Germany Approves Military Aid to Fight ISIS in Syria

By Smale, Alison | International New York Times, December 5, 2015 | Go to article overview

Germany Approves Military Aid to Fight ISIS in Syria


Smale, Alison, International New York Times


Lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to send reconnaissance planes, a frigate and midair fueling planes to aid the campaign.

The German Parliament voted overwhelmingly on Friday to send reconnaissance planes, a frigate and midair fueling planes to the Middle East to support the campaign against the Islamic State in Syria, though German forces will not be involved in direct combat or airstrikes.

The results of the vote, with 445 lawmakers in favor, 146 against and 7 abstaining, was expected, given the large majority commanded by Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition of center-right and center-left parties.

Twenty-eight Social Democrats and two Christian Democrats joined the opposition -- the Greens and the Left party -- in opposing the deployment. Three Greens voted for the military action.

Even 70 years after World War II, Germany remains wary of using its military outside the NATO alliance, and such missions require parliamentary approval.

The government said action was essential because the turmoil in the Middle East was increasingly affecting events at home, from the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees to terrorist alerts and risky missions overseas for Germany's all-volunteer armed forces.

The vote came eight days after the government pledged to meet requests from Germany's closest European ally, France, for assistance in targeting the Islamic State in Syria after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks that killed 130 people in Paris.

"The Paris attacks have forced us in Europe to realize that the Middle East is not somewhere distant like South America," said Norbert Rottgen, the head of Parliament's foreign affairs committee. He added: "It is our neighbor, and we Europeans must take responsibility for this region."

Thomas Oppermann, leader of the Social Democrats in Parliament, said the government had been compelled to move swiftly because France had asked for help. "We can act quickly when that is needed," yet with sufficient debate to enable a responsible decision, he said.

The opposition, however, attacked the government for its rapid response, and charged that Berlin was relying solely on what it described as an ill-considered military action to combat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

"War is terror that breeds more terror," Sahra Wagenknecht, co- leader of the Left party, said.

Part of the reason the government moved so quickly was that both major parties in the coalition will have annual congresses starting in a week, and they apparently wanted the military deployment question settled beforehand.

Lawmakers from both parties cited the deployment in Afghanistan after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as a precedent. The opposition called that comparison unfortunate, noting the continuing turmoil and insecurity in Afghanistan 14 years later.

The government also moved quickly to capitalize on public outrage over the attacks in Paris, said Henning Riecke, trans-Atlantic director at the German Council on Foreign Relations.

The parliamentary vote came as a new national opinion poll indicated solid support for military action.

The poll showed that 59 percent of respondents supported the plan for limited deployment that the government had proposed, and that 34 percent would back airstrikes in Syria; 22 percent would even be prepared to deploy ground troops. …

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