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Curveball II: Is the BND (German Intelligence) Gaming the Syrian Civil War? (Another Good Reason NOT to Intervene in Syria)

Ger­man elec­tron­ic spy ship off Syr­i­an coast

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COMMENT: There is an old saw that goes: “Let’s you and him fight!” We not­ed in a pre­vi­ous post that Prince Ban­dar of Sau­di Arabia–the head of Sau­di intelligence–was direct­ing the pro­gram of aid to the Syr­i­an rebels. We also not­ed that Ban­dar is so close to the Bush fam­i­ly that he has been nick­named “Ban­dar Bush.”

In this post, nev­er lose sight of the pres­ence of Mus­lim Brotherhood/Al Qaeda/Islamist ele­ments, appar­ent­ly dom­i­nat­ing the Syr­i­an rebels, in spite of offi­cial denials.

A major advo­cate of the dis­as­trous U.S. involve­ment in Iraq, Ban­dar had been impli­cat­ed in major intrigues for decades, includ­ing 9/11, the Iran-Con­tra scan­dal, and a slush fund scan­dal, in which he is being rep­re­sent­ed by for­mer FBI direc­tor Louis Freeh.

A report attrib­uted to Ger­man intel­li­gence (BND) alleges that the Syr­i­an regime did indeed launch the chem­i­cal weapons attack that is the foun­da­tion for pro­posed U.S. mil­i­tary action against that coun­try’s armed forces. (See text excerpts below.)

In a post from last year, Ger­many Watch (which feeds along the right side of the front page of this web­site) notes the pres­ence off of the Syr­i­an coast of a Ger­man elec­tron­ic intel­li­gence ship, gath­er­ing infor­ma­tion on bat­tle­field com­mu­ni­ca­tions in the war. (See text excerpts below.)

In addi­tion to Russ­ian alle­ga­tions that it was, in fact, the rebels who used the chem­i­cal weapons, a web­site run by a Palestinian/American alleges that the afore­men­tioned Prince Ban­dar had equipped the rebels with the chem­i­cal weapons, which may have been acci­den­tal­ly det­o­nat­ed. (“Van­field” not­ed the edi­to­r­i­al bias of this site, when he post­ed the com­ment con­tain­ing the arti­cle.) (See text excerpts below.)

A num­ber of things come to mind: 

  •  Might we be see­ing a “Curve­ball II” sce­nario, here? Might BND be gin­ning up an inci­dent to trap Oba­ma and the U.S. after Oba­ma broke the car­di­nal street rule of not writ­ing “a check with his mouth that his ass can’t cov­er?”
  •  In addi­tion to the BND-con­trolled “Curve­ball,” the Niger/yellowcake ura­ni­um gam­bit lured the U.S. into the Iraq quag­mire. The gen­e­sis of that dis­in­for­ma­tion was the SISMI–the Ital­ian intel­li­gence ser­vice inex­tri­ca­bly linked with the milieu of the P‑2 Lodge, the strat­e­gy of ten­sion and the heirs to Mus­soli­ni.
  • We should note in this con­text, that, as set forth in our dis­cus­sions with Russ Bak­er, George W. Bush was talk­ing about invad­ing Iraq in the late 1990’s. The point here is that gam­ing the U.S. posi­tion vis a vis Iraq required as much guile as set­ting out a pot of hon­ey in front of a maraud­ing bear. The BND and oth­er fas­cist ele­ments that appear to have laid a trap had an easy task in front of them.
  • We feel that a meet­ing at the Mont Pelerin resort in Switzer­land may well have been a plan­ning ses­sion to lure the U.S. into war in Iraq.
  • Addi­tion­al U.S. mil­i­tary action in that benight­ed part of the world will ben­e­fit Under­ground Reich/German inter­ests in a num­ber of ways includ­ing fur­ther weak­en­ing the U.S. econ­o­my, fur­ther weak­en­ing U.S. diplo­mat­ic cred­i­bil­i­ty, fur­ther under­min­ing Amer­i­can pop­u­lar sup­port for Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, fur­ther under­min­ing U.S. rela­tions with Rus­sia and (per­haps) set­ting the stage for some sort of reprisal that will fur­ther dam­age this coun­try.
  • In a recent post by German-Foreign-Policy.com (which also feeds along the right-hand side of the front page of this web­site), the fall­out from the ginned-up intel­li­gence in the Iraq war is seen in Ger­many as hav­ing dam­aged not only the U.S./British “spe­cial rela­tion­ship” but the British-French alliance as well. Both devel­op­ments clear­ly advance strate­gic pol­i­cy of the Under­ground Reich and Ger­many. (See text excerpts below.)
  • At some point in the future, we may ana­lyze this imbroglio against the back­ground of earth island geo-pol­i­tics, the “turn to the broth­er­hood,” the Arab Spring and oth­er con­sid­er­a­tions. It is more than a lit­tle inter­est­ing that Prince Ban­dar alleged­ly offered to keep the upcom­ing Olympics in Moscow free of ter­ror­ism and indi­cat­ed that they con­trolled the Chechen rebels. Part of the earth island geo-pol­i­tics we will dis­cuss con­cerns the Boston Marathon bomb­ings, which track back to the entire Cau­ca­sus jihadist dynam­ic at play here.

“What Links The Arab Spring, Dr David Kel­ly, & Ger­man Intel­li­gence?”; Ger­many Watch; 8/27/2012.

EXCERPT: With the recent devel­op­ments in Syr­ia, it is inter­est­ing to first note an arti­cle from the Ger­man press, in order to give our expla­na­tion a ref­er­ence point.

Offi­cial­ly of course, the US and UK gov­ern­ments have no love for Syr­i­a’s Assad. But they are also aware that many of the Syr­i­an rebels are Islam­ic extrem­ists, hence there is a bal­anc­ing act between avoid­ing the worst of two bad choic­es. This why the US was sketchy about arm­ing the rebels like they did in Libya — Assad is not quite the mad dog that Gaddafi was, and hence may be the less­er of two evils (the alter­na­tive being a Mus­lim Brotherhood/Jihadist Syr­ia).

