Germany's opposition parties agreed Tuesday that there should be an enquiry into the possible involvement of the Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) in the Iraq war. Parliament will debate the issue Friday.
The German parliament will vote on whether to investigate the BND's role in Iraq
Parliamentarians from the Greens, the Free Democrats and the Left Party all agreed on Tuesday there should be an investigation into the alleged role of German agents in the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
A parliamentary debate scheduled for Wednesday to decide on an enquiry was postponed until Friday. It is expected that the opposition parties will get the necessary 25 percent of votes during the debate for the investigation to go ahead.
There are 614 parliamentarians in the Bundestag and the necessary amount of votes in favor to begin the investigation would be 154. The three opposition parties hold 166 seats in the parliament.
Six FDP members have said they will abstain, and one Green parliamentarian, former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, is expected to oppose the probe just as he rejected it in his parliamentary group's vote on Tuesday. However, with the Left Party saying it will vote unanimously for the enquiry, it will still be enough to set the investigation in motion.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will return early from his Middle East tour to attend the debate. Steinmeier is cutting his trip short to answer questions as to what exactly transpired when the former Social Democratic-Green party coalition government retained German agents in Baghdad ahead of the opening salvos of the Iraq war.
German agents are accused of guiding missile attacks on Baghdad
Volker Beck, the chairman of the Greens' parliamentary group said it was likely that Steinmeier would be called to testify during the probe to explain the government's decision to leave two agents in Baghdad despite Germany's official condemnation of the war.
Steinmeier, who served as then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's chief of staff, confirmed and defended the step last week, saying he had been party to it.
His spokesman told reporters: "There was a decision from the German government that two agents would remain in Iraq to gather information. There was a regular exchange of information with the US side."
The government said they had passed on information to prevent the bombing of civilian targets and save lives, but the news has sparked an outcry in Germany because of the bitter opposition here to the war.
A report by ARD television last week quoted a former US defense department official as saying that the German secret services also provided "direct help" to the US military in identifying targets that should be bombed.
Greens call for investigation into possible breach of policy
Renate Künast wants the secrecy laws to be loosened to aid any enquiry
The deputy leader of the Greens' parliamentary group, Jürgen Trittin, said it should be established whether the presence of the agents constituted a breach of stated government policy.
Renate Künast, the Green's chief in the Bundestag, said Tuesday that the investigating committee into the affair should be given "the necessary parliamentary tools" to gather the evidence and come to a conclusion.
For this to happen, Künast added, the secrecy rule restricting the committee's investigations should be loosened. "This allegation must be addressed," she said, calling for the rules concerning inspection of records and the examination of witnesses to be eased.
She said that she did not want to comment on those who could be involved in the case so as not to influence any possible investigation but that "all the circumstances should be clarified."
Künast added that it would be a "normal process" for records to be kept of any agent activity in Baghdad before the war and the data should therefore be investigated.
Künast, Steinmeier refute claims of a double role
She defended the Social Democratic-Green party coalition's stance during the Iraq war and dismissed accusations that the government had been "two-faced" in its policies towards military action -- on the one hand publicly denouncing the war and on the other covertly supporting the US-led invasion.
Steinmeier also angrily dismissed the notion that Germany played a double role in the war. "It is absurd to say that the government officially opposed the war in Iraq but covertly supported it. I will not allow history to be rewritten," he said on Friday.
Künast also called on the investigation committee to look into any German complicity in the CIA extraordinary rendition scandal, US-instigated abductions and secret prisons on European soil.
Liberals see a question mark over previous administration
Gerhardt says the previous government has a question mark over its head
The Free Democratic Party (FDP) said that it wanted a completely open book on Germany’s alleged involvement in Iraq, not to accuse the BND of wrongdoing but to clarify the allegations.
Parliamentary group leader Wolfgang Gerhardt said on Tuesday that an investigation would be about "the question mark hanging over the political guidance of the Social Democratic-Green government." Gerhardt expressed "the highest doubts" that the previous government had no knowledge of any alleged secret service activity in Iraq prior to the war and said the FDP wanted a "complete investigation into the processes during and after the war."