Category Archives: France

French Elections: Macron Starts Out Under a Deep Cloud of Suspicion

Jonathan Miller writes for The Spectator:

Sunday night’s extravagant celebration of Emmanuel Macron’s ascension to the presidency of the fifth republic will draw le tout Paris but not everyone will be celebrating. The 2017 presidential campaign has left very few voters outside the Parisian bubble satisfied. While the bien pensants celebrate, millions of voters have been left in a sour mood, neither convinced that the country will now be piloted in a better direction, or even that the election itself was wholly legitimate. The result, while not quite North Korean, does leave an uncomfortable aftertaste.

The headline numbers look great for Macron who will cruise to victory with more than 60 per cent of the vote, compared to under 40 per cent for Marine Le Pen. But Macron represents everything most French voters do not like: globalisation, banking, Bilderberg, the EU. He has been elected not because of what he believes, but because he is not Marine Le Pen.

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French President Elect: Unveiling The Golden Boy Emmanuel Macron

Sharmini Peries speaks with Serge Halimi of Le Monde Diplomatique who gives his views on France’s Presidential Election which saw the winner Emmanuel Macron take 90% of the vote in bourgeois Paris, and Marine Le Pen take 56% of the working class. (The Real News)

Macron Leaks: The Anatomy of a Hack

BBC Trending reports:

Macron and pepesIt’s still unclear who hacked incoming French President Emmanuel Macron’s emails. But what does the way they then spread across the internet tell us about the way hackers and political movements work in tandem?

It was a huge story that broke in the very final hours of coverage of France’s presidential election campaign. But whoever dumped the leaked Macron emails online, did not by themselves turn them into a global topic of discussion. That job was left to a network of political activists, aided by bots and automated accounts, and then ultimately signal boosted by the Twitter account of WikiLeaks.

BBC Trending has spoken to the main activist who took the data dump from a fringe message board to the mainstream – and we’ve pieced together the story of how the hack came to light.

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The French Presidency Goes to Macron, But It’s Only a Reprieve

Timothy Garton Ash writes for The Guardian:

IN NUMBERS: How the French voted (and how they didn't)[…] From the country which gave us the 1789 example of violent revolution, we now have the personification of today’s worldwide anti-liberal counter-revolution. Le Pen is the very model of a modern national populist. She herself boasted in the TV debate that she is best placed to deal with this brave new world, “to talk about Russia with Putin, to talk about the United States with Trump, to talk about Great Britain with Theresa May”. (How sickening to see a British prime minister listed in that company.) There is every reason to believe that this wave of populist reaction against globalisation, liberalisation and Europeanisation still has a lot of pent-up anger behind it.

Macron knows what needs to be done in France but is unlikely to succeed in doing it. To those who supported Le Pen you have to add the many who abstained, including leftwing voters who described this second round as a choice between cholera and the plague. The president-elect has no established party behind him, so it is totally unclear what majority will emerge from next month’s French parliamentary elections.

If Macron fails to reform France, in 2022 we may yet have a president Le Pen – either Marine or Marion Maréchal-Le Pen He is already being described as “Renzi 2.0”, a reference to the Italian would-be-reformist former premier Matteo Renzi. His super-ambitious target is to reduce public spending from 56% of GDP to just – wait for it – 52%. The obstacles to change in France are enormous, from powerful unions and a bloated public sector to farmers who make a habit of blocking roads with tractors. If Macron fails to reform France, in 2022 we may yet have a president Le Pen.

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French Presidential Election: Choice Between a White Supremacist or Uber Neoliberalism

Sharmini Peries speaks with Muslim activist Yasser Louati, who says French voters face an impossible choice of an openly racist candidate Marine Le Pen and an uber neoliberal in former investment banker Emmanuel Macron that will implement policies which will likely fuel, ignite and spark even more competitive hatred. (The Real News)

French Candidate Macron Claims Massive Hack as Emails Leaked

Eric Auchard and Bate Felix report for Reuters:

Image result for macron leaksLeading French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s campaign said on Friday it had been the target of a “massive” computer hack that dumped its campaign emails online 1-1/2 days before voters choose between the centrist and his far-right rival, Marine Le Pen.

