As French soldiers pour into Mali in the fight to push back the advancing Islamist militants, questions have been raised as to the motives behind the intervention. Author William Engdahl told RT the US was using France as a scapegoat to save face.

RT: At a time when France and the rest of the Eurozone are trying to weather the economic crisis, what's Paris seeking to gain by getting involved in another conflict overseas?

William Engdahl: Well, I think the intervention in Mali is another follow-up to the French role in other destabilizations that we've seen, especially in Libya last year with the toppling of the Gadhafi regime. In a sense this is French neocolonialism in action.
But, interestingly enough, I think behind the French intervention is the very strong hand of the US Pentagon which has been preparing this partitioning of Mali, which it is now looming to be, between northern Mali, where al-Qaeda and other terrorists are supposedly the cause for French military intervention, and southern Mali, which is a more agricultural region. Because in northern Mali recently there have been huge finds of oil discovered, so that leads one to think that it's very convenient that these armed rebels spill over the border from Libya last year and just at the same time a US-trained military captain creates a coup d'état in the Southern capital of Mali and installs a dictatorial regime against one of Africa's few democratically elected presidents.

So this whole thing bears the imprint of US Africom [US Africa Command] and an attempt to militarize the whole region and its resources. Mali is a strategic lynchpin in that. It borders Algeria which is one of the top goals of these various NATO interventions from France, the US and other sides. Mauritania, the Ivory Coast, Guinea, Burkina Faso. All of this area is just swimming in untapped resources, whether it be gold, manganese, copper.

RT: Why was France the first Western country to get involved to such an extent? And what sort of message is this military initiative sending to its allies?

WE: Well I think that's the Obama Administration's strategy - let France take the hit on this as they did in Libya and other places in the past year and-a-half and the US will try and play a more discrete role in the background rather than being upfront as they were in Iraq and Afghanistan which cost the US huge amounts of credibility around the world. They're playing a little bit more of a sly game here, but the rush for the US to announce its support the French military intervention and the actions of Africom over the past year and-a-half, two years ,in Mali make clear that this is a US operation with the French as a junior partner.

RT: How far could this conflict potentially escalate? Could the French get bogged down, and who else is likely to get involved?

WE: The other European countries are loath to get involved in an Afghan-type ground situation with their troops. The Germans are providing humanitarian aid and some special forces training so far, but, frankly, I think al-Qaeda in northern Maghreb is a very suspicious operation and the timing of its activities coming over the border suggests that perhaps some NATO countries might be helping the al-Qaeda group to get military weapons and create the Chaucer's belly that justifies NATO intervention. I think we're seeing a very cynical game being played out here in Mali and it's a very dangerous one when Africa is suddenly becoming a continent that's been discovered by China, by the US and Europe and the rest of the world as the next place where untold wealth and resources can be captured.

'Cascade of consequences'

When France started the intervention in Mali, it should have been prepared to face a "cascade of unnecessary consequences", such as the hostage situation in Algeria, political analyst Alex Korbel from Contrepoints, has told RT.
"We are trading a potential threat by an actual count of casualties, and we are talking about civilians here," he said to the channel.
As the rebels are engaging the forces, the conflict is bound to cross borders into the neighboring states, that could potentially engulf the entire West Africa, the analyst believes. Korbel thinks that France has made a mistake by getting involved in a conflict which he says is bound to escalate.
"Are we really prepared to fight a war in the whole of Western Africa? I do not think so," Korbel told the viewers.
The French public also does not support the approach of the French government, "because when he was elected 64 percent of the French public considered that Francois Hollande would not be able to tackle an international crisis" adding that soon the public will "realize that it is an unnecessary war, costly war."

The analyst believes that France simply cannot finance this war.
"We are now in 16 different military operations around the world and Mali is the last one. The public debt represents a real problem and the budget has not been balanced since 1974, clearly we do not have a cent to finance another unnecessary war," he told RT.