Germany may carry out Syrian air strikes in event of chemical weapon use

The German military is considering joining France, the United States and Britain in carrying out airstrikes in Syria, Germany’s Deutsche Welle reported on Monday, citing Bild newspaper.

The report suggests that Germany, which has not carried out airstrikes since the 1990s, is mulling the move in response to a request from the United States, though would only do so in the event of another chemical weapons attack.

Any active German involvement in combat missions in Syria is likely to be unpopular in Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel has stated Germany would play no role in military missions in Syria.

Andrea Nahles, chair of the Social Democrats' (SPD), a partner in Germany’s coalition government, said in response to news of possible German military action: "The SPD will not approve Germany joining the war in Syria, neither in parliament nor in the government."

Germany’s foreign and defence ministries did not comment on the Bild report, though said they were "in close contact with our U.S. ally", and stressed the importance of avoiding further escalation of the conflict, particularly regarding "the use of chemical weapons, which the Assad regime has used in the past".

News of possible German military action comes as Syrian military forces, along with their Russian and Iranian allies are gearing up for an offensive in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, into which rebel groups opposed to Damascus along with thousands of refugees have been concentrated as a result of de-escalation agreements.

Reports suggest that the Syrian government plans to use chemical weapons in Idlib. Jim Jeffrey, the U.S. advisor for Syria, said last week that the United States and its allies would respond "swiftly and vigorously" if Syrian government forces used chemical weapons in the anticipated Idlib offensive.

“There is lots of evidence that chemical weapons are being prepared,” he said.

Turkey has a military presence in Idlib, having set up a dozen military observation posts in the region and fears any military action, particularly those involving chemical weapons, would send a wave of refugees towards its borders.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has spearheaded efforts to prevent a Syrian military offensive in Idlib.

Last Friday, Erdoğan met his Russian and Iranian counterparts in Tehran in a bid to avert military action, saying afterwards that Turkey would not remain on the side lines, "if the world turns a blind eye to the killing of tens of thousands of innocent people (in Syria).”

But Russia and Iran rebuffed his calls for a ceasefire.