Participation Polemics

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Obama's War on Islamic State Divides Germans

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Anti-Islamic State protestors outside the White House.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany is not willing to fully participate in President Obama’s plan to fight Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, leaving the United States without strong support from one of its biggest European allies.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Ruling coalition politicians have suggested Germany could provide aerial surveillance to aid in U.S. air strikes on IS militants.
    • The Left Party believes that Chancellor Angela Merkel made extensive commitments to Washington at the recent NATO summit in Wales.
    • The Green Party favors German military involvement, but only under certain conditions, such as a mission under a broader U.N. umbrella.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Only a few hours after U.S. President Barack Obama last week announced his intention to destroy the terrorist organization Islamic State, or IS, with an international military alliance, some Christian Democrats politicians in Berlin’s coalition government were already advocating that the German armed forces, or Bundeswehr, play a role in U.S. air strikes against IS. Members of the Left Party reacted with outrage, and the Social Democrats also opposed the idea. The Green Party, on the other hand, signaled its support.

Karl-Georg Wellmann, a member of the center-right Christian Democratic Union, or CDU, and an expert on foreign policy, noted that Germany could hardly deny a request by the United States for military assistance.

“I believe the deployment of German soldiers for aerial intelligence in the context of surveillance flights is possible,” Mr. Wellmann told Berlin newspaper “Der Tagesspiegel”. The international coalition against IS should now discuss “what kind of military support is needed,” he added.

Philipp Mißfelder, the foreign policy spokesman for the CDU’s parliamentary group, made a similar remark on the ARD television network’s “Morgenmagazin” program. “We shouldn’t overestimate our capabilities, but if it were a matter of air surveillance or a question of flyover rights here in Germany, I’m clearly of the opinion that we should support the Americans,” he said.

Mr. Mißfelder also didn’t rule out a German role in the training of moderate Syrian rebels. “This fight (against IS) is something that brings us all together, and we should be glad that America has now assumed the leadership position,” he stressed.

President Obama has announced an expansion of air strikes on the radical Islamist militant group IS. He also aims to support the Iraqi military and moderate Syrian rebels in their fight against IS extremists by providing military training and weapons.

The CDU’s ideas have been met with vigorous resistance from some members of the government coalition partner, the center-left Social Democratic Party, and the opposition Left Party. Hans-Peter Bartels, a social democrat and chairman of the defense committee in the German parliament, the Bundestag, ruled out direct German involvement in the U.S. air strikes.

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