8 September 2015, NYT: Britain Says It Killed 3 ISIS Suspects in First Drone Strike in Syria
SEPT. 16, 2015
France Says It Will Join Air Campaign Against ISIS in Syria
By ALISSA J. RUBIN
PARIS -- France will join the coalition of Western and Middle Eastern countries carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, the country's defense minister said on Wednesday, with the first strikes likely to come in the next couple of weeks.
The airstrikes would represent a significant departure for France, which has resisted targeting Syria directly for months because of fears that the strikes would help President Bashar al-Assad. France also has a history of insisting on United Nations resolutions to authorize the use of force. So its willingness to move ahead without one signals the seriousness of the French government's concerns about the situation.
As a practical matter, the strikes would be a further expansion of France's military activity in the region, where it has already been involved in bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq and began reconnaissance flights in Syria last week. 
In an interview with France Inter radio, the defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said France was gathering intelligence on Islamic State targets in preparation for the airstrikes.
Describing the situation in Syria as "grave," Mr. Le Drian said the Islamic State had recently enlarged its territory to the point that it threatened rebel groups near Aleppo, and the major road network that leads to the Syrian capital, Damascus, and Lebanon.
"Daesh is on the offensive in Syria," he said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL.
The Islamic State has control of much of the territory that extends from northern Syria across the Iraqi border to Mosul and south to within about 30 miles of Baghdad.
France has been struggling with a decision over whether to strike Islamic State targets in Syria. The government, led by President François Hollande, has been outspoken in its criticism of Mr. Assad, and until now, France has adamantly refused to do anything that would even indirectly help him, including targeting his enemies.
"Our enemy is Daesh," said Mr. Le Drian, underscoring that the French strikes were not intended to help Mr. Assad.
France was the first Western country to recognize rebel groups opposed to Mr. Assad and was prepared to conduct airstrikes against Syrian government positions in 2013. But those plans were abandoned when the United States, which had indicated that it would lead such an effort, pulled back.
Amid fears that the Islamic State appears to be sending its European fighters back home to stage attacks even as it has been actively recruiting disaffected youths in France, the French government has re-evaluated its position.
In at least one recent case, a young man who had visited Syria and had contact with the Islamic State returned to Europe and carried out an attack on French soil. In that instance, the assailant beheaded his employer.  And the suspect in an attack on a train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris,  had traveled to Syria, according to Spanish intelligence agencies.
"Bashar al-Assad is the enemy of his people. Bashar is an assassin," Mr. Le Drian said. "Bashar al-Assad has the weight of 240,000 dead on his shoulders. He has been the origin of the abyss that the region has been plunged into. We condemn him passionately, but it is Daesh that is attacking our country."
France will join the United States, Bahrain, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Canada, which are also carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, according to the United States Defense Department. 
As of Sept. 8, the United States had conducted 2,502 airstrikes in Syria and more than 4,000 on Islamic State targets in Iraq, the Defense Department said.
Mr. Le Drian said that the United States would give the French air support as they carried out the attacks.