Macron, who is seen as the frontrunner in an election billed as the most important in France in decades, extended his lead over Le Pen in polls on Friday.

As much as 9 gigabytes of data were posted on a profile called EMLEAKS to Pastebin, a site that allows anonymous document sharing. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for posting the data or if any of it was genuine.

In a statement, Macron’s political movement En Marche! (Onwards!) confirmed that it had been hacked.

“The En Marche! Movement has been the victim of a massive and co-ordinated hack this evening which has given rise to the diffusion on social media of various internal information,” the statement said.

An interior ministry official declined to comment, citing French rules that forbid any commentary liable to influence an election, which took effect at midnight on Friday (2200 GMT).

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French Elections: Macron Expected to Knock Out Le Pen on May 7th

Sharmini Peries speaks with Alex Main of the Centre for Economic Policy and Research about the 2017 French elections. (The Real News)

French Parties Unify Against Le Pen: ‘This Is Deadly Serious Now’

Adam Nossiter reports for The New York Times:

Not since World War II has the anti-immigrant far right been closer to gaining power in France. With her second-place finish on Sunday in the first round of the presidential election, Marine Le Pen has dragged her National Front party from the dark fringes of its first 40 years.

But that remarkable accomplishment is so alarming to so many in France that as soon as the preliminary results were announced at 8:01 p.m., virtually all of her major opponents in the 11-person race called for her defeat in the second-round runoff on May 7. They implored their supporters to vote for the candidate projected to come out on top on Sunday, the centrist, pro-European Union former economy minister Emmanuel Macron, a political novice and outsider.

The first-round showing by Mr. Macron and Ms. Le Pen represented an earthquake, as they effectively broke the French political establishment. On the right and the left, the two parties that have governed France for more than 50 years suffered a severe defeat. They have been pushed aside in a wave of popular anger over the country’s stagnant economy and shaky security.

The rapid-fire endorsements of Mr. Macron, coming from across the political spectrum, represented a dynamic that has always prevailed in France when the National Front approaches executive power — the cross-party, anti-far right alliance the French call the “Republican Front.” The question now is whether that front can hold this time, as well.

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The Trouble with Emmanuel Macron

Cole Stangler writes for Dissent Magazine:

Related image[…] On a basic level, the success of the thirty-nine-year-old founder and leader of the independent En Marche! movement is puzzling. How can a candidate associated with such unpopular ideas—a backer of finance, François Hollande, and a neoliberal EU—be doing so well?

For one, thanks to some top-notch branding and messaging. From the very beginning, Macron has posed as a renegade candidate, promising to take on “the system” and shake it up. “From the inside, I saw the emptiness of the system,” he thundered in his opening campaign speech last November. “This system, I refuse it.”

Speaking before a crowd of London-based expats in February, Macron declared that he was proud of his “immaturity and inexperience.” And striking a similar chord in a recent interview with Brittany’s regional newspaper, he claimed to be “the only outsider” in the race.

The posturing belies his actual career. However you choose to define “the system”—ultra-tight political cliques in charge of parties and governments, cultural elites with friends in high places, or brute economic powers fueling inequality—Macron embodies it.

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Macron vs Le Pen: A Deeply Divided France Set For An Almighty Collision

Oliver Gee writes for The Local:

Macron vs Le Pen: A deeply divided France set for an almighty collisionEmmanuel Macron’s and Marine Le Pen’s voters couldn’t be more different. They represent a divided France, both geographically, socially and most significantly in how they see the future of their country.

The presidential runoff vote represents a clash of two very different France’s. The first round is over – centrist Macron brought in 23.75 percent of votes, ahead of National Front (FN) leader Le Pen on 21.53 percent, according to final results.

In other words, 8.53 million French people voted for Macron, compared to 7.66 million for Le Pen.

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President Marine Le Pen’s First 100 days

Nicholas Vinocur writes for Politico:

[…] What should the world expect from President Le Pen? A partial answer can be found in her 144-point campaign platform. It promises radical, jarring change that starts with rewriting the constitution; enforcing the principle of “national preference” for French citizens in hiring as well as the dispensing of housing and benefits; reinstating the franc as the national currency; shutting down the country’s borders and suspending its participation in the EU free-travel zone; pulling out of NATO’s integrated command structure; and slashing immigration to one-tenth of its current annual level.

