Germany Shifts To Realpolitik on Iraq | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 28.12.2002
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Germany Shifts To Realpolitik on Iraq

In the latest softening of its position on a possible war against Iraq, Germany's foreign minister says it's possible Berlin will vote in favor of such action at the UN -- depending on the conditions.


German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is giving Berlin more wiggle room on Iraq.

The German government is further distancing itself from a clear refusal to participate in a war against Iraq. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said this weekend the possibility could not be ruled out that Germany would vote in favor of military action if faced with the decision at the U.N. Security Council.

"Nobody can predict the German vote at the Security Council," Fischer said in an interview with the newsweekly Der Spiegel, "because nobody knows how and under which circumstances the Security Council will deal with it." The statement comes as Germany prepares to become a non-standing member of the United Nations Security Council on Jan. 1.

No military participation

In the interview, however, Fischer reiterated the previous government position that Germany would not send any soldiers into combat if war breaks out with Iraq "if it isn't 100 percent convinced of the necessity of doing so." "What is certain is that we will not participate militarily in an intervention," Fischer told Der Spiegel.

It has become clear in recent weeks that it has become increasingly difficult for the German government to maintain its absolute refusal to act against Iraq. In November, both Israel and the United States asked Germany for its support in the event of an emergency. Since then, Berlin has changed its tenor slightly. The government has softened its refusal, saying it will not "actively" participate in a military action. What it will do, however, is allow allies flyover rights and to use military bases located in Germany in their actions.

Diplomatic splits

But the diplomatic situation for the federal government could get trickier come January, when a German representative participates in Security Council meetings. Hans Blix, who is heading the UN Monitoring, Verification and Control Commission in Iraq, has until Jan. 27 to declare whether or not Iraq has fulfilled the tough weapons of mass destructions requirements set forth in UN Resolution 1441. At that point, the Security Council may consider taking military action against Iraq. If it does, Germany could be forced to make a difficult decision.

Then, in February, Germany will become chair of the Security Council for a month, making the situation yet more difficult. Still, even Fischer concedes the ultimate decision won't likely fall into German hands. "We're not the decisive player here -- that's the five standing members who have veto rights," he told Der Spiegel. And the chair position holds little by way of concrete power -- most of its duties are related to mediation and organization.

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