A day after France joined the United States and Britain in launching unprecedented strikes against regime targets, Macron insisted the intervention was legitimate and urged international powers to now push for a diplomatic solution to the brutal seven-year war.
“We have not declared war on the regime of Bashar al-Assad,” the 40-year-old centrist said at the start of a combative TV interview, stretching nearly three hours, to mark almost a year in office.
But Macron again argued his first major military intervention as president was necessary to send a signal that the use of chemical weapons against civilians would not go unpunished.
Saturday’s strikes targeted three alleged chemical weapons facilities in response to what the West says was a gas attack on the town of Douma that killed dozens of people.
“We have full international legitimacy in intervening in this case,” Macron said.
He said the US, France and Britain targeted “extremely precise sites of chemical weapons use” in an operation that went off “perfectly”.
And he further argued the operation was legitimate despite not being sanctioned by the UN, retorting that under a 2013 UN resolution Syria was supposed to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal.
As for his allies, Macron suggested France played a pivotal role in changing Trump’s mind on the need to stay involved in the conflict.
“Ten days ago, President Trump was saying the United States of America had a duty to disengage from Syria,” Macron said.
“I assure you, we have convinced him that it is necessary to stay for the long-term,” he told veteran journalists Jean-Jacques Bourdin and Edwy Plenel, charged with the two-hour grilling on BFMTV.
And in a reference to Trump’s raging on Twitter at Russia over the possibility of strikes, Macron added: “The second thing is that we have also convinced him that he must limit his strikes to chemical weapons, at a time when there was a media furore via tweet, as I’m sure you noticed.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in response: “The U.S. mission has not changed — the president has been clear that he wants U.S. forces to come home as quickly as possible. We are determined to completely crush ISIS and create the conditions that will prevent its return. In addition we expect our regional allies and partners to take greater responsibility both militarily and financially for securing the region.”