The Bundestag’s approval for Bundeswehr missions abroad can never be taken for granted. We’re all unfailingly aware that we in Germany have a parliamentary army, a precious asset resulting from German history. That also applies to the mandate for the Bundeswehr’s participation in the international military mission aimed at countering the so‑called Islamic State and bringing stability to Iraq.
This mission was established after the IS terrorist organisation began its appalling rampage through Iraq and Syria in the summer of 2014. IS terrorists captured entire regions, including major cities such as Sinjar or Mosul. They terrorised the civilian population there, in particular the Yazidis. Men and even underage boys were shot dead, women were abducted, many of them becoming victims of rape and enslavement – some of whom have still not returned home – while children were used as slaves or child soldiers.
All of that underscores the importance of the fight against the Islamic State for international security. As the UN Security Council made clear in its resolutions, it’s also crucial for people in Iraq themselves and for stability in the region.
However, it’s no secret that my parliamentary group, and I personally, didn’t vote in favour of the Bundestag mandate to counter IS in 2015 or in the following years. The reason for this wasn’t our opposition to the mission’s goals but our reservations about its legal basis at that time.
The new Federal Government has now revised the mandate. I’d like to express my special thanks to Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht for working with us on this in a spirit of mutual trust. And I want to encourage you, fellow members of this House, to vote in favour of this substantially revised mandate.
First of all, the mission will now focus on Iraq. Syria is no longer part of the mission’s area of operations. This is a major change. The Iraqi Government’s renewed and clearly stated desire for the Bundeswehr mission to be extended places the new mandate text on a sound footing under international law. In addition to this, the Bundeswehr mission is covered by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and Article 51 of the UN Charter.
Second, this mandate – and yes, this is new – provides for a comprehensive and inclusive evaluation of the mission in the forthcoming mandate period. For the first time, therefore, we’re implementing the undertaking contained in the coalition agreement to evaluate all Bundeswehr missions abroad. We’re extending the mandate until 31 October 2022, thus reverting to the original cycle of renewing the mandate in autumn.
Third – and this is important – Iraq continues to need our civilian and military support.
We can see positive developments there, not least due to the international assistance provided. The elections last October were the safest and the most free in the country’s history. The progress made by the Iraqi security forces has made it possible to further develop the international military presence. The mission of the Global Coalition against Daesh and the American military mission are being transformed from a combat mission into an advisory and support mission.
However, and I also want to make this very clear, Iraq still faces major challenges despite these successes. This was highlighted once more by the tragic attacks in Baghdad last night. Some elements are trying to derail the formation of a new government with missile attacks on diplomatic missions as well as strikes against party offices. Even though IS hasn’t controlled any territory in Iraq since 2017, it remains a threat. Wherever either the Iraqi state or the autonomous region of Kurdistan fails to fulfil their responsibility to ensure security, terrorists operate from the underground and are able to execute more complex attacks. We have to continue to address this terrorist threat.
Our networked approach plays a key role in this. Our Bundeswehr mission remains rooted in a strong civilian engagement. Since 2013, Germany has invested nearly three billion euro in Iraq for humanitarian assistance, stabilisation and development cooperation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Military means remain essential to safeguarding this civilian engagement. Extending this mandate would therefore send an important message to our partners in Iraq, to our friends and allies, that Germany will remain a reliable partner under the new Government and, above all, it would send an important message to the men, women and children who suffered so terribly during the IS reign of terror in Iraq after 2014. I ask for your support.