Germany strongly resists being drawn into gulf war WAR IN THE GULF

January 22, 1991|By Ian Johnson | Ian Johnson,Special to The Sun

BERLIN -- Suggestions that Germany may have to enter the gulf war to defend Turkey from Iraq are meeting stiff opposition.

Faced with increasingly explosive public opinion against the war and especially against German involvement, even conservative politicians are saying that little can draw Germany into the conflict, even an attack on its NATO ally.

The most recent scenario has it that Turkey, which is allowing the United States to launch airstrikes from its bases near Iraq, might be bombed by Iraq. Turkey then would ask for military help from other NATO members.

The possibility was brought up by U.S. Ambassador Vernon Walters and Manfred Woerner, former conservative West German defense minister and current NATO secretary-general, who said Germany would be obliged to help Turkey.

"This would be a case for NATO to intervene and that would mean Germany would send forces," Mr. Woerner said.

Germany has sent a token force of 18 fighter-bombers to Turkey to help deter an Iraqi attack but has managed to stay out of the gulf war by arguing that its constitution only allows it to act in self-defense or to help an ally.

However, German political leaders said yesterday that even an attack on Turkey probably would not be enough to involve Germany. Mr. Woerner's fellow Christian Democrats suggested that Germany would not help Turkey because it would have provoked an Iraqi counterattack by allowing the United States to use its bases.

"This would be a provoked use of the NATO self-defense clause," said Hans Stercken, the Christian Democratic chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the German parliament.

The opposition Social Democratic Party also opposes such a move. Top SPD leaders called it a "misuse" of the alliance, which they view as being purely defensive.

The political hostility to the idea of active German support for the allies probably is fueled by the immense opposition, including the daily street demonstrations, vigils and blockades of U.S. military bases, which routinely draw tens to hundreds of thousands of people.

Most recently, a consumer group started a boycott of German firms that supplied Iraq with military, chemical or biological goods. Opinion polls show that 80 percent of Germans oppose the war.

On Sunday, Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats lost control of an important state when the Social Democrats and Greens won state elections in Hesse. Polls showed that the gulf war ranked high on the list of voters' worries and caused many to vote for the SPD and its stronger anti-war stand.

In addition, some German leaders believe that the United States and Turkey are trying to provoke a German entry into the war, with Turkish President Turgut Ozal hoping to divert attention from his domestic problems and the Americans wanting German army units to help tie down large Iraqi forces across the Turkish border while the main allied force recaptures Kuwait.

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