INCREDIBLE: Having undermined his army France now castigates Assad for not offering a stiffer resistance at Palmyra
There's having guile, and then there's being shameless. But let's begin at the beginning.
In May 2015 ISIS captured the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra from the Syrian Arab Army. ISIS succeeded to do so in a two week battle which killed at least 81 SAA soldiers, at a cost of at least 170 ISIS fighters (but up to 300 according to the anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights).
Moreover, during the battle ISIS captured 25 Syrian soldiers which were then gruesomely and theatrically executed.
ISIS' victory in Palmyra occurred in parallel to a much bigger offensive of Al-Qaeda-led rebels in northwestern Syria which lasted between March and June 2015 and which captured large swathes of Idlib, Hama and Latakia provinces and threatened to fracture the Syrian state altogether.
These gains came on the heels of a general trend of rebel strength and victories in 2014-2015, which in turn was a result of a decision in late 2013 by the Obama-Kerry tandem to beef up military aid to rebels, including distributing 15,000 anti-tank TOW missiles via Saudi Arabia.
Also albeit a US-led coalition intervened directly in Syria in mid-2014 ostensibly to contain and roll back ISIS, it in fact avoided damaging it significantly because it thought that would help the Damascus government.
Damascus nonetheless attempted to beat back ISIS on its own, and in July 2015 launched a month-long offensive to recapture Palmyra but ultimately failed.
However, the Syrian government forces, now backed by Russians, succeeded in their second attempt and delivered the town from ISIS this March 27.
As one might expect this has caused some major sour grapes in the west. AFP brings us the butthurt French reaction:
France said the recapture of Palmyra was "positive news". But the victory "should not exonerate the Damascus regime" of its responsibilities in the conflict, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said during a visit to Algeria.
The Russian agency TASS has the full citation:
"Naturally, we are not going to regret that Palmyra is no longer in the hands of the Islamic State group.
At the same time, when the IS was seizing the town, one can hardly say that the Syrian authorities took any strong defensive actions.
We can only regret that. The situation could have been different had we organized such a strong rebuff to the ISIS actions at that time," the French foreign minister said.
"The liberation of Palmyra does not relieve the Syrian leadership of responsibility for the conflict in the country," he added.
Whoah! So of course the French FM can not publicly regret that ISIS, which blew up Paris last November, has been driven from Palmyra, but he still wants to rain on the Syrian government parade: It's still responsible for the overall conflict, and BTW it didn't do enough to defend Palmyra in 2015.
Apparently it is up to the French foreign minister to determine how many dead Syrian army soldiers is enough.
But what about France itself, what was its contribution to the defense or the fall of Palmyra? As said it avoided degrading ISIS particularly when the jihadis were engaged against government troops so its contribution to the defense was none.
On the other hand since at least mid-2012 France had been supplying Syrian rebels with such "non-lethal" military material as night vision goggles, body armor and radios (all of which serve to make fighters more lethal). Moreover, after September 2013 the French government begun to ship weapons to rebels as well.
So then the full story is that Paris, along with other western powers, beefed up the Syrian Al-Nusra-Front-led rebels who in the first half of 2015 overwhelmed the Syrian army in the northwest.
ISIS took advantage of the situation and pressed the overstretched government army further. The SAA was unable to offer effective resistance to either of the anti-government camps, but nonetheless only withdrew from Palmyra after more than 100 of its soldiers had been killed or captured and lost another dozen in an attempted counter-offensive in July.
To make things more bizarre France begun supplying the Syrian rebels when the current foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault was serving as its Prime Minister.
The same man who would now castigate "Syrian authorities" for 'not doing enough' to defend Palmyra was part of the team which decided its forces needed to be pressured, undermined and overwhelmed.
So maybe Bashar Assad didn't do enough to defend Palmyra, but Jean-Marc Ayrault actually helped ISIS take it.