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US flatters France as ‘oldest ally’ after UK vote on Syria

Text by: Sam BALL
4 min

US Secretary of State John Kerry called France America’s “oldest ally” Friday as he praised the country for its support of military action in Syria. France is now the US’s only major ally over Syria after the UK ruled out taking part in any strikes.


US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday welcomed French support for possible military action against the Syrian regime, describing the country as America’s “oldest ally”.

After the US’s traditional ally Great Britain ruled itself out of any military strikes against the Assad regime in a parliamentary vote Thursday, Washington has looked in danger of becoming internationally isolated in its efforts to push for a military intervention.

However, French President François Hollande reaffirmed his country’s support for military action on Friday, telling French daily Le Monde that he supported taking “firm” punitive action in response to the Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

France now looks like being the US’s only major international partner in any possible strike on Syria.

"America should feel gratified. We are not alone in our condemnation and we're not alone in our will to do something about it and to act," Kerry said.

"Our oldest ally, the French, said the regime committed this vile action and it's an outrage to use weapons that the (international) community has banned for the last 90 years in all international conventions."

Franco-US military alliance would be ‘unparalleled’

Washington's warm words for France represent a significant turnaround from the hostility of a decade ago, when France refused to back the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

France was then viewed with such animosity by the US that there were attempts to boycott French products and French fries were renamed “freedom fries’ in some American restaurants.

The two countries have, in the past, enjoyed a close relationship, dating back to the 1775–1783 American War of Independence, when France helped the US free itself from British rule.

Christopher Harmer, of the Washington DC-based Institute for the Study of War, told FRANCE 24 that there is still a strong willingness in the US to cooperate with the French on military matters.

“We are very comfortable working with the French. (…) The French and American militaries don’t do a lot of operations together, but when they do the French perform admirably,” he said.

US Government map of areas reportedly affected by Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack

Nevertheless, a Franco-US offensive alliance in Syria would be a “unique situation” in modern times, says Bruno Tertrais from the Foundation of Strategic Research.

"The Americans and the French have worked together on the frontline in the past as in Lebanon in the 80s and 90s, but I don't recollect an offensive coalition comprising the Americans and the French but not the British," he told the AFP news agency.

"We are in exactly the opposite situation to 2003," added Tertrais. "The United States does not need anybody militarily. But it is extremely important for them not to be alone politically."

No mention of Britain

In something of a diplomatic snub, Kerry pointedly failed to mention Britain in Friday’s speech.

The UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron had been in favour of backing an armed intervention in Syria but his motion sanctioning military action suffered a shock defeat in parliament, something likely to weigh negatively on Britain’s so-called “special relationship” with the US.

Kerry did, however, point to support for action against Syria from a number of other nations, including those in the Arab world.

“The world is speaking out. And many friends stand ready to respond. The Arab League pledged ‘to hold the Syrian regime fully responsible for this crime’,” he said.

“Turkey said there is no doubt that the regime is responsible.

“The Australian prime minister said he didn’t want history to record that we were, ‘party to turning such a blind eye’.”

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