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What the papers said 12 April 2018

rfi English, Apr 12

President Macron is caught between a rock and a hard place as he contemplates joining looming US airstrikes on government targets in Syria; Macron’s media outing; and the Zuckerberg promises.

The dangerous escalation in Syria is the hottest issue bogging the minds of the commentators in the papers. This as President Emmanuel Macron weighs his first foreign military operation against the Assad regime for the gas attack in the rebel-held town of Douma in which 40 people were killed.

Le Parisien reports that the political stakes are very high for Macron if he decides not to follow the lengthy plans he's discussed with US President Donald Trump about how to react to the Douma gas attack.

While questions about the targets likely to be hit, the size of the operation, how it will be launched and the risks involved, Le Figaro reports that Syria may have moved its war arsenal to Russia's largest base in the middle east.

The paper says Trump, Macron and their allies are fully aware that Moscow's reaction is unpredictable after Russia threatened retaliatory action against the United States if missiles are fired at Syria.

Furthermore, Le Figaro sees significant limits with the options, warning that there could be dangerous confrontation between the two nuclear powers if Russian soldiers embedded with Syrians are killed accidentally or purposefully by US airstrikes.

According to La Nouvelle République du Centre ouest, the two sides have erred terribly close to the point where the new Cold War can take a turn for the worse. But the regional publication argues that Trump is probably upping the ante to give himself a little more weight at a time when serious judicial problems are undermining his presidency.

The New Republican says the world still remembers a similar nuclear crisis in 1962 when different actors in the White House and the Kremlin squared off over Cuba where an American spy plane photographed Soviet missiles deployed on the island.

Ouest-France pops a series of questions it claims are begging for answers. One of them is whether the airstrikes are aimed at sending a message to the Kremlin or to enforce the red line on using chemical weapons.

According to the newspaper, such an operation will not achieve the objective at a time Donald Trump has made his "America First" doctrine, the basis of US foreign policy, handing Russia a free hand on the global stage.

Ouest France makes the point that the new mindset in the White House has caused the decline of “multi-lateralism” which used to be the antidote to military adventurism.

La République des Pyrénées warns that between Trump, Macron and their allies, the objectives of war are not identical. What the American President is looking for is a confrontation with Iran, like Israel, says the paper. But it warns that if Macron, joins the Syrian airstrikes, he will be endangering the Iran nuclear accord which he is desperate to defend during his upcoming visit to the United States.

Macron’s media outing

Macron's response to the Syrian chemical attack is expected to be high on the agenda during a TV interview Thursday afternoon. The media outing is only Macron's third since his election last year.

Les Echos argues that he should have waited for the airstrikes to take place before launching his media offensive. But the publication says he was obliged to have a lunch chat with six million retired workers and countryside folk worried about their dwindling pensions and purchasing power.

Also, the Economic newspaper says he had to act fast to prevent a snow-balling of the rolling industrial action being staged by train workers, civil service staff and students opposed to his University reform.

These added to his obligation to explain his recent offer to mend fences with the Catholic Church in a move denounced as a breach of France's long-cherished tradition of secularism.

And talking about Macron’s ties with the Church, Le Monde says his message calling for a dialogue with the Episcopal conference was more political than spiritual, adding he is trying to reassure the church rather than seduce the faith at a time conservative and right-wing parties in France are trying to manipulate Catholics for electoral reasons.

Zuckerberg’s ‘monster which he no longer controls’

Le Figaro welcomes the commitment made by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in front of US lawmakers to roll out the controls and the affirmative consent" prescribed in the new strict EU rules on preventing privacy breaches and election interference "around the world".

The new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), due to come into force on May 25, gives web users much greater control over how their personal information is stored and used, with big fines of up to four percent of a company's global turnover slapped on breakers of the rules.

But according to the right-wing daily, neither the blunt excuses presented by Zuckerberg to the US Congressmen nor his pledges to improve on the protection of privacy will respond to democratic challenge posed by Facebook. Le Figaro says it will take more than just the philosophical change Zuckerberg envisages for the monster he no longer controls.

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