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Critics swiftly accused France and Britain of playing loyal deputies to an unpredictable American leader.
Critics swiftly accused France and Britain of playing loyal deputies to an unpredictable American leader.

Macron, May Face Fierce Backlash on Syria Strikes

French president is accused of compromising the independence of a country that famously stayed out of former US president George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. The British premier is decried for not seeking parliamentary approval for Saturday’s coordina

Macron, May Face Fierce Backlash on Syria Strikes

France and the UK—Europe’s two biggest military powers—took a gamble in lining up behind US President Donald Trump to bombard Syria. Now they need to make sure it does not backfire.
Critics swiftly accused France and Britain of playing loyal deputies to an unpredictable American leader, viewed by many in Europe with suspicion or outright scorn. Some worried it could further antagonize Russia at an already tense time, France24 reported.
French President Emmanuel Macron was accused of compromising the independence of a country that famously stayed out of former US president George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. British Prime Minister Theresa May was decried for not seeking parliamentary approval for Saturday’s coordinated airstrikes.
May was to face lawmakers in parliament on Monday to explain her decision to join the US and France in carrying out airstrikes on Syria early on Saturday, while there was a debate the same day in France’s National Assembly and Senate.
And worst of all, many are of the opinion that Saturday’s “one-shot” military operation will not change the course of the war in Syria.
Yet the coordinated bombings tapped into the prevailing mood among leaders of the two powers, who are united in a sense that something had to be done.
Boosters see the attack as a way to keep European voices heard in Syria’s increasingly globalized civil war. And some even hope that Saturday’s rain of cruise missiles could push all sides closer to the negotiating table and an eventual end to the war. However, the move could cost both leaders domestically.

  Macron Attacked From All Sides
In France, Macron is facing the worst labor unrest of his presidency so far, with strikes that halted two-thirds of French trains Saturday and weeks more of walkouts to come.
Macron drew criticism Saturday from the far-left to the far-right. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen tweeted that the strikes expose France to “unpredictable and potentially dramatic consequences,” and criticized Macron for not taking an “independent” stance.
Florian Philippot, former right-hand man to Marine Le Pen and now president of new political party Les Patriotes, was blunter in his assessment: “President Macron is reducing our country to the role of subordinate partner to the Americans… The French people… must rise up against this belligerent action by President Macron, who is becoming more and more to Donald Trump what Tony Blair was to George W. Bush.”
Far-left politician Jean-Luc Melenchon also denounced France’s participation on Twitter, calling the strikes an “irresponsible escalation” that did not have European or French parliamentary support.
Yet Macron is trying to keep all his options open. He talked to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the eve of the attacks on Russian ally Syria, and hinted that they were imminent, according to top French officials. And as soon as the strikes were over, the French foreign minister pledged to keep open channels of communication with Russia.
But in nine days, Macron goes to Washington for the first state visit under Trump’s presidency and the French leader cannot be seen as Trump’s lapdog. He also needs to distance himself from comparisons to the 2003 Iraq invasion, which was motivated by suspicions that former dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that never materialized.

  British MPs Crying Foul
May said there was “no other choice” but to act fast, without taking time to recall parliament from its break. Lawmakers are already crying foul.
While May was not legally required to seek lawmakers’ approval, opposition leaders had suggested she had a moral responsibility to do so. The tainted legacy of former British prime minister Tony Blair’s rush to back US president George W. Bush in Iraq has overshadowed the debate.
“Theresa May should have sought parliamentary approval, not trailed after Donald Trump,” said opposition Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. He warned that May could face a backlash in parliament, calling the allies’ bombing “legally questionable” and saying it risks further escalating “an already devastating conflict.”
May’s Conservative Party lost its majority last June, and since then, her government has limped from crisis to crisis.
Other European leaders were more tempered. German Angela Chancellor Merkel called the military action against Syria “necessary and appropriate” but happily let France and Britain take the lead.
Germany has taken in more than 700,000 Syrian refugees in recent years and has a strong interest in preventing an escalation that might lead to further refugee movements toward Europe. Germany is also generally averse to military action abroad.

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