German opposition hits Merkel administration hard over Syria | News | DW | 27.11.2015
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German opposition hits Merkel administration hard over Syria

Germany's Left party reacted with skepticism over the government boosting military action in Syria. Counterproductive, historically ignorant, and mistaken were just some of the ways lawmakers chacterized the new plan.

The news that Germany was going to join the military campaign against the self-styled "Islamic State" (IS) in Syria in the wake of the Paris attacks was met with some skepticism in a country weary of war and fatigued by the long, protracted conflict in Afghanistan. The Merkel government has defended its decision, saying that the primary goal of the non-violent support mission was reconnaissance and providing assistance to the French air force.

But in an interview with Alexandra von Nahmen on Deutsche Welle TV, aired on Friday, Dietmar Bartsch came out swinging against the new policy. Bartsch is co-chair, along with Sahra Wagenknecht, of the Left party - currently the largest of two tiny opposition blocs in the Bundestag, because traditional rivals the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) are ruling in a grand coalition government, accounting for a whopping 503 of the 630 seats in the lower chamber.

Left party slams government strategy

"We are not against fighting IS," Bartsch was at pains to make clear in the interview, but said that it was far more important to "cut off the flow of money and weapons" as well as lucrative oil smuggling, then to engage in a military campaign that has, in his opinion, accomplished nothing despite "months of uninterrupted bombing."

Bartsch pointed to war in Afghanistan as an example, saying "13 years on, there are thousands dead, there are civilian victims, 50 dead German soldiers…and what is the result? The Taliban is coming back, terrorism has not been defeated."

Indeed, according to Bartsch, a military campaign is more than useless - it is actively working against the stated goal of repelling IS. He told DW that nothing makes a better recruiting tool for the jihadists than armed conflict, allowing them to give disaffected young people the illusion of adventure.

When asked if helping the US-led coalition carry out airstrikes was not a necessary step to support France, one of Germany's closest allies, Bartsch retorted that "no one is arguing against solidarity with France," but that solidarity did not have to mean helping further conflict and violence.

Jan van Aken: Hollande handed 'IS' a victory

Bartsch's fellow Left parliamentarian, Jan van Aken, who is also the party's foreign policy expert, was of the same mind in his own interview on DW's Conflict Zone with Tim Sebastian on Tuesday.

Watch video 26:04

Jan van Aken's full interview on Conflict Zone

"He turned brutal, bad murderers into warriors of a foreign state. Why do you do this? This is the wet dream of the terrorist, to be called an army of a foreign state. I think it was a very big mistake and a very big victory for IS," van Aken said of French President Francois Hollande referring to IS as an army, truly earning the opposition moniker.

He contrasted that reaction with former Norwegian prime minister, and current NATO head Jens Stoltenberg in the aftermath of the murders carried out by right-wing terrorist Anders Bering Brevik: "The first reaction of Stoltenberg was: 'What we need now is more humanity and more democracy.' And I think that was the biggest defeat for the murderers."

Van Aken's suggestion for a better IS strategy? Instead of boosting airstrikes, boost Bundeswehr training of local forces - such as the Kurdish peshmerga, who have proven to be a formidable opponent to regional terrorists.

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