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High stakes for Macron as France weighs Syria strike

AFP  |  Paris 

In laying his integrity on the line over Syria's suspected use of chemical weapons, French might be playing for even higher stakes -- maintaining the landmark nuclear accord, analysts say.

The 40-year-old leader, weighing the first foreign military operation on his own initiative, has made clear he considers behind a suspected in the rebel-held Syrian town of last weekend that killed at least 40 people.

Macron's response is expected to be high on the agenda during a TV interview this afternoon, only his third since the centrist swept to power last year.

For many experts, he has no choice but to enforce his "red line" on the use of by the Syrian regime, which would prompt French military strikes.

"Unlike previous incidents, alleged or real, in recent months, what happened Saturday in is a huge and evident violation of Western red lines," said Bruno Tertrais, a at the Foundation for (FRS). "If doesn't react now that the conditions are met, we would lose all credibility," he said.

The country, victim of the first extensive use of in military history during World War I, has long made combatting a priority.

It worries that allowing such attacks by Syria's could set a dangerous precedent for other repressive regimes.

Many French officials still bristle over former US Barack Obama's last-minute pullback on strikes after a in 2013.The decision shocked the French, whose planes were poised for launch to participate in the operation.

"has tied his hands," said of the for Strategic Studies in "He's in the same position as Obama in 2013, and if he decides not to follow through, there will be a political price to pay."

has spoken at length with US President about how to react to the attack. Both men have played up their sound relations since Macron invited the American leader to attend festivities last July.

Macron has also taken advantage of weakened leadership in Britain and to carve out a role as Trump's privileged partner in But he has been unable to sway the US leader on two crucial issues -- the US decision to exit the 2015 agreement on curbing global warming, and Trump's threat to scupper the deal with to curb its nuclear weapons programme.

Several analysts say ending the deal with and re-imposing American sanctions could inflame tensions across the Middle East, after years of tensions amid the fight against the Islamic State group.

As Macron prepares for a state visit to later this month, "French military action could earn him some much-needed favour," Benjamin Haddad, a at the Hudson Institute, wrote in Foreign Policy magazine this week. Decisive joint action could give him leverage in arguing to uphold the deal, which comes up next for Trump's review on May 12.

"At the betting table of international relations, the chances are still 20 to one" against saving the deal, Heisbourg said.

Against such odds, "a show of France-US unity on surely can't do any harm" during Macron's visit, he said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, April 12 2018. 10:30 IST