Macron’s Remarks About Trump’s Decision To Keep Troops in Syria Create Uproar

By Fayçal Benhassain | April 18, 2018 | 7:31pm EDT
President Trump and President Emmanuel Macron inspect troops in Paris on July 13, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Paris ( – French President Emmanuel Macron has come under fire for suggesting he persuaded President Trump not to quickly withdraw the 2,000 U.S. troops deployed in Syria, even as he faces some criticism for taking part in military action, with the U.S. and Britain, against the Assad regime.

During a lengthy television interview early this week, Macron said he had asked Trump to stay longer in Syria after Friday’s air strikes by U.S., French and British forces, and that the U.S. president had agreed.

“Ten days ago, President Trump said the United States of America has the inclination to withdraw from Syria. But we convinced him that it was necessary to stay there,” he said. “I reassure you, we convinced him that we had to stay in the long term.”

The comments created a media uproar here after the U.S. appeared to contradict Macron by saying it had no intention of staying longer in Syria.

Trump said Monday he still wanted to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria as quickly as possible. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the same day, “The U.S. mission has not changed: the president has been clear that he wants U.S. forces to come home as soon as possible.”

“Did the French president overestimate his influence on the American leader?” asked the French edition of Huffington Post.

“Two days after the American, French and British strikes in Syria, French and American leaders seem to have trouble understanding each other,” commented the conservative daily Le Figaro.

Macron, however, denied any misunderstanding between him and Trump on the Syrian problem, saying, “France and the United States have the same position regarding the duration of their military engagement in Syria.”

Press criticism did not stop, but Macron insisted there was no inconsistency.

“Washington is right to recall that the military commitment is against Daesh [ISIS] and will end the day when the war against Daesh will be completed,” he said. “France has the same position.”

Most of the criticism aimed at Macron came from French politicians questioning their country’s participation in the missile strikes.

The three allies struck three installations linked to Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program. The action was in response to an April 7 chemical weapons attack in Douma, near Damascus, which they blame on the regime. The regime and its Russian ally continue to deny this.

National Front president Marine Le Pen, who opposed the strikes, said France has “lost an opportunity to appear on the international scene as an independent power.”

She said there was an absence of evidence that the regime had used chemical weapons in Douma, and criticized Macon for having ordered military action without a United Nations mandate.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the left wing “La France Insoumise” movement, also said there was a lack of proof of regime culpability.

“France did not get any European [Union] agreement and the French parliament did not vote to approve the strikes,” he said.

The conservative Les Republicains party seems divided on the issue. Some members viewed the airstrikes as legitimate, providing Macron will produce evidence that the regime used chemical weapons. Others have expressed concern that France may follow the U.S. blindly in the region and elsewhere.

Les Republicains leader Laurent Wauquiez, asked about the strikes, told reporters he always supports the French military in action, as a principle – “but I do not believe in the usefulness of punitive strikes.”

“If the use of chemical weapons is proven, Bashar al-Assad will have to answer for his actions,” he said. “The International Criminal Court, ICC, exists precisely for this.”

Parties close to the president congratulated him for the decision to bomb Syria, while lawmakers in both legislatures reminded Macron that the government should report to them in such matters.

Article 35 of the French Constitution states that the government “Shall inform Parliament of its decision to involve the armed forces abroad not later than three days after the beginning of the intervention.”

The president, who is commander-in-chief, is not obliged to inform parliament before military action, except in cases where there is a declaration of war.

Macron conceded the constitutional obligation and said his intends to inform the two chambers, although no date has been specified yet.

“The article of the constitution specifies that no vote is necessary in this type of situation,” he stressed.

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