France’s Syrian Policy: If You Can’t Beat Them – Balkanize Them!

Human Wrongs Watch

By Catherine Shakdam*

21 June 2016 (RT)* As the Syrian Arab Army is brokering new grounds against what mainstream media still calls “the opposition”, France has hardened its tone, keen to militarily enter the fray to salvage, or rather, claim its stake over Syria.

**Two destroyed tanks in front of a mosque in Azaz, Syria. | Author: Christiaan Triebert | Source: Flickr: Azaz, Syria | Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. | Wikimdia Commons

Earlier this June, media reports broke news that Paris invested its Special Forces in northern Syria to assist the Kurds in their efforts against ISIL – all part, Paris said, of a broader counter-terrorism operation in the region.

In an address made to the Public Senat TV, France Defense Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed that Paris was “providing support through weapons supplies, air presence and advice.”

Minister Le Drian’s comment was further echoed by an another state official, when told AFP: ”France has deployed its special forces on the ground in northern Syria to advise rebels and help them fight Islamic State.”

If Western capitals have often been keen to cloud their intervention, to better manage, and orchestrate whatever political fallouts their actions might entail, France has been rather upfront, and I would say unapologetic about its decision to break steal in Syria.

But what is France exactly doing in Syria? And more importantly why now?


The answer to that question may partly lie with the title of a new report published by the Voice of America. The title reads: “France Deploys Special Forces in Syria as IS Loses Ground.”

An interesting choice of words indeed … But there’s more. “The confirmation of French ground assistance to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, the SDF, came as Syrian government warplanes intensified airstrikes on rebel-held districts of Aleppo. Airstrikes Wednesday killed at least 20 people and damaged three hospitals in the rebel parts of the city, according to local political activists and rescue workers known as the White Helmets.”

While many might read here confirmation that the West serves Syria’s democratic dreams against the dictatorial pride of President Bashar al-Assad – the leader that the political corporate media have taught all good thinking westerners to abhor – I read a political confession.

I see in France’s intervention an admission of guilt, a desire to remain politically relevant in the Levant, and a desire to assert control come what may.

Yes, I did get all that from VOA! Let me just say that Jamie Dettmer most certainly did not intend for so much information to transpire.

Allow me to walk you back to early 2011, when Syria was witnessing the first stages of an aggressive political takeover. Then, we were told that Syria was in the grip of a popular stand-off pitting President al-Assad regime against pro-democracy activists.

As violence gave way to unimaginable bloodshed and butchery (butchery that was criminally pinned on Damascus to better justify Western interventionism), ISIL surfaced, blurring the line between the now infamous opposition and terrorism.

Today, it is difficult to differentiate between the two. In truth, one may argue that both entities are the by-products of the same will: control, only expressed differently.


Now that months have turned into years, Syria has become a grand battlefield for all political and ideological deformities. One constant has remained throughout: President Bashar al-Assad has to go.

Syria’s war needs to be looked at from this perspective, and this perspective alone since President al-Assad’s deposition remains Western powers’ endgame. France’s new play here feeds directly into this political narrative, but from a different angle.

What angle?

Look at it this way. Herein so far Syria has been made to suffer one engineered revolution, terrorism, and military interventionism all in the name of regime change.

Still, Damascus has endured. In fact, Damascus did more than just endure; it has begun to fight back, and reclaim its land and its sovereignty. So much so that Terror found itself cornered. So much so that Western powers had to reassess their strategy, and imagine a new “opening” to manifest those goals they are so bent on bringing about.

What agenda?

This one is easy: Control.

Syria has always been about control. Control over Syria’s political narrative, control over Syria’s natural resources, and control over Syria’s geopolitical potential.

France you may recall is one of Syria’s long term political investor. Once upon a colonial time France played cartographer on the carcass of the Ottoman Empire so that “les colonies” would feed, and reflect its political ambitions in the Levant.

Today, decades after the Sikes-Picot agreement, France wants to ensure that its legacy will endure the test of time.

Now, for Western powers to assert control over Syria, chaos, or at the very least internal divisions would have to be risen. Since ISIL did fail at mainstreaming sectarianism – not for a lack of trying, it needs to be said – one card was left to be played: ethnic tensions, or rather, ethnic dissent.

France, you will note, planted its flag in northern Syria, in Kurdish territory. Would it be that far-fetched to imagine that Paris’ sudden interest in counter-terrorism has everything to do with building a French-Kurdish alliance to better undermine Damascus authority?


Yet President al-Assad has done a great job at defeating terror. Backed by Russia, Iran, and the Lebanese Hezbollah, the SAA has literally exploded ISIL’s network, sending thousands of its militants scurrying to the hills.

Why did the French feel compelled to intervene now – when they are not wanted – if not to serve their self-interests? Why indeed?

Semyon Bagdasarov, Director of the Moscow-based Center for Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies, said in an interview with Svobodnaya Pressa he believes France’s move in Syria will herald in a balkanization attempt.

Since the West could not oust President Bashar al-Assad, it will now work to dismantle its sovereignty, playing ethnic empowerment to better control the political fate of the region.

In 2015, Samuel Ramani wrote for the Washington Post:

“France’s hawkish attitude towards Assad and the large scale of its intervention in Syria can be explained by three factors. First, France is using its interventionist foreign policy in Syria and the Middle East more broadly, to reinforce its self-perception as a great power. Second, France is fulfilling its historic role of presenting an alternative foreign policy to that offered by the United States. Third, France regards its steadfast opposition to Assad as an opportunity to enhance security cooperation with anti-Assad Sunni countries in the Middle East, which also share France’s deep distrust of Iran.”

Enough said …


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT, nor necessarily those of Human Wrongs Watch.

562ba193c46188124b8b458b*Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst, writer and commentator for the Middle East with a special focus on radical movements and Yemen.

A regular pundit on RT and other networks her work has appeared in major publications: MintPress, the Foreign Policy Journal, Mehr News and many others.

Director of Programs at the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, Catherine is also the co-founder of Veritas Consulting. She is the author of Arabia’s Rising – Under The Banner Of The First Imam

Catherine Shakdam’s Op-Edge was published in RT. Go to Original

**Image: Two destroyed tanks in front of a mosque in Azaz, Syria. | Author: Christiaan Triebert | Source: Flickr: Azaz, Syria | Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. | Wikimdia Commons

2016 Human Wrongs Watch

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