1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

German Left slam Syria mission

December 28, 2015

Prominent leftist Sahra Wagenknecht has equated Germany's intended dispatch of six Tornado jets to support airstrikes in Syria with November's "IS" terror attacks in Paris. Innocent Syrian civilians will die, she said.

Berlin - Sahra Wagenknecht
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Wagenknecht, who heads the opposition Left party parliamentarians in Germany's Bundestag, said a "spiral of violence" was set to escalate in the Middle East, and the West - especially the USA - was to blame for recreating the conditions.

From January, six German reconnaissance jets are to join a German refuelling aircraft at Incirlik in southeastern Turkey to provide non-lethal support to US-led international airstrikes against the self-styled "Islamic State" (IS) militia, which holds much of northern Syria.

The German parliament's decision in early December to send the jets came at France's request following the murders of 130 people in central Paris on 13 November by the jihadist militia.

Deutschland Syrien-Einsatz Tornado Aufklärungsflugzeug Abflug
Germany first used Tornadosin 1981 during the Cold WarImage: Getty Images/S. Gallup

Causal links?

In an interview with the German news agency DPA published Monday, the leftist Wagenknecht drew a causal line from Germany's austere handling of the euro crisis to the rise of Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front and accused French President Francois Hollande of deciding for domestic political reasons to proceed with anti-IS bombing in Syria.

"The German government, which, because of its euro policy, strengthened France's far-right, wants to do him [Hollande] a favor," she claimed.

"And, because of domestic German and European considerations, women and children will die in a hail of bombs on Raqqa [the IS stronghold in northern Syria], and schools and hospitals will be destroyed," Wagenknecht asserted.

"That is of course terror that has already caused far more casualties than the barbaric attacks on Paris," the German leftist concluded. "Of course, it is no less a crime to murder innocent civilians in Syria with bombs as to open fire in Paris restaurants and concert halls."

"One is individual, the other state-accountable terror," Wagenknecht said.

"Without the Iraq war, the IS would not exist. Without the bombing of Libya [by western powers in defiance of Russia in 2011] and the destabilization of Syria it wouldn't have become so strong. The West, especially the USA, have turned IS into this monster," Wagenknecht concluded.

Euro Hawk Untersuchungsausschuss Rainer Arnold
Military means must be used against IS, says Arnold.Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Rebuttal from government members

Her remarks were very strongly refuted by Rainer Arnold, parliamentary group defense spokesman for the Social Democrats party (SPD) which governs with Angela Merkel's conservatives.

"The way in which the Left are treating this matter is becoming more and more excessive," Arnold told DPA, adding that the Left should grasp that IS could only be fought with military means.

"Otherwise in the end the most brutal will prevail," he said.

A German Foreign Office spokesman responded to Wagenknecht's remarks, saying: "I think, they defy any comment."

Claim and counter-claim

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain and aligned with Syria's opposition, said in late October that US-led raids that began in September 2014 had since killed 3,276 IS fighters, 147 members of Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front or Islamist groups, and 226 civilians.

Syrien mutmaßlich russischer Luftangriff auf die Wohngebiete in Ariha Bezirk Idlib
A scene from Ariha on 29 NovemberImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Ariha Today

Russia began its own bombing campaign against rebel targets in Syria in late September in support of its ally President Bashar al-Assad. Last week, Amnesty International said those raids had killed hundreds of civilians, including at least 34 killed in the northern Syrian town of Ariha on November 29. Moscow said Amnesty's claims were "empty allegations."

AWACs mandate needed, Greens warn

In a separate initiative, Germany's opposition Greens warned on Monday that the use of German personnel on board NATO surveillance planes, known as "AWACs" over Turkey would require a German Bundestag parliament mandate.

"It is not sufficient, if the Bundeswehr [Germany's military] declares, that Bundeswehr soldiers are not involved in combat operations," the Greens' defense expert Tobias Lindner told the "Ruhr Nachrichten" newspaper on Monday.

"Even if the soldiers are only indirectly involved in a combat operation, that still requires a mandate," Lindner said.

On Sunday, the "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper quoted a German Foreign Office letter addressed to the Bundestag, which said that the special Boeing 707 AWACs would be used solely to monitor airspace over NATO member Turkey and not in the airstrikes against the terror militia IS in Syria and Iraq.

Reports at the weekend said several AWACs would be temporarily shifted to Konya in southern Turkey from their base at Geilenkirchen in western Germany. On board each plane is an international crew of 16, one third being German, including radar and computer experts.

Personnel shrinkage dramatic, warns soldiers' assocation

Also on Sunday, the chairman of the Bundeswehrverband, the association that represents 200,000 active and past Bundeswehr personnel and their families, Lieutenant Colonel André Wüstner, warned that multiple deployments had stretched Germany's armed forces to breaking point.

André Wüstner
Personnel deficit in the 'red zone,' warns WüstnerImage: Deutscher BundeswehrVerband

"We are absolutely in the red zone, and it is important that the defense minister [Ursula von der Leyen], the parliament work to correct what is now an altered situation," Wüstner said, and demanded between 5,000 and 10,000 more recruits.

A major Bundeswehr reform begun in 2010 saw Germany switch in the following year from compulsory military conscription to the recruitment of professional soldiers.

Since reunification in 1990, when the Bundeswehr's had almost 600,000 personnel, it has shrunk to 178,000.

Some 5,000 troops are deployed or in training for 17 foreign missions, including one in northern Afghanistan. Beyond that thousands are assigned to NATO's rapid reaction force, alongside NATO air force patrols over Baltic nations.

7,000 assigned for refugee care

Wüstner told public Deutschlandfunk radio that the biggest portion - 7,000 soldiers - had been assigned by von der Leyen to help with Germany's intake of refugees.

He urged German communal authorities to find substitutes next year.

"It is not our main area of competence and not our main task," Wüstner said, saying the Bundeswehr had increasingly become an army of specialists.

The German parliament's commissioner for army personnel Hans-Peter Bartels told DPA the Bundeswehr was in "free fall" and needed at least 7,000 new recruits.

ipj/msh, se (dpa, epd)