to act to enable the Iraqis to restore their country’s sovereignty. We had to act over there to protect ourselves here. Those goals, ladies and gentlemen deputies, haven’t changed.

So we must continue the action being taken, because while some major blows have been struck, our mission isn’t over. Consequently, in accordance with Article 35 of the constitution, I’ve come to seek your authorization to give our armed forces a mandate to continue their operations.

In four months, the first military results have been achieved: the large-scale offensive launched by Daesh in the summer of 2014 has been halted and some territories retaken. We owe these initial results – which remain fragile – to the action of a broad coalition coordinated by the United States and constantly strengthened by partners from Europe, Asia, Oceania and the Gulf. All in all, there are more than 60 nations, some 30 of which have military units directly involved. I want to pay tribute here to the significant commitment by the Europeans and Arab countries, who are advancing side by side in the same battle.


After four months of operations against Daesh, the balance of power on the ground has changed, particularly in recent weeks. But it must be reversed in a lasting way. The terrorist organization still maintains the bulk of its military potential, in fact. It’s been able to adapt its modus operandi and consolidate its defensive positions. The threat it poses to the west of Baghdad remains worrying. This is why our operation has been progressively scaled up. The government would like the nation’s elected representatives to be informed of this in complete transparency.
Indeed, following an initial deployment phase, the French President decided to adapt our capabilities to developments in the situation of the Iraqi armed forces. Fifteen Rafale and Mirage 2000 fighter planes are currently engaged in the operations. They are intervening from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. We’re also deploying support capabilities for in-flight refuelling, detection and intelligence-gathering.
Since mid-September, our planes have conducted more than 300 missions, among other things carrying out 34 strikes against infrastructure, vehicles and combat posts. These air operations have weakened the terrorists’ potential. They’ve also enabled us to obtain intelligence, in particular on fighters from abroad. (…) In addition to these air operations, we’re involved, along with other partner countries, in supplying weaponry and advising and training Kurdish fighters. In total, our contingent amounts to about 1,000 service personnel. France is therefore, after the United States, among the nations most involved in the coalition.

Our operation will continue to develop: French service personnel will be taking part in missions to train the Iraqi army; the battle group with the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle has just been engaged in a scheduled operational mission, which will lead it, among other places, to the Gulf, where it may take part in Operation Chammal, depending on the need.


Beyond armed interventions, we all know that Iraq’s stability and that of the region cannot be achieved solely through military means. An overall political strategy, as Laurent Fabius has often recalled in this house, is essential.

First of all, it’s essential in Iraq, where the coalition’s action on the ground can occur only in support of a political process. Over recent months, the situation in this regard has stabilized: the new Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, has been able to establish an open government including all political and ethnic sectors [of the population]. A huge job of reconstruction must now be undertaken. The tasks are immense:
reforms and modernization of the security apparatus, the fight against corruption, the establishment of a new federal framework ensuring Iraq’s unity is maintained while enabling fair representation of the different communities, and, of course, economic reconstruction. France stands alongside the Iraq government in implementing this programme. That was the message of support the French President addressed to the Iraqi Prime Minister when he met him on 3 December, and that’s the purpose of the determined action being skilfully carried out by Laurent Fabius, to whom I want to pay very special tribute in this house.


France is concentrating its action on the Iraqi theatre. We chose not to conduct air strikes in Syria. We stand by this. This is also the choice made by all our European partners. Of course, we’re not forgetting that none of us can be unmoved by the situation of certain besieged cities, namely the terrible suffering of Kobane and Aleppo. Our policy remains the same: neither Bashar nor Daesh.

But this choice isn’t synonymous with inertia. We support the Syrian opposition, which is fighting the jihadist groups, and we stand ready alongside our partners to step up training and provision of equipment. In Syria, as in Iraq, there’s no alternative to a political solution. This has to include a transition with all the forces which want to rebuild a new Syria… but without Bashar. We have to work on this with the United Nations, our American partners, the neighbouring states and also the Russians.


Taking action means continuing to mobilize on the humanitarian front.
The countries of the region – Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan – are making enormous sacrifices to take in Syrian refugees. Our duty is to assist them. We have delivered more than 100 tonnes of humanitarian aid. We of course have to go on with this assistance, just as we’ll also go on taking in, in France, by way of asylum, Syrian and Iraqi families belonging to the minorities being hunted down.


Military interventions, like political solutions, can’t produce immediate results. Let’s be clear-headed: reducing Daesh is an objective we shall attain only in the long term. So we’re committed over the long haul. Today, abandoning, leaving our coalition partners would be more than a failure: it would mean abandoning Iraq and its people to the terrorists, murderers whose territorial ambition knows no bounds, because Daesh has a programme: to export its terror everywhere, spread crime around the world and threaten our societies. Today, we’re seeing the consequences of this strategy: a Lebanon weakened by the burden of refugees and a Jordan and Turkey suffering the full impact of the effects of the Syria crisis.

Because the terrorists continue to kill, slaughter and exterminate, we’ve got to go on with our task.

Because terrorism continues to threaten the region’s stability and destabilize the neighbouring countries, we’ve got to go on with our mission.

Because Daesh continues to want to recruit and train terrorists – including French and European people – to strike against us, to spread terror and destruction on our soil, we’ve got to go on with our strategy.

Because the mission isn’t over and we’re not abandoning either our partners or the Iraqis, we’ve got to go on with our action.

And because France is a major country which shoulders its responsibilities, we shall go on.


We shall go on in the Sahel too. Our concerns are focused on Libya, that area whose vast, uncontrolled deserts in the south are becoming a new haven for jihadism. Our concerns are also focused on the Lake Chad Basin region, where the Boko Haram sect is dangerously thriving. Only these past few days, it has spread terror in Cameroon and Nigeria, committing appalling crimes. I don’t think there are any words to describe them. I went with you, Defence Minister, just over a month ago, to Niger and Chad to pay tribute to our troops’ commitment. You yourself were in Chad, Niger and Mali to spend the New Year with our soldiers, whose absolutely outstanding professionalism and commitment I want to pay tribute to. I’ve already highlighted, a few moments ago, that terrorism is the most serious threat confronting our country. We know this. I also gave the number of individuals of French nationality or living in France identified for their involvement in jihad in Iraq or Syria.
The aim isn’t to cause fear but to be clear-sighted: they have increased by 124% in one year – 240 more people than when I spoke to you on 24 September 2014. To date, nearly 400 individuals are fighting over there; 67 have been killed in fighting. Some of our compatriots are involved in the atrocities committed by Daesh. Many are also taking part in propaganda and calling for attacks to be committed on our territory.
Given this, we must act with a cool head, good judgment and determination. (…)./.

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