Daesh must be annihilated, says Defence Minister

Fight against terrorism/Syria/Russia/Daesh – Interview given by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defence, to the daily newspaper Le Monde (excerpts)

Paris, 22 November 2015

Q. – Is the overall war against terrorism the third world war?

THE MINISTER – We must keep a sense of proportion and put all this in perspective. This is the first time we’ve been confronted by a hybrid enemy with two heads, because Islamic State (IS) [Daesh] is an enemy with two heads. On the one hand there’s this state being formed, a terrorist state, an apocalyptic state, a slightly messianic state which wants to rebuild the territory of the caliphate and which is organizing itself – with an army, with its own resources, with a government that collects taxes – and wants to extend its territory .

And on the other hand, there’s the international terrorist movement – also a product of IS – whose goal is to strike the Western world in particular and endanger democracies. They’re two dimensions of the same terrorist state, and therefore two different wars in a single war. There’s the war in the shadows: tracking the terrorists who are trying to hit democracy, as we’ve experienced tragically in recent days, and often when these terrorists appear it’s already almost too late. And at the same time we must strike at the heart, on the battlefield, in the Levant, to kill, annihilate Islamic State. It’s a global hybrid war.

Q. – The Charles de Gaulle [aircraft carrier] is arriving off Syria. When will the Rafales bomb?

THE MINISTER – The carrier battle group – i.e. the aircraft carrier and several accompanying vessels – will be operational from Monday onwards, and along with the fighter planes that will be on board it will be in a position to act from tomorrow onwards.

Q. – Is the goal to neutralize, assassinate Al-Baghdadi, the head of IS, just as Bin Laden was killed?

THE MINISTER – No, the goal is to annihilate Islamic State overall.

Q. – Weaken it or annihilate it?

THE MINISTER – It’s not to weaken it, it’s to annihilate it. We must ultimately recreate a political solution in Iraq and Syria; that involves the eradication of Daesh Everyone needs everyone. So we must find forms of coordination; that will be the subject of the week, with the President’s visits to Washington and Moscow.

Q. – What are the Americans doing that’s new?

THE MINISTER – What’s new as far as the United States is concerned is that transparency in military intelligence has been speeded up, which means joint action can today be regarded as extremely successful. On Monday 16 November I had a meeting with the American intelligence coordinator, we agreed on the right way of acting, and now there’s genuine effectiveness.

Q. – Does that mean that, for a long time, they were being secretive? We didn’t have all the information?

THE MINISTER – Everyone had their autonomy. Intelligence is also a tool of sovereignty. But here, in the tragic and exceptional situation we’re in, we’re fully open to each other about Iraq and Syria.

Q. – Are the Russians acting as intermediaries to find out what’s happening?

THE MINISTER – The Russians’ position has shifted. In my opinion, for three reasons. The first is that they’ve been the victims of action by Daesh, because the origin of the attack on the Russian plane has now been very clearly identified as IS, with more than 200 dead – more deaths than in Paris, although we’re not making any morbid comparative death tolls of attacks.

Secondly, the Russians can see that the foreign fighters include a lot of Russian speakers whose aim is probably to act in Russia.

And thirdly, they wanted to protect their own interests thanks to their closeness to Bashar al-Assad, but they realized that the Syrian army of Bashar al-Assad has grown very weak. Russia is now striking the Daesh areas in a very significant way. How far is it going? We’ll have to check that with Mr Putin.

Q. – It will be necessary to go as far as sending troops on the ground. For example, those of Arab countries?

THE MINISTER – Victory, the destruction of Daesh, will at some point require a presence on the ground.

Q. – Are you ruling out that of the French?

THE MINISTER – That scenario isn’t being envisaged today. But for there to be players who recapture lost territory, yes. (…)./.

Published on 05/04/2016

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