Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Schroeder reaches to the past in election bid

This guy is desperate and determined to use everything available to keep the campaign focus away from his lack of success in leading Germany.
BERLIN, Aug. 15 - Chancellor Gerhard Schröder used an old theme over the weekend to give a new twist to the current German election campaign, saying he would refuse under any circumstances to allow German troops to be used in any military campaign against Iran.

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder introduced Iran into the current German campaign, saying he would not allow German troops to be used in any military campaign there.

But as several commentators and opposition figures argued Monday, if his abrupt introduction of Iran into the campaign is similar to the tactic he used three years ago in connection with Iraq, the current situation is strikingly different. No country, including the United States, is making serious military threats against Iran.

Still, Mr. Schröder's strategy seemed clear. In elections three years ago, faced with an uphill struggle to retain the chancellorship, he categorically rejected the use of force against Iraq, which infuriated the United States but helped, probably decisively, in his come-from-behind victory.

Now, with new elections less than five weeks away and polls showing Mr. Schröder well behind his opponent, Angela Merkel, leader of the Christian Democratic Union, he seems again to be trying to exploit the German public's visceral opposition to the use of force in international affairs.

"Let's take the military options off the table," he said Saturday in an election rally in Hanover, an allusion to a comment President Bush made last week to the Israeli radio that "all options are on the table" in connection with Iran.

In an interview published Sunday in the daily Bild Zeitung, the chancellor said, "I consider the military option to be extremely dangerous, so I can with certainty exclude any participation by the German government under my direction." [...]

Mr. Schröder's move comes at a delicate juncture in the two-year-old effort by Britain, France, and Germany to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear program in exchange for a package of economic benefits. [...]

For months, officials here have enthusiastically spoken of a "good cop, bad cop" combination in which Europe has offered a diplomatic out for Iran while from offstage the United States has threatened an ultimate recourse to force if all other means, including sanctions, fail.

Mr. Schröder's weekend comments indicated a shift in the German position, because he seems ready to grant Iran guarantees against any use of force without Iranian concessions.

Most of the commentary in the German press was critical of Mr. Schröder's weekend comments.

"Schröder knows that a strike against Iran is not on the agenda and that the U.S.A. is politically and militarily incapable of carrying one out," the German business daily Handelsblatt said in an editorial on Monday. "And yet he misuses Bush's remarks in order to score points in the election campaign. In doing so, he endangers the crucial solidarity of the West."

The daily Die Welt said, "The chancellor should be ashamed."

Mr. Schröder seems to be trying to put Mrs. Merkel on the defensive, by pressing her to say clearly whether she would take part in military action against Iran.
It certainly worked. Merkel and the CDU have faced political facts and largely adopted Schroeder's position. The speed of their response indicates they foresaw Schroeder's gambit. Perhaps Schroeder's advantage with German voters on this question has been adequately neutralised.