The Ger­mans though, are mak­ing no such dis­tinc­tions. In the Ger­man press arti­cle, pub­lished pret­ty much ver­ba­tim in the three main Ger­man news­pa­pers, were these lit­tle gems;

“A Ger­man news­pa­per has report­ed that a spy ship from the Ger­man intel­li­gence agency is help­ing Syr­i­an rebels. Accord­ing to a report on Sun­day in the paper Bild am Son­ntag, the ship is equipped to detect troop move­ments as far as 600 kilo­me­ters (372.8 miles) inland. The paper says the infor­ma­tion thus obtained is being passed by the Ger­man for­eign intel­li­gence agency BND to Unit­ed States and British intel­li­gence ser­vices. These in turn are hand­ing it on to Syr­i­an rebels, the report says.”

The report quotes a US intel­li­gence agent as say­ing: “No West­ern intel­li­gence ser­vice has as good sources in Syr­ia as the BND does.” (They nev­er won­dered why??)

A mem­ber of the BND told the news­pa­per that the intel­li­gence ser­vice was “proud of the impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion [it] is mak­ing to the over­throw of the Assad regime.” . . . .

“Ger­man Spy Agency Sees Assad Behind Gas Attack, Cites Phone Call” by Alexan­dra Hud­son; Reuters.com; 9/4/2013.

EXCERPT: A Hezbol­lah offi­cial said in a phone call inter­cepted by Ger­man intel­li­gence that Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad had made a mis­take in order­ing a poi­son gas attack last month, sug­gest­ing the Syr­ian leader’s cul­pa­bil­ity, par­tic­i­pants at a secu­rity brief­ing for Ger­man law­mak­ers said.

Accord­ing to par­tic­i­pants at a con­fi­den­tial meet­ing on Mon­day, attend­ed by For­eign Min­is­ter Gui­do West­er­welle, the head of the BND for­eign intel­li­gence agency told the law­mak­ers its indi­ca­tions of Assad’s respon­si­bil­ity for the Aug 21 inci­dent includ­ed an inter­cepted phone call believed to be between a high rank­ing mem­ber of the Hezbol­lah Lebanese Shi’ite mil­i­tant group and the Iran­ian embassy in Dam­as­cus.

In the phone call, the Hezbol­lah offi­cial says Assad’s order for the attack was a mis­take and that he was los­ing his nerve, the par­tic­i­pants report­ed the BND brief­ing as say­ing. Both Iran and Hezbol­lah sup­port Assad. . . .

“Syr­i­ans In Ghou­ta Claim Sau­di-Sup­plied Rebels Behind Chem­i­cal Attack” by Dale Gavlak and Yahya Abab­neh;  Mint Press; 8/29/ 2013.

EXCERPT: . . . How­ever, from numer­ous inter­views with doc­tors, Ghou­ta res­i­dents, rebel fight­ers and their fam­i­lies, a dif­fer­ent pic­ture emerges. Many believe that cer­tain rebels received chem­i­cal weapons via the Sau­di intel­li­gence chief, Prince Ban­dar bin Sul­tan, and were respon­si­ble for car­ry­ing out the dead­ly gas attack.

“My son came to me two weeks ago ask­ing what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to car­ry,” said Abu Abdel-Mon­eim, the father of a rebel fight­ing to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghou­ta.

Abdel-Mon­eim said his son and 12 oth­er rebels were killed inside of a tun­nel used to store weapons pro­vided by a Sau­di mil­i­tant, known as Abu Ayesha, who was lead­ing a fight­ing bat­tal­ion. The father described the weapons as hav­ing a “tube-like struc­ture” while oth­ers were like a “huge gas bot­tle.”

Ghou­ta towns­peo­ple said the rebels were using mosques and pri­vate hous­es to sleep while stor­ing their weapons in tun­nels.

Abdel-Mon­eim said his son and the oth­ers died dur­ing the chem­i­cal weapons attack. That same day, the mil­i­tant group Jab­hat al-Nus­ra, which is linked to al-Qai­da, announced that it would sim­i­larly attack civil­ians in the Assad regime’s heart­land of Latakia on Syria’s west­ern coast, in pur­ported retal­i­a­tion.

“They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them,” com­plained a female fight­er named ‘K.’ “We didn’t know they were chem­i­cal weapons. We nev­er imag­ined they were chem­i­cal weapons.”

“When Sau­di Prince Ban­dar gives such weapons to peo­ple, he must give them to those who know how to han­dle and use them,” she warned. She, like oth­er Syr­i­ans, do not want to use their full names for fear of ret­ri­bu­tion.

A well-known rebel leader in Ghou­ta named ‘J’ agreed. “Jab­hat al-Nus­ra mil­i­tants do not coop­er­ate with oth­er rebels, except with fight­ing on the ground. They do not share secret infor­ma­tion. They mere­ly used some ordi­nary rebels to car­ry and oper­ate this mate­r­ial,” he said.

“We were very curi­ous about these arms. And unfor­tu­nately, some of the fight­ers han­dled the weapons improp­erly and set off the explo­sions,” ‘J’ said.

Doc­tors who treat­ed the chem­i­cal weapons attack vic­tims cau­tioned inter­view­ers to be care­ful about ask­ing ques­tions regard­ing who, exact­ly, was respon­si­ble for the dead­ly assault.

The human­i­tar­ian group Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders added that health work­ers aid­ing 3,600 patients also report­ed expe­ri­enc­ing sim­i­lar symp­toms, includ­ing froth­ing at the mouth, res­pi­ra­tory dis­tress, con­vul­sions and blur­ry vision. The group has not been able to inde­pen­dently ver­ify the infor­ma­tion.

More than a dozen rebels inter­viewed report­ed that their salaries came from the Sau­di gov­ern­ment.

Sau­di involve­ment

In a recent arti­cle for Busi­ness Insid­er, reporter Geof­frey Inger­soll high­lighted Sau­di Prince Bandar’s role in the two-and-a-half year Syr­ian civ­il war. Many observers believe Ban­dar, with his close ties to Wash­ing­ton, has been at the very heart of the push for war by the U.S. against Assad.

Inger­soll referred to an arti­cle in the U.K.’s Dai­ly Tele­graph about secret Russ­ian-Sau­di talks alleg­ing that Ban­dar offered Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin cheap oil in exchange for dump­ing Assad.

“Prince Ban­dar pledged to safe­guard Russia’s naval base in Syr­ia if the Assad regime is top­pled, but he also hint­ed at Chechen ter­ror­ist attacks on Russia’s Win­ter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord,” Inger­soll wrote.

“I can give you a guar­an­tee to pro­tect the Win­ter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threat­en the secu­rity of the games are con­trolled by us,” Ban­dar alleged­ly told the Rus­sians. . . .

