Germany ‘considering possible military role in Syria’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks on during a leadership meeting of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party on September 10, 2018 in Berlin. (AFP)
Updated 11 September 2018

Germany ‘considering possible military role in Syria’

  • The German air force already provides refueling support and carries out reconnaissance missions using four Tornado fighter jets from a base in Jordan as part of the US-led coalition fighting Daesh in Iraq and Syria
  • The SPD will not agree — either in Parliament or in the government — to the participation of Germany in the war in Syria

BERLIN: The German government said on Monday it was in talks with its allies about a possible military deployment in Syria, prompting a sharp rebuke from the Social Democrats (SPD) and setting up a fresh conflict in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s loveless coalition.
Overseas military action remains a sensitive and deeply unpopular topic in Germany.
Participation in any airstrikes in Syria would also put Germany on a collision course with Russia, the main backer of Bashar Assad.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Germany had discussed with the US and European allies its possible military involvement if Assad’s forces used chemical weapons against the last major rebel stronghold in Idlib, now under heavy Syrian and Russian bombardment.
“There has not been a situation where a decision has had to be made,” Seibert said, adding that any decision would first have to be approved by Parliament.
Earlier, Bild newspaper had reported that Germany’s Defense Ministry was examining possible options for joining US, British and French forces in any future military action if Damascus again used chemical weapons.
It said Parliament would only be notified of any military action after the fact if speedy action were required.

SPD opposition
Andrea Nahles, leader of the SPD — junior partner in Merkel’s coalition — ruled out backing any German involvement.
“The SPD will not agree — either in Parliament or in the government — to the participation of Germany in the war in Syria,” Nahles said in a statement, adding the party backed diplomatic efforts to avert a humanitarian crisis.
Sources familiar with the issue, confirming the Bild report, said German and US officials had discussed the possibility of German fighter jets helping with battle damage assessments or dropping bombs for the first time since the war in ex-Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
The German air force already provides refueling support and carries out reconnaissance missions using four Tornado fighter jets from a base in Jordan as part of the US-led coalition fighting Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
Bild said a decision on whether to join any strikes would be made by Merkel, who ruled out joining April 2018 air strikes against Syria by US, French and British forces after a previous use of chemical weapons.
In a joint statement on Monday, the German foreign and defense ministries urged restraint in Syria.
“The goal is that the conflict parties ... avoid escalating an already terrible situation ... That is particularly true for the use of banned chemical weapons which the Assad government has already used in the past,” it said.


Successor to slain Iran general faces same fate if he kills Americans: US envoy

Updated 23 January 2020

Successor to slain Iran general faces same fate if he kills Americans: US envoy

  • Washington blamed Soleimani for masterminding attacks by Iran-aligned militias against US forces in the region
  • Ghaani promised to “continue in this luminous path” taken by Soleimani and said the goal was to drive US forces out of the region

DUBAI: The US special representative for Iran said the successor to Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike, would suffer the same fate if he followed a similar path of killing Americans, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported.

Washington blamed Soleimani for masterminding attacks by Iran-aligned militias against US forces in the region. US President Donald Trump ordered the Jan. 3 drone strike in Iraq after a build up of tension over Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran responded to the killing of Soleimani, who was charged with expanding Tehran’s influence across the Middle East, by launching missile strikes on US targets in Iraq, although no US soldiers were killed.

After Soleimani’s death, Tehran swiftly appointed Esmail Ghaani as the new head of the Quds Force, an elite unit in the Revolutionary Guards that handles actions abroad. The new commander pledged to pursue Soleimani’s course.

“If (Esmail) Ghaani follows the same path of killing Americans then he will meet the same fate,” Brian Hook told the Arabic-language daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

He said in the interview in Davos that US President Donald Trump had long made it clear “that any attack on Americans or American interests would be met with a decisive response.”

“This isn’t a new threat. The president has always said that he will always respond decisively to protect American interests,” Hook said. “I think the Iranian regime understands now that they cannot attack America and get away with it.”

After his appointment, Ghaani promised to “continue in this luminous path” taken by Soleimani and said the goal was to drive US forces out of the region, which has long been Iran’s stated policy.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have steadily increased since Trump withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018 and imposed tough news sanctions that have hammered the Iranian economy.

This month’s military flare-up began in December when rockets fired at US bases in Iraq killed a US contractor. Washington blamed pro-Iran militia and launched air strikes that killed at least 25 fighters. After the militia surrounded the US embassy in Baghdad for two days, Trump ordered the drone strike on Soleimani.