A January 25, 2019 article in the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is close to Hizbullah, protested against what it described as emerging security cooperation between France and Israel in Syria. The article claimed, citing "knowledgeable" French sources, that during the recent visit of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in France, he and his French counterpart, President Emmanuel Macron, discussed the possibility of French-Israeli military cooperation on the ground in Syria. The article stated that such a step would cross the French government's own red lines, and wondered what justification France has for remaining in Syria when ISIS has been defeated. It speculated that the French president may be trying to improve his popular image at home in light of his domestic troubles, and also to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump not to withdraw his forces from Syria. Finally, the article warned that clashing with the resistance axis could have dire consequences for France's role and interests in the region.
The following are excerpts from it:
Reuven Rivlin with Emmanuel Macron (image: Arabi21.com, January 23, 2019)
"According to information that has reached Al-Akhbar, France is no longer settling for the role of the mailman who delivers Israel's threats to Lebanon. In their meeting during the Israeli president's [recent] visit to France, he and his French counterpart [discussed] possible cooperation between the two countries on the ground in Syria, on the intelligence and logistical levels, following the U.S. withdrawal [from that country]. There are many speculations about the background for this, but there is no disagreement that the implications for the future of France's role in the region will be dire.
"According to the information that has reached Al-Akhbar from Paris, during the meeting between Macron and Israeli [President] Rivlin, who was accompanied on this visit by the commander of the Israeli Air Force, Amikam Norkin, complaints were made that Hizbullah is developing accurate missiles in Lebanon, and [the two presidents] also discussed cooperation between [Israel and France] in Syria. Israel trying to use France as a mailman to deliver its threats to Lebanon is nothing new. French security officials have conveyed such threats more than once during the last two years. The new element is the discussion of possible cooperation on the ground in Syria, on the information and logistical levels. According to a French source knowledgeable in this matter, this 'crosses the red lines that the French government itself set up due to the possible political and security consequences that could ensue.' The French and Israeli security apparatuses have cooperated in the past by sharing intelligence... but if there is [actual] cooperation on the ground in Syria, that will be a significant turning-point in the process of Israeli-French rapprochement... Will Macron take this significant [step] despite the effects it will have on his country's interests and its military presence and role in the region?
"France's and Israel's objection to the U.S. withdrawal from Syria was shrill. Israel's considerations are well-known... but France's position is surprising, given that it has justified its military involvement in Syria and Iraq by citing the need to take part in the war against ISIS until its final elimination. That goal has been achieved. All that is left of this organization is [some] small groups and cells which, at the very most, are able to stage local attacks of limited impact that can be handled by local forces. So why [does France] insist on staying?... Some experts and officials in France believe that [Macron's] lack of political experience, which was clearly apparent in his arrogant and stubborn handling of the popular protests of the Yellow Vests, is also reflected in his foreign policy. Perhaps the French president thinks that his 'noble' refusal to pull his forces from Syria along with the American forces, on the pretext that he does not wish to abandon 'our Kurdish allies who fought against ISIS alongside us and made many sacrifices,' will save his popularity that is swiftly plunging due to his poor handling of the social and political domestic challenges. [It is such] personal, and especially electoral, considerations [that] largely dictate the positions and decisions of the new generation of leaders in the 'veteran democracies' [of Europe]...
"The French objection to the U.S. withdrawal, and the subsequent reports of possible coordination with Israel, are part of the attempts to pressure the U.S. president, who, since his announcement of his decision [to pull out of Syria] has been subjected to a pressure campaign inside and outside his administration and by some of his [international] allies, chiefly Saudi Arabia. This may also be a French attempt to intervene in the struggle that is currently taking place within the [U.S.] administration and between Trump and the deep state in a bid to make him avoid the withdrawal or at least delay it as much as possible...
"Are the French president and his advisors aware that Syria is the arena of a war between Israel and the resistance axis? If the information coming out of Paris is accurate, the French president and his advisors should consider what could result from clashing with the victorious and rising force in the region [i.e., the resistance axis] and recall the recent history and some of its painful memories."