“The Rivals’ Alliances”; German-Foreign-Policy.com; 2013/09/02.

EXCERPT: Berlin has react­ed to the UK par­lia­men­t’s deci­sion not to par­tic­i­pate in an attack on Syr­ia with an about-face in its own for­eign pol­i­cy. Up until Thurs­day, the Ger­man gov­ern­ment and the oppo­si­tion had been unan­i­mous­ly pro­claim­ing that the use chem­i­cal weapons near Dam­as­cus must have “con­se­quences” and empha­siz­ing their approval of the British prime min­ster’s bel­ligeren­cy. Now the Ger­man gov­ern­ment is declar­ing that it is not con­sid­er­ing “a mil­i­tary strike,” while the oppo­si­tion is pro­fess­ing that “a mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion would be a mis­take.” This about-face must be seen in the con­text of the strate­gic lee­way in Europe, result­ing from the new sit­u­a­tion, which only con­cerns Syr­ia at a sec­ondary lev­el. As the Ger­man Insti­tute for Inter­na­tion­al and Secu­ri­ty Affairs (SWP) notes, the British par­lia­men­t’s deci­sion has not only “dam­aged the spe­cial rela­tion­ship with the Unit­ed States,” it also pro­vides Ger­many new polit­i­cal advan­tages. More­over, “the British-French secu­ri­ty and defense pol­i­cy alliance has been weak­ened,” there­by strength­en­ing Ger­many’s posi­tion. In spite of its about-face in for­eign pol­i­cy, bel­li­cose posi­tions are still rem­nant in Berlin. For exam­ple, the Chair­man of the Munich Secu­ri­ty Con­fer­ence, Wolf­gang Ischinger, declared that the West should not “from the out­set” exclude any option — includ­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion in a war.

No Dis­so­ci­a­tion

Ger­many has react­ed to the UK par­lia­men­t’s deci­sion not to par­tic­i­pate in an attack on Syr­ia with a rapid about-face in its own for­eign pol­i­cy. Fol­low­ing her tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion with the British Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron on Wednes­day, the Ger­man chan­cel­lor declared that both had agreed that the “Syr­i­an regime” should not hope “to be able to con­tin­ue this kind of inter­na­tion­al­ly ille­gal war­fare with­out pun­ish­ment:” An inter­na­tion­al reac­tion is “inevitable.”[1] On Thurs­day the SPD’s can­di­date for the chan­cellery, Peer Stein­brück, stat­ed that he shared the gov­ern­men­t’s posi­tion that “a seri­ous vio­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al legal norms,” such as the use of poi­son gas can­not be ignored: “We can­not dis­so­ci­ate our­selves one from anoth­er, just because we are in an elec­tion campaign.”[2] This was the sit­u­a­tion up to Lon­don’s Low­er House­’s deci­sion to refuse mil­i­tary aggres­sion against Syr­ia by a vote of 285 — 272. This is not bind­ing for the British gov­ern­ment, how­ev­er de fac­to Prime Min­is­ter Cameron can no longer imple­ment his war plans as he had intend­ed.

New Accent

In Berlin, the reac­tion Fri­day morn­ing was what the press polite­ly referred to as a new “accent,” [3] and a cross-par­ty con­sen­sus. Where­as the chan­cel­lor stuck to her for­mu­la­tions that there must be “con­se­quences” for using chem­i­cal weapons, there­by main­tain­ing ver­bal con­ti­nu­ity and all options open, the Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs declared that Ger­many would, under no con­di­tions, take part in an attack on Syr­ia. He spoke in the name of the “entire Ger­man gov­ern­ment.” “We are not con­sid­er­ing mil­i­tary means,” con­firmed a spokesper­son for the government.[4] The SPD chan­cel­lor can­di­date chimed in almost in uni­son: “I would like to make it clear that I, and the SPD, con­sid­er a mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion to be a mis­take, because we can­not see how this would help the peo­ple of Syr­ia.” Berlin’s for­eign pol­i­cy con­sen­sus has been main­tained, even though the oppo­si­tion has a greater mar­gin of maneu­ver and can for­mu­late more offen­sive­ly than the Ger­man gov­ern­ment.

Dam­aged “Spe­cial Rela­tion­ship”

Lon­don’s change of course, imposed by the British par­lia­ment, pro­vides Berlin an oppor­tu­ni­ty that only con­cerns Syr­ia at a sec­ondary lev­el. Accord­ing to a posi­tion state­ment by the Ger­man Insti­tute for Inter­na­tion­al and Secu­ri­ty Affairs (SWP), the British Low­er House­’s “No” express­es “the doubts the par­lia­men­tar­i­ans have,” about whether an attack on Syr­ia is appro­pri­ate and expe­di­ent, while extend­ing “far beyond the moti­va­tions and con­se­quences (...) of the Syr­ia pol­i­cy.” On the one hand, hes­i­ta­tion about using mil­i­tary means has grown, not only with­in British pub­lic opin­ion, but also at the polit­i­cal lev­el since the fail­ure of the Iraq war. On the oth­er, the grow­ing par­lia­men­tary con­trol will have an effect. “Great Britain has relin­quished its claim of being able to step into the inter­na­tion­al ring above its ‘weight class,’ as well as a por­tion of its role as the junior part­ner of the USA.” In effect, with Fri­day night’s deci­sion, “the ‘spe­cial rela­tion­ship’ with the USA (...) has been dam­aged; in Wash­ing­ton, the reli­a­bil­i­ty of the British gov­ern­ment has been put into ques­tion.” “The high­est objec­tive of British secu­ri­ty pol­i­cy — main­tain­ing mil­i­tary and polit­i­cal rel­e­vance in US mil­i­tary inter­ven­tions, to keep the USA as the pro­tec­tive pow­er of Europe — is a failure.”[5]

Weak­ened British-French Alliance

And that is not all. Accord­ing to the SWP, the British par­lia­men­t’s deci­sion also “weak­ened the French-British secu­ri­ty and defense pol­i­cy alliance.” The mil­i­tary alliance between Lon­don and Paris — for­mal­ly con­clud­ed in Novem­ber 2010 — (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[6]), which first open­ly went into action in the war on Libya, had been very crit­i­cal­ly scru­ti­nized by Ger­man gov­ern­ment advi­sors. The Ger­man Coun­cil on For­eign Rela­tions (DGAP) point­ed out that this alliance was a rival mod­el to the Ger­man-French mil­i­tary coop­er­a­tion with­in the EU. It has even been referred to as a new form of nascent oppo­si­tion to Ger­man hege­mo­ny, as a “new Entente Cor­diale” against Berlin.[7] Where­as Lon­don and Paris had recent­ly been mak­ing joint prepa­ra­tions for war on Syr­ia, France now stands “almost alone in Europe, with its will­ing­ness to use mil­i­tary force,” writes the SWP.[8] Berlin ben­e­fits most from the fact that Paris, hav­ing iso­lat­ed itself, has pushed Lon­don “clos­er toward the Euro­pean main­stream” — i.e. clos­er to the Ger­man posi­tion. . . .