Yet the chances of seeing such plans implemented, even fractionally, are slim. As some of her aides admit, Le Pen’s program represents her vision of France, not a roadmap to get there. In order to see it through, the newly-elected president would first need to consolidate her power by winning control over the lower house of parliament in a June election — or by rejigging the system to allow her to rule with a much narrower level of support.

Taking such challenges into account, POLITICO put together one scenario of Le Pen’s first 100 days based on hours of talks with senior party officials, European diplomats, MEPs, financial analysts, country experts and regular people. What emerges is a narrative of constant crisis mixed with long stretches of institutional paralysis, starting on Day One.

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France’s Presidential Election Is Wide Open

Sharmini Peries speaks with Jean Bricmont, author of Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War, who says that if leftist candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon wins, he does not have enough of a social movement behind him to fulfil his campaign promises. (The Real News)

How France’s Hotly Contested Election Could Shake Markets

Sara Sjolin reports for Market Watch:

[…] Usually a French general election doesn’t present a make-it or break-it moment for the entire eurozone, but this time its different. After a race full of surprises, a surge in the polls by far-left, euroskeptic Jean-Luc Melenchon has again reminded investors of the sweeping antiestablishment sentiment grabbing Europe and the U.S. at the moment.

Far-right, anti-EU candidate Marine Le Pen is also doing well in the polls and currently looks like she’ll get one of the two spots in the runoff. The big question is who she’ll face in the second round.

Will it be centrist Emmanuel Macron, who pollsters and analysts see as the favorite to emerge as president in May? Will it be scandal-ridden, dark horse candidate François Fillon who’s enjoyed an 11th hour rebound in support? Or will it be Melenchon, who has promised to rework the treaties that set the framework for the EU and then hold a referendum on whether to remain in the bloc.

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Emmanuel Macron’s Rothschild Years Make Him an Easy Election Target

Anne-Sylvaine Chassany and Arash Massoudi report for the Financial Times:

When Emmanuel Macron told friends in 2008 he was joining Rothschild, the prestigious investment bank, the then 30-year-old civil servant was warned it could scupper a future career in politics.

“You’re conscious that banking is not any kind of job? And Rothschild not any kind of bank?” said one friend to the man who, nine years later, would become frontrunner in France’s presidential election.

Mr Macron shrugged off the warnings and learnt the ropes of debt restructuring and mergers and acquisitions, earning €2.9m and a nickname — “the Mozart of finance” — for his role advising Nestlé on its $12bn acquisition of a unit of Pfizer in 2012. At Rothschild he found himself at the heart of French business intrigues, acquiring the codes and jargon of a world where careers largely depend on having attended the right elite university.

Now, with France still scarred by the global financial crisis, Mr Macron’s four-year investment banking stint has made him an easy target for rivals in a presidential contest fraught with scandals and populist jabs.

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The Dark Side of Liberation: Rape by American Soldiers in World War II France

Jennifer Schuessler wrote for The New York Times in 2013:

Image result for What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American G.I. in World War II FranceThe soldiers who landed in Normandy on D-Day were greeted as liberators, but by the time American G.I.’s were headed back home in late 1945, many French citizens viewed them in a very different light.

In the port city of Le Havre, the mayor was bombarded with letters from angry residents complaining about drunkenness, jeep accidents, sexual assault — “a regime of terror,” as one put it, “imposed by bandits in uniform.”

This isn’t the “greatest generation” as it has come to be depicted in popular histories. But in “What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American G.I. in World War II France,” the historian Mary Louise Roberts draws on French archives, American military records, wartime propaganda and other sources to advance a provocative argument: The liberation of France was “sold” to soldiers not as a battle for freedom but as an erotic adventure among oversexed Frenchwomen, stirring up a “tsunami of male lust” that a battered and mistrustful population often saw as a second assault on its sovereignty and dignity.

“I could not believe what I was reading,” Ms. Roberts, a professor of French history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, recalled of the moment she came across the citizen complaints in an obscure archive in Le Havre. “I took out my little camera and began photographing the pages. I did not go to the bathroom for eight hours.”

