François Hollande: Facing ISIS Threats in France, and Sagging Polls
(1 day later)
President François Hollande of France faces a number of foreign policy challenges, the most pressing of which is linked to the chaos in Syria.
Hundreds of young French citizens of North African ancestry have traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State, and many have returned as threats. France has become the Islamic State’s No. 1 target.
As long as the Islamic State maintains its stronghold in Raqqa, Syria, it will continue to exert a powerful attraction for France’s young, radicalized men and women. Because of this, Paris has a keen interest in ending the Syrian conflict.
Even so, the French government has not played an effective role in negotiations. Similarly, its attempt to insert itself into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with a peace conference earlier this year in Paris, has not gone very far. Another major worry for France has been the Islamic State’s presence in Libya, where France has supported the anti-Islamist forces to some effect.
Seen as weak at home, with his standing in the polls ahead of next year’s election the lowest of any French president since 1958, Mr. Hollande has struggled to appear tough on terrorism. He has been eclipsed by right-wing challengers, especially a former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, whose hard-line positions, including harsher treatment of those considered security threats, appear more in tune with the anxious public mood.
At the United Nations, Mr. Hollande is certain to talk about the future of Europe. With Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, he is trying to find a new way forward for the European Union after the British voted to pull out.
But he has yet to provide a convincing philosophy for Europe in the face of increasing public skepticism of the European project.