France bombed the Syrian city of Raqqa on Sunday night, its most aggressive strike against the Islamic State group it blames for killing 129 people in a string of terrorist attacks across Paris only two days before.
President François Hollande, who vowed to be “unforgiving with the barbarians” of the Islamic State after the carnage in Paris, decided on the airstrikes in a meeting with his national security team on Saturday, officials said.
Militants with AK-47s and suicide vests shattered the peaceful revelry of Paris on Friday night, killing dozens of civilians in restaurants and at a concert hall, France seemed intent on sending a clear message of its determination to curb the Islamic State and its ability to launch attacks outside the territory it controls.
The revelations that at least four French citizens were involved in the attacks — three brothers and a man who lived around Chartres, about 60 miles southwest of Paris — seemed destined to exacerbate longstanding fears in France about the place of Muslim immigrants and converts in French society.
The French Defense Ministry said in a statement that the raid, coordinated with American forces, was led by 12 French aircraft, including 10 fighter jets, and had destroyed two Islamic State targets in Raqqa, the radical group’s self-proclaimed capital.
The United States provided French officials with information to help them strike Islamic State targets in Syria, known as “strike packages,” American officials said.
France will deploy its aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to the Gulf for strikes against the Islamic State on November 18. The deployment will be the second time in 2015 that the carrier has taken part in Operation ‘Chammal’, as France terms its anti-Islamic State strikes, having deployed to the Gulf from 23 February to 18 April.
With 20 Rafale and Super Etendard Modernise (SEM) aircraft on board, the Charles de Gaulle will help relieve the pressure on France’s land-based aircraft in the region (three Mirage 2000Ds and three Mirage 2000Ns in Jordan; and six Rafales in the UAE).
France might commit the French Foreign Legion to Syria
Mr. Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former case officer in the Central Intelligence Agency, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Gerecht gave an analysis in the Wall Street Journal.
Because of the attacks Friday, the narrative will change. The soft-power-heavy, somewhat guilty Western analysis of Islamic militancy—where the progressive-minded avoid referring to Islam in describing an antipathy that sanctifies killing—is now dead in Europe and will soon be irretrievably embarrassing across the Atlantic.
If France committed to seeing this fight through to the end, the French make it more likely that the U.S. will commit more ground troops in Iraq and, as consequentially, put soldiers into Syria to create a defensible haven where civilians and the armed Sunni opposition can gather without fear of attack. Europe’s refugee and counterterrorist nightmares have no chance of resolution until the Syrian war is stopped.
If the French are willing to commit the Foreign Legion in Syria, an idea no longer unthinkable, it is much more likely that the Americans will consider ground troops and the arduous, dangerous, long-term effort to stabilize Syria. Although profoundly constrained by the size of its armed forces, France could serve, as Margaret Thatcher did for George H.W. Bush, as a back stiffener and force multiplier.
France could invoke NATO Article 5 for a hard power attack on ISIS
“There is a time for soft power and playing the long game in the Middle East, but there is also a time for the ruthless application of hard power. It is NATO’s responsibility to recognize our current moment qualifies as the latter,” James Stavridis, a retired Navy admiral and former NATO top commander in Europe, wrote in Foreign Policy. “The Islamic State is an apocalyptic organization overdue for eradication.”
France hasn’t announced whether it will invoke Article 5, Stoltenberg told the Journal NATO’s members stand ready to assist.
The defense clause of NATO’s founding treaty stipulates that if invoked, each of the members will assist the party attacked. NATO’s military resources include more than 3 million troops under arms, 25,000 aircraft and 800 oceangoing warships, according to Foreign Policy. Economically, the alliance is also an intimidating force, representing more than 50 percent of global GDP.
The only time Article 5 has been invoked was after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the New York and Washington, which prompted NATO’s participation in the Afghanistan military mission. Should France become the second country to do so, ambassadors of the 28 nations would need to convene for consultation to determine a plan of action. The last country to request such a consultation was Turkey after attacks by ISIS in 2014.
“Hopefully, President Hollande will call Article 5 of NATO. And maybe we’ll put together a coalition that can for once attack this horrific terrorist element before they have ability to carry out another coordinated attack like this,” North Carolina GOP Rep. Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Holland is scheduled to address the French Parliament on Monday, during which he could lay out his plan.
He said after the attacks in and around Paris on Friday night that France “will be merciless toward the barbarians of the Islamic State group,” which has claimed responsibility for the killings.
White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said Sunday that the United States would back France calling for Article 5.
SOURCES – Wall Street Journal, Wikipedia, IBTimes, Janes, NY Times