PARIS (May. 24)
President Valery Giscard d’Estaing’s offer to send a French army peacekeeping force to Lebanon promptly came under criticism from the opposition in France and from most countries in the Middle East. The Lebanese left, led by Kamal Jumblatt, has warned that French intervention in Lebanon is doomed to failure and that France would find itself “in a snare’s nest.”
In spite of this opposition, France is going ahead with plans to move “if necessary” a force of some 5000 men and a formidable array of firepower to Lebanon within 6-12 hours. A naval task force which includes the aircraft carrier “Clemenceau,” the helicopter carrier “Jeanne d’Arc” and several cruisers and missile-carrying frigates could also reach Lebanese waters in a matter of hours, French sources say.
The President, who first made his offer known on the eve of his return to France from the United States, is reportedly waiting for an official Lebanese request before ordering the force to move. The French task force, sources here say, would actually “prevent the fighting and separate the combatants” and not resign itself to an observer role.
French official sources believe that such a task force could bring the Lebanese fighting to a stop “within a couple of days.” The sources say, however, that France wants to obtain the agreement of all the warring parties before moving in, It is unclear whether this definition covers Syria.
WARNING AGAINST GUNBOAT DIPLOMACY
First reports from abroad have been generally unfavorable. Most Arab countries have already expressed their opposition to the use of foreign troops in Lebanon, Israel has also indicated that it is against the arrival of foreign troops in the area. The French press has extensively quoted Israeli editorials opposing such a move.
Inside France itself, the opposition parties have warned the government against “gunboat diplomacy” and said “we know where a military adventure starts, we do not know where it ends.” The Communist Party also indicated suspicion that Giscard d’Estaing’s move was undertaken at “the request of the United States in order to serve its interests.”
Gaullist circles in Paris rallied to Giscard d’Estaing’s suggestion. Many Gaullists viewed his offer as “a sign of France’s independence” and also as one of “responsibility for Lebanon’s fate.” Lebanon was a French mandate from 1920 until that country’s independence after World War II.