BONN, JAN. 21 -- Despite NATO's commitment to defend Turkey, there is no consensus in the Western alliance to send forces to help Ankara if it is attacked by Iraq in retaliation for U.S.-led bombing raids launched from bases in Turkey, according to diplomats from four NATO nations.
If Baghdad fires Scud missiles at Turkey, the only NATO country to share a border with Iraq, the organization "will protect Turkey," NATO Secretary General Manfred Woerner has said. "Whoever attacks Turkey must realize that he will be attacking all member nations."
But at least four NATO members -- including Spain and Belgium -- agree with the reluctance voiced today by German leaders against joining the Persian Gulf War, even if Turkey asks for help, according to diplomats from the United States, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl's spokesman, Dieter Vogel, called Woerner's comment "an interesting statement," adding only that the German government's position was not "describable." Kohl avoided the topic today, saying he would "not publicly meditate on what would" spark Germany's and NATO's obligation to defend Turkey.
But other Germans said they oppose what the United States and several other NATO members consider a fixed commitment to defend Turkey if Iraq attacks in retaliation for U.S.-led bombing raids launched from bases in southern Turkey.
Otto Lambsdorff, chairman of the Free Democratic Party, the junior partner in Kohl's governing coalition, said, "We are convinced that a missile attack on Turkish territory does not require a NATO response." Germany should agree to a NATO defense of Turkey only if Iraq mounts a ground attack, he said.
The leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Hans-Jochen Vogel, said NATO is not obliged to defend Turkey against an Iraqi attack because the United States has been waging war from Turkish soil.
One American diplomat said: "You're not going to get any consensus in NATO to go to war with Iraq over a Scud attack in Turkey. Those members that want to be involved in this war are already involved. And there's not much that NATO could do. If Turkey wants help, it would be air defense systems, and they could go to the U.S. or Britain for that kind of help."
Turkey last month requested and received three squadrons of NATO fighter jets from Germany, Italy and Belgium. If Turkey is drawn into the war, it could ask for NATO's mobile land force of 5,000 troops from eight countries, as well as other land and air units. NATO's Defense Planning Committee has been meeting daily since the beginning of the war and has discussed possible responses to an attack on Turkey, sources said.
Legally, NATO is fully empowered to respond to an attack on Turkey, "but there will be if not a crisis, then at least some incredibly difficult political obstacles to a military response," said Martin McCusker, editor of the journal NATO Review. The chief obstacle, he said, is the German position.
Although Germany has expressed support for the international coalition against Iraq since last summer, Kohl has said that constitutional restrictions on the German military prevent Bonn from participating in the anti-Iraq force.
The German reluctance to participate -- whether with military might or with sharply increased financial support -- has chilled the previously splendid relations between Kohl and the Bush administration. And NATO chief Woerner said the understanding among alliance members for the German position is waning.
U.S. diplomats have even told German leaders that the special German-American relationship now looks more like a "second-class alliance," and U.S. Ambassador Vernon Walters has warned Germans not to isolate themselves in this crisis.
Kohl today conceded that Germany's allies have expressed "definite irritation" over the deep German public antipathy toward the international coalition in the gulf.
In an effort to ease allied unhappiness with the German stance, Kohl said Germany is ready to accede to U.S. requests and give Washington "considerably more financial help" for the war, although he declined to discuss figures. Germany pledged $2.2 billion to the effort last fall.
Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher issued a warning today about a wave of anti-Americanism that he said has been evident in the mass anti-war demonstrations here. Activists are planning the country's largest peace protest in a decade for Saturday in Bonn.
"Those who warn of a new anti-Americanism are right," said the mass-circulation newspaper Bild. "But where are other responsible politicians to say this loudly and clearly? Is politics no longer involved in opinion formation?"
The swelling of the anti-war movement, expressed Sunday in an election victory for the opposition Social Democrats and the staunchly pacifist Greens over Kohl's party in the state of Hesse, has made it harder for the chancellor to show his support for the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq, Bonn officials said.
But despite a new poll showing 75 percent of the public opposed to any German military involvement in the war, Kohl must reach out to his miffed allies, said the chancellor's former national security adviser, Horst Teltschik.
"The gulf crisis is the first example of the increasing pressure on Germany to take on greater responsibility in the Western alliance," he said. "If Germany said that an attack on Turkey is not a case for NATO defense, it would isolate us. It would fundamentally endanger the whole NATO alliance."
"If Turkey seeks assistance from NATO, we should provide our Patriot missiles, handled by German soldiers," Teltschik said. "Why shouldn't we do that?"
But a Bonn Foreign Ministry source said Germany is prepared instead to argue to its NATO allies that a Turkish request for help may not be genuine. The Germans believe that if Turkey seeks help from NATO, it will be in part because of President Turgut Ozal's need to stabilize his shaky political position and to tie his country closer to Europe and eventually win membership in the European Community. "NATO is in danger of being used as a political tool," the source said.