The 'series of balls-ups' that led to Hollande's Syria crisis

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French president François Hollande has made clear that France will join the US in military strikes against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, dismissing calls for a vote of approval beforehand in parliament. As illustrated in yesterday’s heated debate in the lower house, the National Assembly, political and public opinion is deeply divided, both over the legality and consequences of the planned strikes. Lénaïg Bredoux and Caroline Donati have talked to senior French officials and experts close to the Syrian dossier, many of whom agreed to be interviewed on condition of anonymity, to find out why Hollande appears to have been finally wrongfooted amid a rushed and chaotic final denouement to a crisis of more than two years, and which one government advisor says is down to “a series of balls-ups”.

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It was for the second time in less than a year, and in identical circumstances, that President François Hollande last week announced, before an audience of French ambassadors gathered in the sumptuous surrounds of the entertainment salon of the Elysée Palace, of his decision, as head of France’s armed forces, to engage France in military action abroad.