- Mandate includes Red Sea, Persian Gulf, eastern Mediterranean
- Merkel said to sell mission as German-French joint project
Germany may broaden its military mission against Islamic State beyond Syria as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government prepares to step up its security commitments in the Middle East.
Merkel’s Cabinet on Tuesday backed the deployment, which includes as many as 1,200 troops along with Tornado reconnaissance planes, refueling aircraft and a frigate in support of France in the fight against terrorism, said Steffen Seibert, the chancellor’s chief spokesman. More troops can be sent in an emergency, according to the draft mandate obtained by Bloomberg News.
Germany’s lower house will vote on the proposal on Friday, according to the parliament’s website. The German decision was mirrored in the U.K., where Prime Minister David Cameron called a House of Commons vote for Wednesday on extending British airstrikes against Islamic State from Iraq to Syria.
“This is an important signal of solidarity in Europe,” Volker Kauder, the leader of Merkel’s parliamentary group, told reporters in Berlin. “We’re showing that we stand united.”
Prompted terrorist acts including the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, the German draft law says United Nations Security Council resolutions, the need to support France and Iraq, and “the international alliance” against Islamic State justify military action under international law. The measure is signed by Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whose Social Democrats are Merkel’s junior coalition partner.
Merkel asked her parliamentary caucus for support later Tuesday, saying the mission reflects a confluence of German and French interests, according to a party official who briefed reporters on the closed-door meeting in Berlin. The chancellor told her lawmakers that while mistakes had happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, that didn’t justify inaction now, the official said.
“German forces will be deployed primarily in and over the operational territory of the IS terror organization in Syria as well as the territory of states where the government has given its consent, as well as the eastern Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, Red Sea and adjacent seas,” according to the draft.
The first German aircraft could be sent to Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base next week if parliament approves the mission by Friday, Defense Ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff said. Tornado reconnaissance flights could probably only start in January because some equipment needs to be transferred from a deployment in Spain, he said.
“The direct participation in the fight against Islamic State represents an intensification of our security-policy engagement in the region,” according to government talking points cited in the draft. The mission is set to cost 134 million euros ($142 million) and last until the end of 2016, though parliament can extend it.