Closer to the crisis
The Bundeswehr armed forces are not yet in Iraq. But the German government's decision to send 100 trucks and the troops needed to train Iraqi soldiers to the United Arab Emirates now brings the Bundeswehr closer to the crisis hot spot. The government has revised its original decision to limit potential military support to Iraq to supportive action in Germany, for example by training Iraqi officers at the Bundeswehr elite academy in Hamburg.
This decision had been based on fundamental principles. It mirrored Germany's determination to get more involved in Afghanistan than any other European NATO member so as to be able to stay out of Iraq and the surrounding region.
The establishment of German bases in Kabul, Kundus and now Faisabad was never motivated by a coherent and promising concept. Its political function was always that of a ransom paid by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to avert overwhelming political pressure that could have forced him to go back on his promise not to send German soldiers to Iraq.
This self-imposed restriction has now been lifted as Bundeswehr troops have been sent to the United Arab Emirates, a mission that is acknowledged as a German contribution to NATO's support program for Iraq. Whether the engagement will go any further than this will depend above all on further developments in Iraq - and these are fraught with uncertainty.
A country that supports the Iraqi armed forces outside of their national territory could offer the same help in the country itself - without having to get involved in military action. The government's consideration of the use of medics and Medivac aircraft as well as pioneers in Iraq earlier this year shows that such a scenario isn't entirely far-fetched. Only the use of combat troops has remained a taboo. The latest step isn't necessarily the last one.