In the days since 129 people were killed in the Paris attacks, France has escalated its offensive against ISIS. And it wants its Western allies and European partners to help.
“France is at war,” President François Hollande told parliament at the Palace of Versailles on Monday. “But we are not engaged in a war of civilizations, because these assassins do not represent any civilization. We are in a war against jihadist terrorism, which threatens the entire world.”
He announced that France — which already retaliated with air strikes in Syria several times this week, the latest happening on Tuesday morning — would start conducting even more air strikes. Hollande asked parliament to extend the state of emergency for three months and wants to increase funding for police — more than 100,000 officers have been mobilized since the attacks. More than 160 raids have taken place in France since Friday. The French president also wants to make it easier to deport terrorist suspects and increase punishments for arms traffickers. He even proposed a bill that would allow the country to take away French citizenship from people who have dual citizenship. “The removal of nationality must not have as a result to render someone stateless,” he said on Monday, according to the Financial Times. “But we must be able to remove someone’s French nationality if they have been convicted for an attack against the fundamental interests of the nation or a terrorist act.”
While Hollande tries to make these changes at home, he will also be meeting with European, U.S., and Russian leaders to try and forge a “grand coalition.” He told his legislative colleagues that Syria had become “the biggest factory of terrorism the world has ever known, and the international community is still too divided and too incoherent.”
On Tuesday, the European Union signaled that it was willing to help France in a big way. For the first time ever, according to The Wall Street Journal, a country called on the power of the EU treaty’s mutual defense clause, which compels the member states to help out a neighbor that has been “the victim of armed aggression.” French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that “each country has said I am going to help, I am going to assist” — although it is not clear how each country intends to show its solidarity yet. Germany, for example, has signaled that it has no intention of conducting air strikes, according to The Guardian. “It doesn’t make sense if we add to the 16 nations which are carrying out air attacks,” German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.
The member states were quick to signal support for France, however, for the political benefit of showing solidarity, even though the definition of help has not been agreed upon quite yet. “This is Sept. 11 for Europe,” Greek defense minister Panagiotis Kammenos said, according to the Washington Post.
Secretary of State John Kerry took a quick pit stop in Paris this Tuesday after leaving the G20 summit to meet with Hollande and discuss their options. He also briefly spoke to reporters about the future of the fight against ISIS. “Out of this event in Paris will come an even greater level of vigilance and cooperation in some places that may have been a little bit less concerned about things hitting them in certain parts of the world,” he said. “My sense is everybody understands that with Lebanon’s attacks, with what’s happened in Egypt, with Ankara, Turkey and attacks in Paris, we have to step up our efforts to hit them at the core where they’re planning these things and also obviously to do more on borders in terms of the movement of people.” However, Kerry did not seem too optimistic about the chances of Russia and the U.S. holding hands in the ISIS fight.
Hollande will travel to Washington, D.C., next week to meet with President Obama. He is also scheduled to meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Putin, who joined Hollande in ordering a “significant” number of air strikes on Tuesday, talked to his French counterpart on the phone this week and said afterward, “We need to establish a direct link with the French and work with them as we do with our allies.”