France sent the second-largest military force to the Gulf war and, although French troops saw little combat, Paris strongly supported the ouster of Iraqi troops from Kuwait in 1991. French naval vessels still maintain a presence in the Indian Ocean and occasionally enter the Persian Gulf. The French Air Force participates in patrols of the no-fly zone from Saudi Arabian bases.
But after the liberation of Kuwait, France made it clear it wanted no part of a battle for Baghdad, a position which helped bolster those in the U.S. administration who also wanted to stop short of ousting Saddam Hussein.
Since the war ended, French misgivings about the U.N.’s punitive stance toward Iraq have only increased. Together with Russia, France was pre-war Iraq's primary military supplier. French oil and engineering companies had lucrative operations in the country.
Since 1994, France has been more in tune with Russia on the U.N. Security Council when it comes to the renewal of sanctions against Iraq. In fact, just a week before the inspection dispute began, France and Russia both abstained in a vote on an unsuccessful U.S. effort to wield a new threat of sanctions against Baghdad.
Despite continuing complaints by France that the economic sanctions are too strict, Paris has grown increasingly impatient with Iraq’s behavior with regard to arms inspection. Only at the end of January did Paris agree not to rule out a military response if Iraqi defiance continued.
France involvement in Gulf War 91:
18,000 troops, 60 combat aircraft, 120 helicopters, 40 tanks, 1 missle cruiser, 3 destroyers, 4 frigates
French defense Web sites
French Ministry of Foreign Affairs