Then it was the war in Iraq he opposed, though he was quick enough to demand that German companies be given rights to take part in the post-war reconstruction. To be fair, the Germans are also doing a certain amount of training of the new Iraqi forces, though not in the country itself.
But what could he produce now to counter the many internal problems his government is facing? Simple. Iran.
Somehow forgetting to mention the complete failure of the Anglo-Franco-German negotiations with the Mullahs over the nuclear problem, Schröder told a rapturous crowd at a party meeting in Hanover that the United States must not threaten Iran with armed force.
Actually, the United States is doing nothing of the kind but why spoil a good campaign trick? President Bush has said that the problem of Iran and nuclear power needs to be solved and nothing has been ruled out. Force might be used but only as a last resort. It is not, in fact, much of an option at the moment for numerous practical and political reasons.
Chancellor Schröder, in something of a political morass, chose to interpret it differently. In Hanover he pronounced the following stirring words:
“Let's take the military option off the table. We have seen it doesn't work.”As it happens, we have seen nothing of the kind. The only thing we have seen is that the sort of negotiations Chancellor Schröder, President Chirac and Prime Minister Blair have favoured – give in to every demand of the Mullahs and plead for something, anything, in return, does not work. Why should it? The Mullahs are not stupid and they know weakness when they see it.
So, under Chancellor Schröder’s direction, he informed the readers of Bild am Sonntag, Germany will never take part in military action against Iran. Especially one that is not even being contemplated by anyone seriously at this stage. [Well, no, that isn’t quite the way he put it.]
It will be interesting to see how much of the Social-Democrat election campaign will focus on a non-existent American threat to Iran and the determination to stand up to it, instead of the all too real problems in Germany itself.