Merkel Says Germany Can't Look Away if Assad Uses Chemical Weapons
Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday Germany could not simply look away if chemical attacks took place in Syria, two days after her government said it was in talks with its allies about a possible military deployment in the war-torn country.
The conservative leader said it could not be Germany's answer to reject military intervention, a direct rebuke of her Social Democratic coalition partners, who have rejected participation in military action against Syria.
"It cannot be the German position to simply say 'no', no matter what happens in the world," she told the Bundestag lower house of parliament.
Germany is under pressure from the United States to boost military spending and shoulder more responsibility within NATO. Berlin stayed out of military strikes carried out by US, French and British forces on Syria in April after a chemical weapons attack but it voiced its support.
But Merkel and her conservatives must win over the more pacifist Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners in the ruling coalition, and overcome massive public opposition to Germany's participation in military combat missions.
SPD leader Andrea Nahles on Wednesday told lawmakers her party would not agree to military intervention in Syria unless the United Nations authorized such action.
Merkel’s comments came hours after US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis stressed that the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, has been well warned against any chemical weapons use in an anticipated assault on Idlib province.
US officials have in recent days warned that Washington would take action if Assad were to use the banned weapons in opposition-held Idlib.
"In Idlib, we're watching very closely what the Assad regime, aided and abetted by the Iranians and the Russians are up to there," Mattis told Pentagon reporters.