A Permanent Base in the Middle East

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BERLIN/BAGHDAD/AL AZRAQ (Own report) – Berlin is considering the establishment of a permanent Bundeswehr base in the Middle East, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said during her recent visits to Jordan and Iraq. German Armed Forces could be stationed at Jordan’s Al Azraq Airbase for an extended period in relative proximity to Iraq – similar to the US Persian Gulf bases. Despite the military victory already achieved over the IS, the Bundeswehr’s deployment will, for the time being, be continued within the framework of the Anti-IS Coalition, to help rebuild Iraq, the German minister announced in Baghdad. Berlin has been seeking new influence in Iraq, for quite some time, also because Iran has been able to enhance massively its position in the country over the past few years. German Tornados taking off from Al Azraq Airbase, have already furnished reconnaissance data leading to the bombing of a school. Their flights over Syria are possibly in violation of international law.

Long-Term Deployment

The Bundeswehr will be stationed in Iraq on a long-term basis, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced Sunday, during her visit at the Tajj military camp northeast of Baghdad. Since August 11, German soldiers have been training Iraqi soldiers in ABC defense at the camp – the Bundeswehr’s first activity in Iraq outside that country’s Kurdish Autonomous Region. Training in mine-clearing, logistical issues and paramedics will follow. During her visit to Erbil, yesterday, von der Leyen confirmed that the training of Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq will be continued. Berlin had been arming them over the past few years for the fight against IS.[1] The Bundeswehr will, however, downsize its Erbil contingent. For the minister the extension of the Bundeswehr’s deployment is justified because even after the IS was defeated, the jihadis are continuing their underground fight. This is a fact. Over the past few weeks and months, the IS has repeatedly launched attacks in Iraq, such as in early May against Tarmiya, only a few kilometers north of the Tajj military camp.[2]

Influence in Baghdad

As the German minister’s declarations indicate, Berlin’s goal is not restricted to the immediate support of the battle against IS. During her visit to the country, Minister von der Leyen confirmed that the Bundeswehr will also “advise the Iraqi Defense Ministry.” The Bundeswehr should also help in the country’s “reconstruction” necessitating “staying power.”[3] The urgently needed rebuilding will, in fact, offer Berlin the possibility of achieving new influence in Iraq. Iran, in particular, has been able to enhance significantly its position in that country – with the help of segments of the majority Shiite population. In the meantime, however, protests against Teheran are growing more frequent in Iraq. Just a few days ago, protests against the growing Iranian influence on Baghdad’s government policy had erupted in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, with the protesters setting fire to the Iranian consulate. While the battle over the country’s foreign policy orientation rages, German companies are seeking to procure their share in Iraq’s reconstruction. Siemens has just landed a contract to modernize a power station in Baghdad and will play a key role in the modernization of the country’s electricity grid, as the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi recently announced.[4] With the Bundeswehr having an influential position in Baghdad, Germany could enhance its influence in Iraq.

Gaining a Strategic Foothold

Aside from all this, on Saturday, Defense Minister von der Leyen had already indicated the establishment of a permanent German military base in the Middle East. This could, under the circumstances, be referring to the Jordanian Al Azraq Airbase, near the border of Saudi Arabia and relatively close to Iraq, where the Bundeswehr has a current presence of around 290 soldiers, four “Tornado” surveillance jets and a tanker aircraft from where they participate in the anti-IS war. The Bundeswehr had already begun building structures for permanent use at Turkey’s Incirlik base, before having to evacuate in the course of a fierce clash with the host country.[5] Now, deployment in Jordan is being comprehensively incorporated into a political framework. In answer to the question, whether it is being “considered” gaining a “strategic” foothold in the Middle East, von der Leyen responded: “I would put it this way, I do not want to rule out the idea.”[6] More than merely a hub, Al Azraq is being considered as a possible permanent base of operations for the Bundeswehr, from where all of Germany’s future operations in the region – especially those for Iraq – will be commanded. This will somewhat correspond to the US bases at the Persian Gulf.

Possibly in Violation of International Law

Reconnoitered School

In the context of the anti-IS war, German “Tornado” reconnaissance jets have absolved more than 1,500 sorties, with a total of more than 4,500 flight hours.[8] The proportion of flights made over Syrian territory – therefore, in possible violation of international law in the fight against IS in Syria – is unknown. However, it is known that German pilots had provided the data for at least one attack that killed dozens of civilians. On March 19, 2017, Luftwaffe Tornados prepared aerial photographs of a school, wherein more than 40 refugee families had found refuge for the night, in Al Mansura, near Raqqa. Pilots of the Anti-IS Coalition used these photos to guide their raids in the night from March 20, – 21, 2017, when they bombed and extensively damaged the building, killing, according to the pro-western Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 30 civilians in the attack. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[9]) The often quoted by western media, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has its headquarters in London. It cannot be excluded that there are other such cases that remain unknown to the public due to the German government’s excessive policy of secrecy.

In Violation of the Terms of the Mandate

No Marginalia

Full article: A Permanent Base in the Middle East (German Foreign Policy)

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