Merkel sends Obama warnings on Afghanistan, Iran

21st January 2009, Comments 0 comments

With an upcoming election, Merkel sets a cautious path in international diplomacy.

Berlin -- Despite the new American president, Germany will not send more troops to Afghanistan, nor is it any more hopeful that diplomacy with Iran will be successful, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday.

Wishing Obama "the best of luck" ahead of his inauguration, Merkel told public television that Germany will “live up to its responsibilities in Afghanistan," however it will not necessarily make new commitments.  
"We took our decisions based on our capabilities, our skills, not on who is president,” Merkel said. “We are willing to discuss how we could possibly move forward more decisively on the political level, but nothing will change immediately for Germany because we have already taken on responsibilities."

Germany decided last year to increase the number of troops it has in Afghanistan to 4,500, where they form part of NATO's 50,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The troops’ operations are restricted and their zones of operations are centered in more peaceful areas.

Obama has singled out Afghanistan as his main front in the war on terrorism and plans to deploy 30,000 more American troops there over the next 18 months.

Obama will likely make his first visit to Germany as president during a NATO summit in the German town of Baden-Baden on April 3, Merkel said. A cheering crowd of 200,000 people greeted him when he came to Berlin in July during the campaign.

According to a poll published Tuesday by The Financial Times, the majority of Europeans are against sending more troops to Afghanistan. 60 percent of Germans say they are opposed such a move under any circumstances.

With the mission already highly unpopular with German voters, Merkel does not want images of German body bags returning from Afghanistan to hurt her chances of winning a second term in the September elections.

Diplomacy with Iran

Merkel also said that while Obama’s promise to seek diplomatic engagement with Iran and Syria could make sense, she is skeptical about his chances for success.

"The European Union has held talks with Iran on multiple occasions, but we have unfortunately been very unsuccessful over a long period of time," Merkel said.

As long as Iran keeps its nuclear program so opaque, and as long as it has anti-Israeli policies, it will be difficult to engage diplomatically with Iran, she said.


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