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The Fear of Marine Le Pen: W​ill the Next Political Earthquake Happen in France?

Angelique Chrisafis reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Marine Le PenOn the wall in the new presidential campaign offices of France’s Front National leader Marine Le Pen hangs a portrait of Hollywood tough guy Clint Eastwood. He might seem an odd choice of pinup for Europe’s biggest far-right, nationalist, anti-immigration party, but Le Pen admires Eastwood’s “bravery” in voting for Donald Trump in the US election last month. Dirty Harry, like Trump himself, has become something of a feel-good mascot for the French far-right’s battle for the leadership of the country. Instead of a gun, the ageing but still snarling Eastwood is pointing a blue rose, Le Pen’s new campaign symbol.

Trump’s US victory blew apart any notion of foregone electoral conclusions, leading Paris’s mainstream politicians to warn that the world’s next political earthquake could happen in France. Le Pen winning the French presidential election in five months’ time – something that had always been seen as impossible – would be the greatest shock in postwar European politics.

The panicked warnings carry an element of admission of defeat from France’s mainstream right and left parties. For years, they have shouted that the Front National is a dangerous, racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic party, yet they have been unable to stem its slow, but steady, rise. In fact, all the mainstream parties have borrowed Le Pen’s rhetoric on immigration and anti-terrorism in an attempt to compete. However, as Jean-Marie Le Pen – the party’s founder, a gruff ex-paratrooper and Marine’s father – is fond of saying: “Voters prefer the original to the copy.”

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Europe’s Leaders to Force Britain into Hard Brexit

Toby Helm reports for The Observer:

Image result for hard brexitEuropean leaders have come to a 27-nation consensus that a “hard Brexit” is likely to be the only way to see off future populist insurgencies, which could lead to the break-up of the European Union.

The hardening line in EU capitals comes as Nigel Farage warns European leaders that Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National, could deliver a political sensation bigger than Brexit and win France’s presidential election next spring – a result that would mean it was “game over” for 60 years of EU integration.

According to senior officials at the highest levels of European governments, allowing Britain favourable terms of exit could represent an existential danger to the EU, since it would encourage similar demands from other countries with significant Eurosceptic movements.

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Steve Bannon’s Dream: A Worldwide Ultra-Right

Christopher Dickey and Asawin Suebsaeng write for The Daily Beast:

[…] Bannon’s support for European far-right parties runs far deeper than his interest in Marion Maréchal-Le Pen or the National Front. He brags about his international Breitbart operation as “the platform” for the American alt-right, and has for years been thinking globally, with an affinity for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Alternative for Germany (AfD), and the Party for Freedom Party (PVV) in the Netherlands, all of which have earned glowing coverage on the pages of Breitbart.

But the election of Bannon’s man Donald Trump as president of the United States has made the globalization of Breitbart and its message infinitely more plausible than it ever was before, and politicians once considered Europe’s deplorables are now rushing to bask in the gilded glow of Trump and Bannon.

On Saturday, Britain’s Nigel Farage, whose blatant and acknowledged lieshelped convince his countrymen to opt out of the European Union in the Brexit vote, visited the president-elect in his eponymous Fifth Avenue tower. 

Farage emerged from the meeting looking like he’d just won the jackpot at one of the pre-bankruptcy Trump casinos, suggesting that the new president’s “inner team” was not too happy with Tory Prime Minister Theresa May, since she’d been skeptical of Brexit before the vote. Would that “inner team” be Bannon? In our post-factual world, maybe we can say, “People say…”

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MPs Deliver Damning Verdict on David Cameron’s Libya Intervention

Patrick Wintour and Jessica Elgot report for The Guardian:

David Cameron’s intervention in Libya was carried out with no proper intelligence analysis, drifted into an unannounced goal of regime change and shirked its moral responsibility to help reconstruct the country following the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, according to a scathing report by the foreign affairs select committee.

The failures led to the country becoming a failed a state on the verge of all-out civil war, the report adds.

