On Sunday evening (31 August), Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Minister of Defence Ursula von der Leyen announced that from now on, not only humanitarian assistance but also military equipment would be provided to support northern Iraq in the fight against ISIS. The German Bundestag adopted a motion supporting this decision on Monday (1 September).
Dramatic situation in northern Iraq
The advance of the terrorist organisation ISIS has provoked a dramatic change in the situation in Iraq and the region. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims, Christians and Yazidis are fleeing the ISIS terrorists. Many were forced to risk great danger to life and limb escaping to northern Iraq, where they are being protected by the Kurdistan Regional Government and its Peshmerga fighters.
The humanitarian situation of the refugees is still desperate, many lost close family members as they fled and due to ISIS, their entire lives have been destroyed. Moreover, ISIS still poses a military threat. Its fighters are still positioned not far from Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish region in Iraq. According to Steinmeier on Sunday (31 August), “the terrorist group Islamic State” still posed “a mortal danger” to the people in the region.
Supplying arms to northern Iraq: not an easy decision, but the right one
Given this exceptionally difficult situation, at a session led by Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday (31 August), representatives of the Federal Government decided to help the Kurdistan Regional Government in Irbil provide for refugees and to support it in the fight against the terrorist organisation by supplying military equipment and arms.
On Sunday evening, alongside Minister of Defence von der Leyen, the German Foreign Minister pointed out that ISIS terrorism posed an “existential threat for the region of northern Iraq” and the weak Iraqi state as a whole. The large amount of humanitarian assistance, which the Federal Government was already providing, was not sufficient to counter this threat alone, said Steinmeier.
Commenting on the Federal Government’s decision to extend its support for northern Iraq in the fight against the terrorist organisation ISIS to include supplying arms, the German Foreign Minister said “this was not an easy decision but we consider it to be the right one in an entirely exceptional situation”. Yet it was clear, he continued, that supplying arms was not the first and neither would it be the last undertaking in “our help for Iraq and our action against ISIS”.
Humanitarian assistance is key
The Foreign Minister stressed that “emergency assistance” was well under way for the innumerable refugees who had been forced to flee from the ISIS mob. To date, Germany has sent over 150 tonnes of aid supplies to Irbil and has pledged more than 50 million euros in humanitarian assistance. Improving the catastrophic humanitarian situation thus remains at the heart of Germany’s support for Iraq.
In a policy statement to the German Bundestag on Monday, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that ISIS had to be stopped. “If terrorists enslave an area in order to create a safe haven for themselves and other fanatics there then this increases the danger to us too.”
Merkel: ISIS must be stopped
Merkel warned that ISIS could destabilise the entire Middle East, a development which could have ramifications for both Germany and Europe. The fighters of the Islamist terrorist organisation had committed “outrageous atrocities” in recent weeks. “They are mercilessly eliminating anything which does not conform with their world view. Here, religion is being abused in a horrific manner in order to justify murder, terror and a purported claim to rule.”
On Monday (1 September) the German Bundestag approved the planned supplying of arms to Iraq with a large majority. For an overview of all implemented and planned assistance measures as well as a summary of the planned provision of military equipment including arms and ammunition click here.