Germany to join fight against ISIS in Syria

HEIKO MAAS, Germany's Justice Minister.
HEIKO MAAS, Germany's Justice Minister.

Parliament gives green light to plans to deploy jets, frigate and troops

BERLIN • Germany's Lower House of Parliament yesterday approved government plans to join the military campaign in Syria against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), answering France's appeal for help following the deadly Paris attacks.

The House agreed yesterday to a mandate for the deployment of Tornado reconnaissance jets, a frigate and up to 1,200 troops, by an overwhelming majority of 445 votes in favour and 146 against.

The green light for a mission that could become Germany's largest deployment abroad comes three weeks after militants killed 130 people in attacks in Paris. The atrocities prompted France to invoke a clause requiring European Union states to provide military assistance to wipe out ISIS.

Britain joined the United States- led bombing campaign over Syria on Thursday, striking an ISIS-held oilfield.

LEGALLY SOLID MANOEUVRE

The Germans can be certain that the deployment to Syria violates neither international law nor the Constitution. We must stop this terrorist gang of murderers. That will not be achieved with military action alone, but neither would it be achieved without.

HEIKO MAAS, Germany's Justice Minister

After repeatedly ruling out the use of "boots on the ground", US President Barack Obama also agreed to send as many as 100 special forces to Iraq, with a mandate to carry out raids inside Syria.

A broad coalition of 60 countries has been battling ISIS since August last year, although involvement in Syria has been more limited. Some Western nations have been wary that military action could actually end up serving President Bashar al-Assad's regime, which they view as no longer legitimate.

Nevertheless, reticence seems to have melted away since the Paris attacks. Even in Germany, where there has traditionally been reluctance to engage in military missions abroad, the government's decision to take direct action in Syria has been met largely with support.

An opinion poll in Die Welt newspaper yesterday showed broad public backing - 58 per cent of the people surveyed said they were for the move; 37 per cent were against it.

The support came even though 63 per cent felt the risk of a terror attack at home would rise as a result of German military involvement in Syria.

Germany will not join countries such as Britain, France, the US and Russia in conducting airstrikes.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas said the case for deployment was watertight legally.

"The Germans can be certain that the deployment to Syria violates neither international law nor the Constitution," he told the Tagesspiegel daily yesterday. "We must stop this terrorist gang of murderers. That will not be achieved with military action alone, but neither would it be achieved without."

The package approved by Parliament includes six Tornado aircraft that have no offensive fighter capability and specialise in air-to- ground reconnaissance.

A German frigate will be deployed to protect the Charles de Gaulle, from which French fighter jets are carrying out bombing runs, and the tanker aircraft could refuel them mid-air to extend their range.

Still, the opposition warned that Germany is being forced to make a weighty decision too hastily.

"We are being made to decide in three days if Germany would once again be dragged into a war. We do not want to be dragged into a war at the speed of a Tornado," the Left party's Petra Sitte told Parliament.

The vote also took place after the German government issued an unusual public rebuke to its own foreign intelligence service over a blunt memo that said Saudi Arabia was playing an increasingly destabilising role in the Middle East.

The intelligence agency's memo risked playing havoc with Berlin's efforts to show solidarity with France and to push forward the tentative talks on how to end the Syrian civil war. The memo was distributed to selected German journalists on Wednesday.

NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2015, with the headline 'Germany to join fight against ISIS in Syria'. Print Edition | Subscribe