A report suggests Germany’s Bundeswehr could soon take part in US, UK and French airstrikes on Syria if another chemical attack should occur. The controversial move faces resistance in the government.
The German Defense Ministry is reportedly in talks with its US counterpart to hammer out details for the Bundeswehr to join possible airstrikes by US, British and French forces on Syrian targets, Germany’s mass-circulation Bild newspaper reported on Monday.
The report suggests Germany’s conservative defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, has responded to a US request, which was followed by a meeting of high-ranking ministry and military officials from both countries.
German tornado jets could take part in combat missions alongside their US, UK and French counterparts, according to the article. It would be the first time for German forces to drop bombs since the war in the Balkans in the 1990s, Bild says.
Only in case of a chemical attack
The Bundeswehr would only join air strikes in case of another chemical attack. In April, President Bashar Assad was blamed by Western powers for using chemical weapons in an attack on Douma,which killed more than 70 people.
In response, US, UK and French forces bombed three government sites in Syria ins response to the chemical attack in Douma. Russia rejected Western allegations that Assad’s regime was behind the attacks. The US-led airstrikes were seen as the most significant attack of the Allied powers in Syria’s civil war.
The move, which would have to be approved by the chancellery, would be an about-face for conservative German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has previously said Germany would not take part in “military missions” in Syria.
The report goes on to say that Bundeswehr forces could also join reconnaissance flights after a possible attack, also known as “battle damage assessment.”
The Bundeswehr is already active in Syria, but does not engage in combat missions.
Germans skeptical about combat missions
Many Germans are skeptical about theirarmed forces engaging in combat missions for historical reasons.
The Social Democrats’ (SPD) chair, Andrea Nahles, reacted to the report by saying that “the SPD will not approve Germany joining the war in Syria, neither in parliament nor in the government,” according to news agency dpa. The Social Democrats are in a grand coalition with Merkel’s CDU party.
The foreign and defense ministries would not comment on the report, but told Bild that they were “in close contact with our US ally.” They also pointed out that it was important to avoid further escalation in Syria, particularly with regard to “the use of chemical weapons, which the Assad regime has used in the past.”