The report, the product of a parliamentary equivalent of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war, closely echoes the criticisms widely made of Tony Blair’s intervention in Iraq, and may yet come to be as damaging to Cameron’s foreign policy legacy.

It concurs with Barack Obama’s assessment that the intervention was “a shitshow”, and repeats the US president’s claim that France and Britain lost interest in Libya after Gaddafi was overthrown. The findings are also likely to be seized on by Donald Trump, who has tried to undermine Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy credentials by repeatedly condemning her handling of the Libyan intervention in 2011, when she was US secretary of state.

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US Response to 9/11 Seen as Driving Force in Spread of Terror

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

While within the United States, there is still plenty of willingness to use the 9/11 anniversary as a time for politicians to make public appearances and give hawkish speeches praising America’s “unity” in reaction to the attacks, internationally there is growing willingness to be more circumspect about the results.

France, which has found itself a primary target for ISIS terror attacks, increasingly sees the US reaction to 9/11 as the instigating cause of that, with several high-profile analysts and top officials saying that the post-9/11 interventions led to an “era of instability” of which much of Europe, including France, has been a victim.

French President Francois Hollandeechoed this sentiment, noting that the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the creation of ISIS, and that even though (France’s then-President) Jacques Chirac refused to participate in the war, France has become a main target for ISIS.

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France to send heavy artillery to Iraq in fight against ISIS

Al Jazeera reports:

French President Francois Hollande has said that France will send heavy artillery to Iraq to support the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Hollande announced the plan on Friday, saying the artillery equipment “will be in place next month”.

Ground forces will not be deployed in the country, Hollande said, following a high-level security meeting in Paris, his fourth since the ISIL-claimed lorry attack in Nice on July 14, which killed 84 people.

The president also reiterated that the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle would be deployed in the region in late September to help in ongoing operations against ISIL, also known as ISIS.

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A Third of Nice Truck Attack’s Dead Were Muslim, Group Says

Alissa J. Rubin and Lilia Blaise report for The New York Times:

When a Tunisian man drove a truck down a crowded street in Nice last week in an attack claimed by the Islamic State, more than one-third of the people he killed were Muslim, the head of a regional Islamic association said on Tuesday.

Kawthar Ben Salem, a spokeswoman for the Union of Muslims of the Alpes-Maritimes, said that Muslim funerals were being held for at least 30 of those who died during the Bastille Day attack, including men, women and children.

The Paris prosecutor’s office, which handles terrorism investigations, said on Tuesday that all 84 people killed in the attack had been formally identified, meaning that the number of Muslim fatalities may be even higher. The number of people who were wounded was also raised, to 308 people.

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Nice Attack: A Mass Murderer Becomes a ‘Terrorist’ Based on Ethnicity, Not Evidence

Jim Naureckas writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

Truck used in Nice attacks (photo: Andrew Testa/NYT)[…] Despite the absence of any evidence of a political motivation, or indeed any motive at all—generally considered to be a key part of any definition of terrorism—the New York Times story still referred to the Nice killings as “the third large-scale act of terrorism in France in a year and a half.” The killings, Higgins wrote, “raised new questions throughout the world about the ability of extremists to sow terror.”

Why is the Times willing to label the Nice deaths “terrorism”—a label that US media do not apply to all acts of mass violence, even ones that have much clearer political motives (FAIR Media Advisory, 4/15/14)? In part, they seem to be following the lead of French authorities: “French officials labeled the attack terrorism and cast the episode as the latest in a series that have made France a battlefield in the violent clash between Islamic extremists and the West.”

But quotes from French officials made it clear that such claims were little more than guesswork: The story reported that Prime Minister Manuel Valls “said the attacker in all likelihood had ties to radical Islamist circles,” citing Valls’ statement to French TV: “He is a terrorist probably linked to radical Islam one way or another.” Later Valls is quoted noting that the attack happened on the French national holiday of Bastille Day.

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After Nice, Don’t Give ISIS What It’s Asking For

Murtaza Hussain writes for The Intercept:

Not much is yet known about Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the 31-year-old man French police say is responsible for a horrific act of mass murder last night in the southern city of Nice. In the wake of the killings, French President Francois Hollande has denounced the attack as “Islamist terrorism” linked to the militant group the Islamic State. Supporters of ISIS online have echoed these statements, claiming responsibility for the attack as another blow against its enemies in Western Europe.

