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Security expert: 'Very careful' on intervention

Patriot missiles and German soldiers are to be deployed to Turkey to defend against Syria in the context of a NATO intervention. Security expert Kevin Francke sees a number of open questions with the decision.

DW: The German government wants to send Patriot missiles and soldiers to Turkey. They are supposed to deter the Syrian military from attacking Turkey, according to German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, on the other hand, is strongly opposed to a military operation. That seems to be a contradiction. If the German government is prepared to position weapons on the border, why isn't it prepared to interfere militarily?

Kevin Francke: We need to be clear what exactly is meant by the term military intervention. Turkey requested the deployment of Patriot missiles. In the case of an attack, they would be used for defensive - and obviously military - purposes.

So what exactly is a military operation that isn't purely defensive?

You need to look at the mandate that was decided up on in the cabinet. The German parliament is set to discuss the mandate next week. The German military is to stand by and get involved if there is an attack on the Patriot installation or against Turkey. But it's not about German units attacking Syria. That's not the intention. We need to monitor the situation on the ground, and we will also surely hear opposing voices in parliament next week.

Do you think it's possible that there will be a resolution for an operation in Syria?

In the last couple of days, we have heard quite a lot about possible United States plans for a military intervention, maybe even a NATO intervention. NATO General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen has also considered arming up for a potential intervention, which sounded like a quick shot from the hip. But it can only be speculated what the actual plans are. We have to just watch first, what Turkey really requested and what the army is supposed to provide. I would be very careful with this.

Kevin Francke, Sicherheits-Experte der DGAP Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik

Kevin Francke

An important point is Syria's supposed chemical weapons. German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière said that Syria has access to chemical weapons that are ready to be used. But the media is reporting that German and other European intelligence agencies are not aware of chemical weapons. Why the contradiction?

Here I would want to, without being nasty, refer to the case of Iraq. At that time, US Defense Secretary Colin Powell was very active in promoting intervention in Iraq, even using the argument that it has weapons of mass destruction. In the end, that turned out to be wrong. Who's right in the case of Syria and chemical weapons should become clear within the next days.

To intervene on the basis of speculation and guesses would be a reckless maneuver, one from which both the German government and NATO should distance themselves, as soon as possible. I would rather trust the German intelligence agency than politicians. In any case, one has to look carefully at the situation on the ground and not rely on a single source of information.

If Syria were indeed to attack Turkey with chemical weapons, that would make for a very different situation. That is pure speculation, I would assume that it won't come to that.

Getting back to a point of contention about the military intervention in Turkey. What has to happen for NATO to commit to such an intervention?

There's a so-called mutual assistance clause in NATO. But this always depends on what gets decided in national parliaments. We can make a comparison with Afghanistan: Were the German military asked for assistance, in the end it would be up to the German parliament to decide this. Also if a NATO partner is attacked, that doesn't automatically mean that German troops would be deployed. Many other measures could still be taken at that point.

You've mentioned the example of Afghanistan. How would you compare this to Libya? NATO intervened there, establishing a no-fly zone.

That's a good example. You could compare that to a Turkey deployment. One could say that the German government is anticipating further intervention with its participation in this Patriot deployment, which could come off like Libya. But that's all speculation.

On the one side, we have the UN's non-intervention policy, which says that the internal affairs of a sovereign state may not be interfered with. On the other side, we have the relatively new responsibility to protect principle. Which leaves everything open. This area, due to its geopolitical situation, is a powder keg where we should be very reserved and consider that any intervention beyond mere defense - as now - would be a last resort. I would assume that the situation can be clarified without further military intervention.

Kevin Francke is a security expert with the Berlin-based think tank, the German Council on Foreign Relations.

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