Discussion

14 comments for “Curveball II: Is the BND (German Intelligence) Gaming the Syrian Civil War? (Another Good Reason NOT to Intervene in Syria)”

  1. The BND report on the Syr­i­an chem­i­cal weapons inci­dent has some inter­est­ing details. The report con­cludes that it was the Syr­i­an regime that must have launched the small mis­sile used in the attack, but it also sug­gests that the dead­ly nature of the attack might be due to an acci­den­tal over­dose. A much low­er lev­el of sarin, intend­ed just to scare, is pre­sumed to have been used in past attacks and the dead­li­ness of this lat­est attack could have been an acci­dent. So was the sarin attack pos­si­bly a non-lethal chem­i­cal weapons attack gone hor­ri­bly awry?:

    Der Spiegel
    Gas Attack: Ger­many Offers Clue in Search for Truth in Syr­ia

    By Matthias Gebauer

    Ger­many has said in no uncer­tain terms that it will not par­tic­i­pate in a strike on Syr­ia with­out the back­ing of the Unit­ed Nations Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil. But the coun­try’s for­eign intel­li­gence agency, the Bun­desnachrich­t­en­di­enst (BND), agrees with the US posi­tion which holds Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar Assad respon­si­ble for the poi­son gas attacks near Dam­as­cus on Aug. 21. In a secret brief­ing to select law­mak­ers on Mon­day, BND head Ger­hard Schindler said that while there is still no incon­testable proof, analy­sis of the evi­dence at hand has led his intel­li­gence ser­vice to believe that Assad’s regime is to blame.

    In the brief­ing, Schindler said that only the Assad regime is in pos­ses­sion of bina­ry chem­i­cal weapons such as sarin. The BND believes that regime experts would be the only ones capa­ble of man­u­fac­tur­ing such weapons and deploy­ing them with small mis­siles. The BND believes that such weapons had been used sev­er­al times pri­or to the attack on Aug. 21, which is believed to have killed more than 1,400 peo­ple. Schindler said in the ear­li­er attacks, how­ev­er, the poi­son gas mix­ture was dilut­ed, explain­ing the much low­er death tolls in those assaults.

    Dur­ing his 30-minute pre­sen­ta­tion, Schindler offered up sce­nar­ios to explain why the Assad regime resort­ed to chem­i­cal weapons use, includ­ing, he said, the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Assad sees him­self involved in a cru­cial bat­tle for Dam­as­cus. The city is besieged by rebel groups, with par­tic­u­lar pres­sure com­ing from the east. Schindler believes it is pos­si­ble that the regime ordered the use of poi­son gas as a way of intim­i­dat­ing the rebels. It could also be the case that errors were made in mix­ing the gas and it was much more potent than antic­i­pat­ed, he said.

    The analy­sis pre­sent­ed by the BND is sim­i­lar to that pro­duced by the US. The Amer­i­can report holds that the poi­so­nous gas was deliv­ered via sev­er­al small mis­siles that can be fired from mobile launch units. Cas­ings found at the scenes of the gas attacks indi­cate that they were 107 mm rock­ets, which the regime pos­sess­es in large num­bers. Schindler empha­sized that the rebels are unable to car­ry out such a con­cert­ed attack.

    An Addi­tion­al Clue

    Although the sam­ples col­lect­ed on site last week by Unit­ed Nations weapons inspec­tors are still being ana­lyzed, the BND is rel­a­tive­ly cer­tain that the chem­i­cal agent in ques­tion is sarin. Schindler not­ed that the BND inter­cept­ed a tele­phone call in which a doc­tor pre­cise­ly described sev­er­al of the symp­toms patients suf­fered from — and they were all con­sis­tent with expo­sure to sarin. The UN sam­ples will like­ly offer the final proof, but analy­sis could take sev­er­al more weeks.

    Schindler also pre­sent­ed an addi­tion­al clue, one that has not thus far been made pub­lic. He said that the BND lis­tened in on a con­ver­sa­tion between a high-rank­ing mem­ber of the Lebanese mili­tia Hezbol­lah, which sup­ports Assad and pro­vides his regime with mil­i­tary assis­tance, and the Iran­ian Embassy. The Hezbol­lah func­tionary, Schindler report­ed, seems to have admit­ted that poi­son gas was used. He said that Assad lost his nerves and made a big mis­take by order­ing the chem­i­cal weapons attack.

    The new infor­ma­tion from the BND could become impor­tant in the com­ing days. Thus far the US has only not­ed that after the attack, intel­li­gence agen­cies had inter­cept­ed inter­nal gov­ern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tions indi­cat­ing con­cern about a pos­si­ble UN inspec­tion of the site. The tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion inter­cept­ed by the BND could be an impor­tant piece in the puz­zle cur­rent­ly being assem­bled by West­ern intel­li­gence experts.

    Schindler on Mon­day gave no indi­ca­tion as to the weight being giv­en to the inter­cept­ed tele­phone call and said that his agency only shares intel­li­gence direct­ly with France. But it seems like­ly that the BND has also informed the US, where Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma is cur­rent­ly lob­by­ing for Con­gres­sion­al sup­port for a Syr­ia strike. French Pres­i­dent François Hol­lande is like­wise under pres­sure from the oppo­si­tion to get par­lia­men­tary approval pri­or to tak­ing action in Syr­ia.

    Ger­man Sur­veil­lance in the Med

    Despite its refusal to take part in a strike on Syr­ia, Ger­many’s mil­i­tary is nev­er­the­less prepar­ing for a pos­si­ble esca­la­tion should the US and France take action. The Ger­man war­ship Sach­sen is cur­rent­ly in the Mediter­ranean and is pre­pared to evac­u­ate Ger­mans and oth­er for­eign­ers from Lebanon should the need arise. An inter­nal check is like­wise under­way to deter­mine what assis­tance might be avail­able to Jor­dan in the event of a chem­i­cal weapons attack from Syr­ia.

