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French were 'hours' from military strikes on Syria before phone call from Obama


From The Independent:

French President Francois Hollande called off military strikes against Syria on 31 August following a phone call from the US President only hours before fighter jets were set to take off, a French weekly magazine has revealed.

The report in the Nouvel Observateur shows how close the West came to launching a war on Syria over the Syrian regime’s presumed use of chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb, before Washington backed down. President Obama announced in a televised speech on 31 August, after informing a “stunned” Mr Hollande, that he would seek a Congressional vote, effectively lifting the military threat.

Rafale aircraft were readied that Saturday for take-off and official statements prepared in anticipation of the strikes, according to the Nouvel Observateur. “Everything made us think that D-Day had arrived,” a French official is quoted as saying. The magazine said that “this incredible misunderstanding lasted until the end of the afternoon,” at 6.15pm, when President Obama telephoned Mr Hollande, who was expecting to confirm the military orders just after the phone call. The strikes had been intended to start at 3am later that night, targeting missile batteries and command centres of the 4th Armoured Division in charge of chemical weapons.

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