While the motive for the attack is still under investigation, it is worth examining why the Islamic State is so eager to claim such incidents as its own. On the surface, ramming a truck into a crowd of people gathered to watch Bastille Day fireworks seems like an act of pure nihilism. No military target was hit. Initial reports suggest that the killings may lead to French attacks on ISIS’s already-diminishing territories in Iraq and Syria. And French Muslims, many of whom were reportedly killed in the attack, will likely face security crackdowns and popular backlash from a public angry and fearful in the wake of another incomprehensible act of mass murder.

But the Islamic State’s statements and history show that such an outcome is exactly what it seeks. In the February 2015 issue of its online magazine Dabiq, the group called for acts of violence in the West that would “[eliminate] the grayzone” by sowing division and creating an insoluble conflict in Western societies between Muslims and non-Muslims. Such a conflict would force Muslims living in the West to “either apostatize … or [migrate] to the Islamic State, and thereby escape persecution from the crusader governments and citizens.”

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Bastille Day Attack: Is the War on Terror a ‘Self-Fulfilling Prophecy’?

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak with Palestinian-American playwright Ismail Khalidi in Nice and French human rights and civil liberties activist Yasser Louati in Paris, about the Bastille Day attack that left more than 84 dead in Nice. (Democracy Now!)

Why Terrorists Keep Succeeding in France

Leonid Bershidsky writes for Bloomberg:

France is in the line of fire. Of the 16 terrorist incidents that took place in Western nations this year, five were in France, including the deadliest one — Thursday’s apparent lone wolf attack in Nice, which killed at least 84 people.

A little more than a week before the attack, a commission set up by the French parliament gave its version of the reasons for France’s endangered state in a massive report. Apart from an objective threat the country faces thanks to its colonial past and a failure to integrate North African immigrants, it also suffers from inadequate policing.

“All the French citizens who struck within the nation’s territory in 2015 were known, in one capacity or another, to judicial, penal or intelligence services,” the report says. “They have all been on file, watched, listened to or incarcerated along their path of delinquency toward violent radicalization.”

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Francois Hollande Calls for Expansion of ISIS War to Include Syrian al-Qaeda Affiliate Nusra Front

AFP reports:

French President Francois Hollande called on Saturday for international action against an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, warning that the recent losses sustained by the Islamic State (IS) group could embolden other militant groups.

“Daesh [an Arabic acronym for IS] is in retreat, that is beyond dispute,” Hollande said after a meeting with the leaders of the US, Germany, Britain, Italy and Ukraine on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Warsaw.

But Hollande added: “We must also avoid a situation whereby as Daesh becomes weaker other groups become stronger.”

Hollande singled out al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front as particularly standing to benefit from the US-led military campaign against its arch-rival IS.

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French PM Capitulates to EU Pressure on Labor Laws Risking His Own Presidency: Interview with Renaud Lambert

Sharmini Peries speaks to Renaud Lambert of Le Monde Diplomatique who says Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission came to France to endorse Hollande and his decree on restrictive labor reforms. (The Real News)

France Fears Brexit Will Harm Regional Military Power

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

French DM Jean-Yves Le Drian made a last minute appeal to Britain to remain in the EU right before last night’s vote, in which Britain ultimately decided to leave the union, Le Drian’s argument was primarily a military one, arguing Britain would be “weaker” without the EU, and the EU would be weaker without Britain.

Other French officials are also expressing concerns about that, now that the vote is in, noting that Britain and French represented the biggest military forces in the EU, and saying they believe post-Brexit Britain might start looking to cut military spending at any rate.

Britain and France also have extremely close military ties, to the point where during discussions on austerity measures, the two had discussed the possibility of “sharing” an aircraft carrier as a way to cut down on expenses.

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French President Threatens to Outlaw Protests Against Labor Reforms

Sharmini Peries speaks to Le Monde Diplomatique’s Renaud Lambert, who says social movements and the government are locking horns but Prime Minister Manuel Valls and President François Hollande have both said that they will not budge. (The Real News)