    Fur­ther­more, a Ger­man ship out­fit­ted with high­ly sen­si­tive sur­veil­lance equip­ment is cur­rent­ly sta­tioned off the coast of Syr­ia. It is able to inter­cept tele­phone and oth­er radio com­mu­ni­ca­tions deep inside the war-torn coun­try. The Ger­man mil­i­tary indi­cat­ed on Mon­day that it would like­ly remain there even in the case of a US attack. Sources say, how­ev­er, that the ship was unable to deliv­er use­ful intel­li­gence relat­ed to the chem­i­cal weapons attacks due to the moun­tains between Dam­as­cus and the coast­line.

    That’s inter­est­ing that the BND alleged­ly only shares intel­li­gence direct­ly with France. So is the BND sell­ing all that data to the NSA instead of shar­ing it?

    It’s also inter­est­ing that dilut­ed sarin was what UN inves­ti­ga­tor Car­la del Ponte thought was used in the pre­vi­ous attack in March, except she thought the rebels used it. Con­sid­er­ing del Pon­te’s com­pli­cat­ed past regard­ing inves­ti­ga­tions into Sau­di-backed Mus­lim Broth­er­hood net­works this is one bewil­der­ing sit­u­a­tion:

    AFP
    Syr­i­an rebels ‘used sarin’: UN inves­ti­ga­tor

    Updat­ed Tue 7 May 2013, 12:35am AEST

    A UN inves­ti­ga­tor says tes­ti­mo­ny from vic­tims and doc­tors sug­gests Syr­i­an rebels have used the dead­ly nerve agent sarin in their fight against pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

    UN human rights inves­ti­ga­tor Car­la del Ponte, a for­mer war crimes pros­e­cu­tor, made the com­ments dur­ing an inter­view with Swiss radio.

    “Accord­ing to the tes­ti­monies we have gath­ered, the rebels have used chem­i­cal weapons, mak­ing use of sarin gas,” she said.

    She said there was “still not irrefutable proof, (but) very strong sus­pi­cions, con­crete sus­pi­cions that sarin gas has been used”.

    “Assis­tance to vic­tims shows this,” she said.

    Her com­ments fol­low Israeli air strikes on mil­i­tary sites near Dam­as­cus on Sun­day and come amid sus­pi­cions that the Assad regime has used chem­i­cal weapons in the 26-month con­flict.

    Ms del Ponte said the UN com­mis­sion of inquiry on Syr­ia, of which she is a mem­ber, is far from fin­ish­ing its probe.

    “We still have to deep­en our inves­ti­ga­tion, ver­i­fy and con­firm (the find­ings) through new wit­ness tes­ti­mo­ny,” she said.

    “But accord­ing to what we have estab­lished so far, it is at the moment oppo­nents of the regime who are using sarin gas.

    “This is not sur­pris­ing since the oppo­nents have been infil­trat­ed by for­eign fight­ers.”

    Ms del Ponte also said the com­mis­sion might still find proof that the Syr­i­an regime was also using this type of chem­i­cal weapon.

    The UN com­mis­sion of inquiry on Syr­ia released a state­ment after Ms del Pon­te’s com­ments stress­ing there was no con­clu­sive proof yet of either side in the con­flict using chem­i­cal weapons.

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 6, 2013, 8:38 am
  2. Can they have it both ways?

    Vf

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/09/09/201515/intercepts-caught-assad-rejecting.html#.Ui9MsD-nfRo

    Post­ed on Mon­day, Sep­tem­ber 9, 2013

    Inter­cepts caught Assad reject­ing requests to use chem­i­cal weapons, Ger­man paper says

    By Matthew Schofield | McClatchy For­eign Staff

    BERLIN — Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar Assad has repeat­ed­ly reject­ed requests from his field com­man­ders for approval to use chem­i­cal weapons, accord­ing to a report this week­end in a Ger­man news­pa­per.

    The report in Bild am Son­ntag, which is a wide­ly read and influ­en­tial nation­al Sun­day news­pa­per, report­ed that the head of the Ger­man For­eign Intel­li­gence agency, Ger­hard Schindler, last week told a select group of Ger­man law­mak­ers that inter­cept­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tions had con­vinced Ger­man intel­li­gence offi­cials that Assad did not order or approve what is believed to be a sarin gas attack on Aug. 21 that killed hun­dreds of peo­ple in Dam­as­cus’ east­ern sub­urbs.

    The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion has blamed the attack on Assad. The evi­dence against Assad was described over the week­end as com­mon sense by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDo­nough on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

    “The mate­r­i­al was used in the east­ern sub­urbs of Dam­as­cus that have been con­trolled by the oppo­si­tion for some time,” he said. “It was deliv­ered by rock­ets, rock­ets that we know the Assad regime has, and we have no indi­ca­tion that the oppo­si­tion has.”

    Rus­sia has ques­tioned that log­ic, announc­ing last week that in July it filed a 100-page long “tech­ni­cal and sci­en­tif­ic” report on an alleged March 19 chem­i­cal weapons attack on a sub­urb of Alep­po that it says impli­cates rebel fight­ers.

    A U.N. team dis­patched to Syr­ia to inves­ti­gate the March 19 attack was sent to the scene of the Aug. 21 inci­dent. The sam­ples it col­lect­ed are cur­rent­ly being ana­lyzed in Europe at labs cer­ti­fied by the Orga­ni­za­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons, the inter­na­tion­al agency that mon­i­tors com­pli­ance with chem­i­cal weapons bans.

    The Ger­man intel­li­gence brief­ing to law­mak­ers described by Bild am Son­ntag fits nei­ther nar­ra­tive pre­cise­ly. The newspaper’s arti­cle said that on numer­ous occa­sions in recent months, the Ger­man intel­li­gence ship named Oker, which is off the Syr­i­an coast, has inter­cept­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tions indi­cat­ing that field offi­cers have con­tact­ed the Syr­i­an pres­i­den­tial palace seek­ing per­mis­sion to use chem­i­cal weapons and have been turned down.

    The arti­cle added that Ger­man intel­li­gence does not believe Assad sanc­tioned the alleged attack on August 21.

