President Francois Hollande’s willingness to “talk to anyone” in the interests of building an international coalition against the Islamic State or Daish in Syria is a significant departure from his earlier position on alliance-building in the war against terrorism.
On Monday Mr. Hollande unveiled his government’s planned response to the November 13th attacks before 577 members of parliament and 326 senators at a rare address to a joint session of Parliament in Versailles. Mr Hollande said he would be traveling shortly to meet United States President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladmir Putin to discuss action against Daesh [Islamic State]. While emphasizing his opposition to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power Mr. Hollande said, “our enemy in Syria is Daesh.”
Read: >All you need to know about Paris attacks
Mr. Hollande has been seen as a hard liner within the western alliance, often equating the Islamic State and Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s regime as entities not very different from each other.
French President opts for pragmatism
Mr. Hollande's statements after the Paris attacks now suggest a new pragmatism leavened by the realization that in the war against terror the primary target is the IS.
At the G20 meeting in Antalya, Turkey, President Putin’s statements on the Syria situation point to agreement in the Kremlin on the necessity of international cooperation to defeat the IS. Russia began air strikes against terrorist targets in Syria on September 30 on the specific request of its ally President Asad. It still considers the US air strikes in Iraq and Syria as a violation of international law as these were neither approved by the United Nations nor the elected government in Syria.
In his speech at the G20 Mr. Putin said that he shared Russian intelligence data on Islamic State funding with his G20 counterparts. The IS and its allies are financed from sources in 40 countries including some G20 members, he said, adding that the illegal oil trade by the IS must be broken. Russian satellite data has verified this. “I’ve shown our colleagues photos taken from space and from aircraft which clearly demonstrate the scale of the illegal trade in oil and petroleum products. The motorcade of refueling vehicles stretched for dozens of kilometers, so that from a height of 4,000 to 5,000 meters they stretch beyond the horizon," he said.
The Kremlin has now acknowledged that the civilian Russian aircraft that crashed in Sinai last month was brought down by a bomb placed onboard by a terrorist group. The IS has claimed responsibility for both the Sinai crash and the Paris attacks as retaliation for the airstrikes conducted by Russia and France against its positions in Syria.
Mr. Putin stressed Russia’s readiness to support the anti-Asad armed Syrian opposition in Syria in its efforts to fight the IS. “Some armed opposition groups consider it possible to begin active operations against IS with Russia's support. And we are ready to provide such support from the air. If it happens it could become a good basis for the subsequent work on a political settlement,” he said. Ultimately, however, an international alliance is imperative, the Russian President stressed. “We really need support from the US, European nations, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran.”