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Opinion: Double Standards at Work?

As the Green party criticizes Berlin's decision to supply Iraq with Fuchs armored personnel carriers, Deutsche Welle's Peter Philipp questions the reasons for the German change of tack in Iraq.

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Berlin wants to deliver 20 armored tanks to the Iraqi military

On Wednesday, co-chair of the Greens, Angelika Beer, questioned Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's decision to provide Iraq with 20 Fuchs armored personnel carriers. "It doesn't make any sense to export arms to a country where currently everything is in disarray," Beer told the daily Berliner Zeitung.

She also pointed out that Iraq was still in a state of war and cast doubt on whether the armored personnel carriers would be used by Iraqi security officials only for self-defense. "How can you check whether the carriers won't be belatedly armed and used in fights against the insurgents?" Beer asked.

Criticism is growing of Germany's decision, particularly in light of the fact that Berlin was a staunch opponent of the US-led Iraq war and Chancellor Schröder has vowed not to send any soldiers to Iraq. Deutsche Welle's Peter Philipp comments on the issue.

Germany not adhering to principles

Germany has principles, but it doesn't seem to be sticking to them. German weapons aren't allowed to be exported outside NATO to volatile regions, which suppress human rights and where civil war-like conditions prevail.

That is a good tenet stemming from the time when the Federal Republic of Germany was "noble and good" and didn't want to have anything more to do with the conflicts of the world. Violations of this tenet were pursued such as in the cases of Libya and Saddam Hussein.

And now Germany wants to deliver Fuchs armored personnel carriers to Iraq despite the fact that the country fulfills all the criteria that would amount to a breach of the maxim.

German arms suppliers, who have sidestepped German law and exported strategically important goods to such countries, have been charged and sentenced.

Naturally, there have also been official deliveries of weapons to states like Saudi Arabia, which certainly qualify as volatile regions. But here Germany hid behind excuses such as cooperation with other European partners. In other cases, the circumstances surrounding the transaction were considered more scandalous because it seemed that bribes and corruption was involved.

Israel the only exception

The only exception so far has always been Israel. Against the background of German-Jewish history and the Holocaust, Germany has always supplied weapons to Israel. Despite the fact that Israel is a "crisis region." The weapon deliveries go as far as German submarines outfitted with atomic rockets. Germany has almost never turned down Israeli arms requests and has always argued that they were meant to provide security for a state threatened with destruction.

It's only in the run-up to the Iraq war that German policy regarding the export of arms has begun to change. Last year Israel ordered Fuchs armored personnel carriers and German Defense Minister Peter Struck hastily said "yes". He said he thought Jerusalem had asked for the enhanced Fuchs model outfitted to counter nuclear, biological and chemical attack because it would have to reckon with attacks by weapons of mass destruction from Baghdad during the Iraq war.

But it soon turned out that Israel wanted to have the standard Fuchs armored personnel carriers -- something that it could naturally use against the Palestinians. Berlin then backed down and said it couldn't help.

A slipping of the ban?

And now Germany wants to deliver the same Fuchs armored carriers to Iraq. The reason? Berlin says it's ready to train Iraqi security troops in neighboring Abu Dhabi and that's why it also wants to grant the trainees the protection of German Fuchs tanks.

Naturally, one can explain, elaborate and sweet-talk everything -- the delivery of submarines to Israel as well as the refusal to supply armored personnel carriers to the same country. As well as the offer of the very same vehicle to Iraq.

There's no doubt that the world has changed and Germany no longer has to fulfill its duties as a country on the border of the Cold War sectors. And naturally, one can expect that the opposition would want to surge ahead much faster with weapons exports than the government does.

But, against such a background, the last remnants of the once well-intentioned German abstinence in weapons exports now threaten to slip away.

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