    Last week, the Ger­man news­magazine Der Spiegel, also cit­ing a brief­ing for Ger­man leg­is­la­tors, said that the Oker had inter­cept­ed a phone call between a com­man­der from the Lebanese mil­i­tant group Hezbol­lah and an offi­cial at an uniden­ti­fied Iran­ian embassy say­ing that Assad had ordered the Aug. 21 chem­i­cal attack out of anger. The Hezbol­lah com­man­der called the attack a “huge mis­take,” Der Spiegel said. It was not clear if the two news accounts were based on the same or dif­fer­ent brief­in­gs.

    Assad told Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist Char­lie Rose in an inter­view to be broad­cast in its entire­ty Mon­day night on PBS that “there has been no evi­dence that I used chem­i­cal weapons against my own peo­ple.”

    Even if Assad didn’t approve the use of chem­i­cal weapons, he’d like­ly be held respon­si­ble for its use by a rogue unit with­in Syria’s secu­ri­ty forces.

    David But­ter, a Syr­ia expert with the British think tank Chatham House, called the Ger­man intel­li­gence “an inter­est­ing dis­trac­tion, but noth­ing more right now.”

    “To build a case that Assad had no role in the use of chem­i­cal weapons, we’d need a lot more evi­dence,” he said. “And, of course, as head of state, if a war crime has been com­mit­ted by his regime, he is ulti­mate­ly respon­si­ble.”

    The Ger­man intel­li­gence report would seem to fit the Euro­pean mood of the moment, how­ev­er, that U.S. mil­i­tary action must wait for the results of the U.N. inves­ti­ga­tion. “What hap­pened is all very murky,” But­ler said. “Let’s wait for the Unit­ed Nations inves­ti­ga­tion before talk­ing about the next step.”

    Euro­pean for­eign min­is­ters on Sat­ur­day issued a state­ment call­ing the Aug. 21 attack a “war crime,” but said noth­ing should be done with­out U.N. approval. New opin­ion polls over the week­end in France, Ger­many and Great Britain showed strong dis­ap­proval of mil­i­tary action in Syr­ia. The British poll, done for The Sun­day Tele­graph, indi­cat­ed only 19 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion backs the idea of mil­i­tary action with the Unit­ed States, while 63 per­cent oppose it. The polls in France and Ger­many showed sim­i­lar mar­gins of oppo­si­tion.

    Mean­while, a new tab­u­la­tion of the dead from the Aug. 21 inci­dent raised more ques­tions about Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials’ account of what took place.

    The Dam­as­cus Cen­ter for Human Rights Stud­ies, an anti-Assad group, said that it had been able to doc­u­ment 678 dead from the attacks, includ­ing 106 chil­dren and 157 women. The report said 51 of the dead, or 7 per­cent, were fight­ers from the Free Syr­i­an Army, the des­ig­na­tion used to describe rebels that are affil­i­at­ed with the Supreme Mil­i­tary Coun­cil, which the U.S. backs.

    The report said that the orga­ni­za­tion was cer­tain that more than 1,600 died in the attack, but that it had not been able to con­firm the high­er num­ber.

    U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry has said 1,429 peo­ple died Aug. 21, includ­ed 426 chil­dren, but has not said how the Unit­ed States obtained the fig­ures. Oth­er esti­mates have ranged from a low of “at least 281” by the French gov­ern­ment to 502, includ­ing “tens” of rebel fight­ers and about 100 chil­dren, by the Syr­i­an Obser­va­to­ry for Human Rights, a Lon­don-based group that tracks vio­lence in Syr­ia.
    Email: mschofield@mcclatchydc.com Twit­ter: @mattschodcnews

    Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/09/09/201515/intercepts-caught-assad-rejecting.html#storylink=cpy

    Posted by Vanfield | September 10, 2013, 8:51 am
  3. http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/behind-the-news-in-israel-david-bedein/sanction-germany-supplier-of-wmd-technology-to-syria/2013/09/10/

    Sanc­tion Ger­many: Sup­pli­er of WMD Tech­nol­o­gy to Syr­ia

    These firms worked on con­trac­tu­al arrange­ments with clear­ance and con­fi­den­tial­i­ty agree­ments signed with the US Depart­ment of Defense.

    By: David Bedein Pub­lished: Sep­tem­ber 10th, 2013 Lat­est update: Sep­tem­ber 9th, 2013

    Recent chem­i­cal war­fare devel­op­ments in Syr­ia bring to mind the study, writ­ten by a US inves­ti­ga­tor, Ken­neth Tim­mer­man, “Weapons of Mass Destruc­tion: The Cas­es of Iran, Iraq, Syr­ia, and Libya,” which was hand deliv­ered to our agency in Jerusalem in late Feb­ru­ary 1991, at the end of the Gulf War, by Tilman Zulch, head of a Ger­man orga­ni­za­tion known as THE SOCIETY FOR THREATENED PEOPLES.

    This study, lat­er pub­lished in full by the Simon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter, in August 1992, doc­u­ments how WMD tech­nol­o­gy for these four nations emanat­ed from more than 80 Ger­man firms, all of whom export­ed such lethal sub­stances through sub­sidiary com­pa­nies out­side of Ger­many, since Ger­man law for­bid direct exports of such lethal sub­stances from Ger­many itself. Many of these sub­sidiaries which export­ed WMD tech­nol­o­gy are promi­nent cor­po­ra­tions in the US.

    A case in point: Bay­er AG, a Ger­man com­pa­ny, built a pes­ti­cide plant and con­tin­ues to export lethal pes­ti­cide for­mu­las through US sub­sidiary com­pa­nies, with a pack­ag­ing line for tox­ic sub­stances and a tox­ic dis­pos­al unit.

    Such items are essen­tial to mak­ing pow­er­ful chem­i­cal weapons.

    THE SOCIETY FOR THREATENED PEOPLES wel­comed me, then in my capac­i­ty as cor­re­spon­dent for CNN Radio to come to Ger­many to cov­er this sto­ry, which I did in March 1991.

    THE SOCIETY FOR THREATENED PEOPLES also wel­comed me and attor­ney Jacob Gol­bert to cov­er a press con­fer­ence in Bonn on Holo­caust Remem­brance Day in April 1991, with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Israelis whose homes in Ramat Gan had been destroyed by Iraqi scud mis­siles which were pro­duced by Ger­man firms dur­ing the Gulf War. Join­ing them were Kur­dish vic­tims of chem­i­cal war­fare which were pro­duced by Ger­man firms.

