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The French, again....

By Michael Freund
9/4/2008, 12:00 AM


Following in the finest tradition of misguided French policy, Mr. Sarkozy is doing precisely the opposite of what needs to be done
As much as French policy has shifted since Nicolas Sarkozy assumed the presidency, it seems that old habits die harder than expected in Paris.

Ever since the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut in 2005 (an act that virtually everyone believes was carried out by the Syrian regime), Western leaders have largely shunned Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad.

Until yesterday, that is.

Sarkozy arrived in Damascus to much fanfare, where he has even been photographed smiling side-by-side with Assad. And since France holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, the trip takes on added diplomatic weight and significance.

In private, Assad and his aides must be rolling in laughter at this turn of events. Syria continues to support terror groups such as Hizbullah, maintains its alliance with renegade Iran, and even backed the recent Russian bloodbath in Georgia.

Yet, instead of paying a price for its mischief, the Syrian regime once again finds itself being courted by France and the West, who naively hope to bring about a change in the wily Assad's stance through "engagement" and "dialogue".

Following in the finest tradition of misguided French policy, Mr. Sarkozy is doing precisely the opposite of what needs to be done. Rather than rewarding Assad for his bad behavior with photo-ops and praise, France should be leading the charge to isolate and undermine the dangerous Damascus regime, which does not hesitate to use violence and terror to further its interests.

Then again, I guess we really shouldn't be all that surprised by Paris' pitiful policies. As the French themselves like to say, "plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose" ("the more things change, the more they stay the same").