On 30 November, the IISS-Middle East hosted a panel lecture on French policy in the Middle East entitled ‘A View from Paris’ as part of its Global Perspectives Series. The speakers included Dr Bruno Tertrais, Senior Research Fellow at the Fondation pour la Recherche Strategique, and Dr Nelly Lahoud, IISS Senior Fellow for Political Islamism, and the lecture was chaired by Sir John Jenkins, Executive Director of IISS-Middle East. The audience included ambassadors, government officials and representatives from leading businesses.
Dr Tertrais provided a skeptical take on the Iran nuclear deal, noting in particular its short timeframe, but asserted that with its adoption, the best approach would be to demand its full implementation. He also explained that France’s tough negotiating position was welcomed by the Gulf states. Tertrais detailed France’s conundrum in Syria, where it sought to support Assad’s ouster but faced serious constraints, notably the presence of jihadi fighters, a concern greatly aggravated by the recent attacks in Paris. The attacks, Tertrais asserted, did not yet alter the substance of French policy but forced counter-terrorism on top of the French regional agenda and would have a lasting impact in the country.
Dr Lahoud developed the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s view of the world and explained that the choice of Paris as a target and the sophistication of the attacks revealed its evolving capabilities and desire to manipulate social and other perceived fault lines in Western societies. She noted that the ISIS narrative suffered from the refugee crisis: while ISIS was busy building its caliphate, many Arab Muslims instead chose to seek refuge in Europe. She noted that any strategy to weaken ISIS needed a strong political component and a recognition of the incommensurate suffering of the populations in Syria and Iraq.
The IISS Global Perspectives Series is a regular forum at IISS-Middle East drawing on the full authority and reach of IISS expertise to deliver facts and analysis on important strategic issues.
Participation is by invitation only. Please contact [email protected] or +973 1718 1155 for more details.