    At the Ger­man Bun­destag Par­lia­ment in Bonn, then- Ger­man oppo­si­tion leader Rudolf Dessler told CNN radio that Ger­man firms cir­cum­vent­ed the ban on Ger­many export­ing such lethal sub­stances through a loop­hole allowed Ger­man firms to estab­lish sub­sidiaries in the US, in an arrange­ment that oper­at­ed with the full con­sent of the Ger­man gov­ern­ment.

    These firms worked on con­trac­tu­al arrange­ments with clear­ance and con­fi­den­tial­i­ty agree­ments signed with the US Depart­ment of Defense.

    Gol­bert and I met with the US Con­sul in Bonn to get his reac­tion. He respond­ed angri­ly that “Tilman Zulch inter­feres with Amer­i­can busi­ness”.

    When the Ger­man Defense Min­is­ter was host­ed in Israel by then-Defense min­is­ter Yitzhak Rabin March 1993, I asked at their joint press con­fer­ence about the WMD tech­nol­o­gy emanat­ed from more than 80 Ger­man firms, all of whom export­ed lethal sub­stances from sub­sidiary com­pa­nies out­side of Ger­many.

    Rabin asked the Ger­man min­is­ter not to answer the ques­tion.

    Why, I have nev­er found out.

    Per­haps Ger­man sub­ma­rine aid to Israel was the rea­son.

    In August 2004, I asked at a press con­fer­ence years in the White House about why the White House was not using the Tim­mer­man report to prove the WMD capac­i­ty of Iran, Iraq, Syr­ia and Libya. The response: What is the Tim­mer­man report?

    I called the Wiesen­thal Cen­ter and asked that Tim­mer­man be fed-exxed to the right peo­ple at the White House, which they did. How­ev­er, fol­low up calls to the White House about the report was not respond­ed to.

    20 years after the Tim­mer­man report was pub­lished no one asks how the Syr­i­ans received WMD capac­i­ty. Is this not the appro­pri­ate time to sanc­tion cor­po­ra­tions and nations that pro­vid­ed Syr­ia with WMD capac­i­ty?

    Posted by Vanfield | September 10, 2013, 9:52 am
  4. http://www.dw.de/germany-confirms-past-chemical-deliveries-to-syria/a‑17098815
    Date 18.09.2013

    Ger­many con­firms past chem­i­cal deliv­er­ies to Syr­ia

    Ger­many approved deliv­er­ies of more than 100 tons of chem­i­cals to Syr­ia between 2002 and 2006 that can be used to make sarin gas, or for non­vi­o­lent civ­il pur­pos­es. Left- and right-lean­ing coali­tions both did so.
    U.N. chem­i­cal weapons experts pre­pare before col­lect­ing sam­ples from one of the sites of an alleged chem­i­cal weapons attack in Dam­as­cus’ sub­urb of Zamal­ka in this August 29, 2013 file pho­to. A report by U.N. chem­i­cal weapons experts will like­ly con­firm that poi­son gas was used in an August 21 attack on Dam­as­cus sub­urbs that killed hun­dreds of peo­ple, U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­er­al Ban Ki-moon said on Sep­tem­ber 13, 2013. France’s U.N. ambas­sador, Ger­ard Araud, told reporters that Sep­tem­ber 16, 2013 is the ten­ta­tive date for Ban to present Sell­strom’s report to the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil and oth­er U.N. mem­ber states.

    The Ger­man gov­ern­ment on Wednes­day answered a for­mal request from the social­ist Left par­ty, con­firm­ing that suc­ces­sive Ger­man gov­ern­ments approved deliv­er­ies of chem­i­cals to Syr­ia that can be used to make sarin gas.

    “The per­mits [for deliv­ery of the chem­i­cals] were grant­ed after a thor­ough exam­i­na­tion of all poten­tial risks, includ­ing the dan­gers of mis­use and redi­rec­tion with a view to pos­si­ble use in con­nec­tion with chem­i­cal weapons,” the Ger­man econ­o­my min­istry said in its response to the offi­cial request, adding no cause for con­cern was iden­ti­fied.

    Paulo Sér­gio Pin­heiro, chair­man of the UN Com­mis­sion of Inquiry for Syr­ia, spoke to DW about the impor­tance of find­ing a polit­i­cal solu­tion to end the con­flict, and mis­placed com­par­isons with Rwan­da and Iraq. (18.09.2013)

    The chem­i­cals deliv­ered includ­ed hydro­gen flu­o­ride, ammo­ni­um biflu­o­ride and sodi­um flu­o­ride, among oth­ers, chem­i­cals typ­i­cal­ly called “dual-use goods” because they have both civil­ian and mil­i­tary appli­ca­tions. The Left par­ty, Ger­many’s most unswerv­ing­ly paci­fist par­ty which has put up cam­paign posters say­ing “Hands off Syr­ia” ahead of Sun­day’s nation­al elec­tions, crit­i­cized Berlin’s deci­sion to approve the deliv­er­ies.

    “I can­not believe this at all. Ger­many deliv­ered a total of more than 111 tons of chem­i­cals to Syr­ia that can be used to pro­duce sarin – and this in a coun­try that was known to have a chem­i­cal weapons pro­gram,” Left par­ty weapons expert Jan van Aken, a for­mer UN weapons inspec­tor, told pub­lic broad­cast­er ARD on Wednes­day.

    The deliv­er­ies took place between 2002 and 2003 under Ger­hard Schröder’s left-lean­ing Social Demo­c­rat and Green coali­tion and in 2005 and 2006 dur­ing Angela Merkel’s first term in a so-called grand coali­tion with her Chris­t­ian Democ­rats and the Social Democ­rats.

    Sarin gas was used in an August 21 attack near Dam­as­cus, accord­ing to a UN weapons inspec­tor report pub­lished on Mon­day. The UN team was not allowed to inves­ti­gate cul­pa­bil­i­ty, but west­ern coun­tries have blamed forces loy­al to Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad. Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Gui­do West­er­welle said on Wednes­day that the gov­ern­ment in Berlin also believes the evi­dence points towards Assad’s regime. Syr­ia, mean­while, con­tends that the sarin gas was deployed by oppo­si­tion fight­ers.

