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Germany and Iraq
by Elson Boles
16 October 2002 20:03 UTC
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This article is taken originally from Le Monde.  Is Germany trying to
"get back into the fold."  Is there a fold to get back into?

Germany out on a limb over Iraq policy

Daniel Vernet

After dining with the French president, Jacques Chirac, on October 2,
the German chancellor, Gerhard Schroder, confirmed that his country
would not take part in any war against Iraq, with or without the backing
of the United Nations - a stance that greatly riled the US

Ten days after his narrow victory in Germany's general election,
Schroder could hardly have done a u-turn without dismaying his own
Christian Democratic party, his allies the Greens, and German public
opinion in general, which is hostile to military "adventures" - the word
used by the chancellor when referring to US plans.

But this official aspect of German policy is only half the story. The
other involves delicate manoeuvres aimed at bringing Germany back into
the fold. They began with a lightning visit by Schroder to Prime
Minister Tony Blair. Feelers were then put out to the US by the foreign
minister, Joschka Fischer, who suggested that Germany, while not taking
part in a military operation in Iraq, did not rule out playing a role in
the "nation-building" process that would follow Saddam Hussein's fall.

Fischer, who will probably visit the Washington soon and meet the US
secretary of state, Colin Powell, in a bid to ease tension between the
two countries, has the advantage of having taken a more moderate stance
on Iraq than the chancellor did during the election campaign. He knew
that if the Christian Democrats won, he, as foreign minister, would be
left to pick up the pieces.

The Germans need to try to regain the trust of the Americans and to
break out of their isolation in Europe on the Iraq issue. The position
of the French, initially at least, is a godsend to Schroder. The refusal
to include an automatic use of force in the first security council
resolution is an area where a joint position could be hammered out.

True, the French stance has caused difficulties for the Americans that
they could have done without, but it does not prejudice the steps that
will probably have to be taken if Iraq continues to violate UN
resolutions. The French do not rule out the use of force if it is proved
that Saddam is seeking to equip himself with weapons of mass

During the German election campaign, the slogan "No war with Iraq" was
effective because of its simplicity. In fact it conceals a more complex
set of possibilities, which range from a rejection of any conflict with
Iraq to a decision not to participate in it. That decision would be
easier for the Germans to adopt if the US acted unilaterally than if the
UN decided on a multinational operation.

If the weapons inspectors are allowed to return to Iraq without the use
of force, Berlin will simply need to cajole Washington into forgetting
that the Germans had stepped out of line. If, on the other hand, Saddam
does not obey the security council's recommendations, Germany will face
a real dilemma, and will be forced to reconsider its response to a war
with Baghdad. Schroder realises that France, as a permanent member of
the security council, needs room for manoeuvre. He would be well advised
to allow himself similar room, so as not to lock himself into a refusal
that would isolate Germany.

It is not yet certain whether the "red-green" coalition's stance on Iraq
was dictated by electoral considerations, or whether it marks a profound
change in Germany's foreign policy that means it no longer has any
compunction in disagreeing with its most trusted allies.

When Schroder came to power in 1998 he said Germany's foreign policy
would be based on "enlightened self-interest". That was generally
understood to mean that he would defend German interests within the
European Union rather than accept unfavourable compromises as the price
to pay for Berlin's guilty feelings about its past.

If the international community, as represented by the security council,
authorises an intervention against Iraq, the moment of truth will have
arrived for Germany. It will not be forced to take part in the war if it
believes that to do so would be contrary to its interests or beyond its

But a decision by Berlin to go it alone by disagreeing with the leading
international powers - not just the US - would send out an alarming
message. Everything suggests that this will not happen. Schroder seems
determined, with Fischer's help, to get out of the hole he dug for
himself in response to election campaign pressures. October 8

The Guardian Weekly 17-10-2002, page 29

Elson Boles
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Sociology
Saginaw Valley State University
University Center
Saginaw MI, 48710

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