US seeking German missiles to protect Israel
BERLIN: The United States has asked Germany to be prepared to provide anti-aircraft missiles in the event American Patriot missiles are needed for the defense of Israel in a possible Iraq conflict, according to a published report Sunday.
The report in Frankfurter Allgemeinen Sonntagszeitung quoted senior officials in the German government as saying it was unclear where such missiles would be deployed.
The officials told the paper that, while the German government continues to insist that German forces will play no role in any conflict involving Iraq, the new request puts Berlin in a dilemma.
“When it comes to Israel’s security,” one official was quoted as saying, “we would be hard put to say no.”
The report coincided Sunday with signs of a rift in Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s center-left coalition government over a potential military role for German forces in Kuwait.
A key member of the Greens party, junior members in Schroeder’s coalition, rejected statements by top members of the chancellor’s Social Democrats and Schroeder himself indicating a weakening of Germany’s “no” to a military role in Iraq.
“Any and all German forces currently stationed in the region are there under terms of the Enduring Freedom mission and definitely not under terms of a U.S.-led incursion,” said Greens parliamentary whip Volker Beck.
“That rules out any German military role, even in a U.S.-led war against Iraq,” he said Sunday.
His remarks came after signs that Germany is softening its previous refusal to provide any military assistance to a U.S. strike against Iraq, saying a small unit in Kuwait would fight if the U.S. base they are using were to be attacked.
On Friday, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who won votes with a promise to keep Germany out of any war, indicated at the NATO summit in Prague he would allow the United States to use their military bases in Germany and overflight rights in the event of war.
Then in interview remarks over the weekend, a senior defense official, Hans Georg Wagner, said “our forces would of course be deployed” if the Iraqis attacked the Kuwait base.
Wagner, who is a parliamentary state secretary for defense, said consideration was also being given to bolstering the unit.
Germany has 52 personnel in the area operating Fuchs armored vehicles outfitted to counter nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) attack. A report on N-TV television Saturday said there were six of the wheeled NBC vehicles currently deployed.
“It can in the shortest time be built up to 800 men,” said Wagner. “Plans exist to reinforce very quickly in the case of a threat.”
A Defense Ministry spokesman subsequently added there were 200 personnel in Germany on permanent stand-by to fly to Kuwait.
A senior figure in the ruling Social Democrats, Hans-Ulrich Klose, added in another weekend interview that the unit might also fight on or near the Iraqi border.
“If biological or chemical weapons are used in the border area on Kuwait or in Iraq, the German reconnaissance vehicles would help,” he said. Klose is deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs in Berlin. —Ha’aretz