France "Ready" to Act in Syria

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 30 2013 10:28 AM

The White House Finds an Ally on Syria

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French President Francois Hollande pauses during a joint press conference with Ahmad Al-Assi Al-Jarba, Leader Of Syrian National Coalition, after a meeting at Elysee Palace on August 29, 2013 in Paris

Photo by Antoine Antoniol/Getty Images

French President Francois Hollande said Friday that his country is prepared to act in Syria to punish the Assad regime for its apparent use of chemical weapons, news that comes less than 24 hours after British lawmakers rather stunningly rejected the option of its own military involvement in Syria.

"There are few countries that have the capacity to inflict a sanction by the appropriate means. France is one of them," Hollande said, according to Reuters. "We are ready. We will decide our position in close liaison with our allies."

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Holllande's support is a small but significant victory for the White House, which has made it a priority to assemble an international coalition while at the same time making it clear that President Obama is willing to go it alone if necessary. Hollande's comments raise the possibility that, in the words of the Washington Post, "a nation demonized for turning its back on Washington during the war in Iraq could now emerge as the primary U.S. ally in a possible strike against the regime of Bashar al-Assad."

The French parliament is due to debate the issue next Wednesday, although the BBC notes that Hollande didn't rule out the possibility that military action could be taken before then.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.