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French press review 14 April 2018


The French dailies react as allied missiles strike targets in Syria. Plus, a suggestion that enthusiasm may be on the wane in the rail reform dispute.

The electronic editions of the French dailies carry first reactions to the overnight allied missile strikes against targets in Syria.

"Washington, Paris and London launch a series of targeted strikes," is Le Monde's main headline.

"The allies strike Assad's chemical weapons," says Le Figaro.

Left-leaning Libération is slightly behind play, with a story last revised last night claiming that the United States have proof that the Syrian regime definitely used chemical weapons in last Saturday's attack on the city of Douma. Clearly, the sort of press release intended to pave the way for the overnight attacks.

Le Monde analyses the situation as another allied failure, saying that reacting to chemical weapons by sending in missiles is proof of the absence of any real policy on Syria.

Plan for future lacking

US President Donald Trump could not care less about the situation, it says. No more than did his predecessor, Barack Obama.

There is the obvious danger of a conflict with Russia, chief support of the Assad regime. There has been the desire to hamper the spread of the Islamic State armed group. And there is now the image of three Western powers united against the scourge of chemical warfare.

But as for the future of the Syrian people, negotiations to end the seven-year conflict, a political solution in Damascus, an end to regional chaos, none of that is on anyone's agenda.

Trump is on record as saying he wants to get out of Syria as quickly as possible, leaving the mess to others. His new foreign secretary and security advisor, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton respectively, have no policy on Syria either. Their only regional interest is Iran, which they would like to see weakened, the paper comments.

In reality, US foreign policy is more concerned with Asia.

Russia lacks strategy

Worst of all, says Le Monde, Russia has no coherent policy, either.

President Vladimir Putin has been unable to organise any dialogue between the rival factions because Bashar al-Assad refuses to talk to his enemies.

There was no Syrian representative at least week's Russian-Iranian-Turkish talks on the future of Syria. And the regional ambitions of those three countries are very different, not to say contradictory.

Interestingly, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday warned the Western allies that any attack on Syria would simply increase the number of migrants heading towards Europe, as happened in both Libya and Iraq.

That's very serious. Europe may not have a policy on Syria, but it certainly has one on migration.

Is the French train strike running out of steam?

Le Monde looks back on the sixth day of strike action by disgruntled French rail workers, notes that support for the work stoppage seems to be diminishing, and asks how come, with fewer strikers, the transport chaos seems just as bad as ever?

First, the figures: about 30 percent of staff failed to report for work yesterday, 38 percent of those being essential to the smooth running of the national rail system. Nearly all sectors reported fewer strikers than the last time.

Despite which, management continued to warn potential travellers to take the bus, or walk, or buy a bike since they expected disruption to be very severe, exactly the same level as during the last work stoppage.

Le Monde offers two explanations for this strange situation.

First, as claimed by the four striking unions, it is possible that management is lying about the figures. That would explain why it was no easier to get on a train yesterday than on, say, 22 March, when there were five percent more strikers, according to the compnay's figures.

The other factor concerns the professional functions of the strikers. If a ticket inspector stays home, the train can run. The same can't be said if the driver decides to go on strike. And, bingo, three quarters of French train drivers were not at work yesterday. But even that very high figure shows a slight decrease compared to the last strike period.

According to management, the strike is running out of steam. According to the unions, the figures have been cooked, the strike was a great success, and the next one, scheduled for the middle of next week, will be even better.

Unless, of course, you're a commuter. In which case, it will be worse.