    Posted by Vanfield | September 18, 2013, 8:20 am
  5. This is an excerpt.

    http://www.algemeiner.com/2013/09/23/jews-germany-syria-and-poison-gas/

    On tri­al now in Ham­burg, Ger­many are busi­ness­men charged with export­ing to Iran near­ly 100 Ger­man-pro­duced spe­cial­ized valves required for a plu­to­ni­um reac­tor and arrang­ing for 856 nuclear-usable valves to be sent from India to Iran in 2010 and 2011. Polit­i­cal sci­en­tist and his­to­ri­an Matthias Kuntzel attend­ed the tri­al, appar­ent­ly as the only out­side per­son with an inter­est in the pro­ceed­ings. The most strik­ing part of Kuntzel’s report is NOT what was sold, nor the fact that com­pa­nies rou­tine­ly changed their names and mail­ing address­es to avoid inves­ti­ga­tion, but the atti­tude of Ger­man offi­cials.

    A cus­toms offi­cial iden­ti­fied only as Ste­fan M. received peri­od­ic warn­ings and alerts from the Unit­ed States about the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Ger­man com­pa­nies were sell­ing embar­goed items to Iran. These, he told the court, he prompt­ly stuck in a draw­er, because, “When I get a pro­lif­er­a­tion alert, my point of depar­ture is always: this Ger­man firm is clean. BAFA [the Ger­man export con­trol author­i­ty] works in the same way… their assump­tion is that the firms are cred­u­lous [cred­i­ble?]… It would be counter-pro­duc­tive to assume per se that every Ger­man firm men­tioned in an alert is involved in crim­i­nal activ­i­ty.”

    Kuntzel reports from the tri­al that in 2012, 136 pre­lim­i­nary inves­ti­ga­tions were ini­ti­at­ed regard­ing breach­es of Ger­man export reg­u­la­tions. “Accord­ing to the Senior Cus­toms Offi­cer, three-quar­ters of these cas­es con­cern the Mul­lahs’ regime in Tehran,” he wrote.

    As between the reflex­ive Jew­ish impulse to stop and/or pun­ish the use of poi­son gas, par­tic­u­lar­ly on civil­ian pop­u­la­tions, and the delib­er­ate, care­ful, legal Ger­man deci­sion to sell hard­ware, soft­ware, and chem­i­cal com­po­nents of weapons of mass destruc­tion to mur­der­ous dic­ta­tors, the Jew­ish reflex is not only under­stand­able, but dis­tinct­ly prefer­able.

    Gee, I can’t find any­thing on line about this tri­al, but I guess that is par for this course.

    Vf

    Posted by Vanfield | September 23, 2013, 4:54 pm
  6. For­mer Ger­man Foot­baller Dies in Syr­ia

    Burak Karan, a for­mer soc­cer play­er for the Ger­man nation­al team, was killed fight­ing along side of the Mujahideen (guer­ril­la fight­ers in Islam­ic coun­tries, espe­cial­ly those who are fight­ing against non-Mus­lim forces ) in Syr­ia, accord­ing to both Turk­ish and Ger­man sources.

    Cow­an, at the age of 26, left the world of foot­ball in 2008, and con­vert­ed to Islam. Dur­ing the Syr­i­an civ­il war, he moved to Turkey with his wife and two small chil­dren. Short­ly there­after he crossed the bor­der into Syr­ia in order to join the rebels in their fight against the Assad regime.

    The Ger­man paper, Der Spiegel, has report­ed that twen­ty Ger­man cit­i­zens have joined rebel forces oper­at­ing in var­i­ous sec­tors of Syr­ia.

    Posted by Vanfield | November 18, 2013, 10:07 am
  7. This does­n’t bode well for Syr­ia or the rest of the world:

    The Wall Street Jour­nal
    Jihadists Return­ing Home to Europe From Syr­ia Pose New Ter­ror Threat
    Series of Arrests Height­en Fears, Prob­lem Expect­ed to Grow as Con­flict Drags On

    By Siob­han Gor­man in Wash­ing­ton,
    Cas­sell Bryan-Low in Lon­don and
    Maria Abi-Habib in Beirut
    Dec. 4, 2013 7:40 p.m. ET

    Scores of jihadist fight­ers from Europe who streamed to Syr­ia to join Islam­ic extrem­ist rebels have begun return­ing home, where some are sus­pect­ed of plot­ting ter­ror attacks, accord­ing to U.S. and Euro­pean intel­li­gence and secu­ri­ty offi­cials.

    Author­i­ties in the U.K. and France recent­ly made sev­er­al ter­ror-relat­ed arrests of indi­vid­u­als sus­pect­ed of links to Syr­ia.

    “They’re real com­mit­ted jihadists,” a senior U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cial said. “The con­cern is that we’re at the very ear­ly stages of this.”

    For the U.S. and West­ern coun­tries, the return­ing jihadists pose the biggest long-term con­cern of the Syr­i­an civ­il war, the offi­cial said. Gov­ern­ments are rush­ing to counter the new ter­ror threat.

    “We mon­i­tor very close­ly peo­ple seek­ing to trav­el [to Syria]—and also peo­ple trav­el­ing back—because of the poten­tial risk they may pose upon their return to the U.K.,” said Britain’s secu­ri­ty min­is­ter James Bro­ken­shire.

    The total num­ber of fight­ers from Europe is dif­fi­cult to track, but offi­cials and aca­d­e­mics esti­mate it at about 1,000 or more, includ­ing from Ger­many, France and the Nether­lands. Dozens have trav­eled to Syr­ia from the U.S.

    Once there, many are believed to fight along­side al Qae­da-affil­i­at­ed groups such as Jab­hat al Nus­ra, or the Nus­ra Front, and the Islam­ic State of Iraq and al-Sham, known as ISIS.

    The Euro­pean Union does­n’t ban mem­ber­ship in Syr­i­an groups affil­i­at­ed with al Qae­da, which makes it dif­fi­cult to crack down on the flow of jihadists to the war.

    The U.S. has des­ig­nat­ed ISIS and the Nus­ra Front as ter­ror­ist groups and coun­tries such as the U.K. are press­ing to do the same.

    The flow of fight­ers to caus­es in the Mid­dle East start­ed with Afghanistan in the 1980s and con­tin­ued dur­ing the Iraq war.

    But the num­ber going to Syr­ia has mount­ed more rapid­ly, U.S. and Euro­pean offi­cials said.

    Recruit­ed through a net­work of mosques across Europe, these jihadists then make the pil­grim­age to safe hous­es in south­ern Turkey, where they pre­pare to cross the bor­der into Syr­i­a’s bat­tle­fields.

    The recruit­ing efforts in Europe’s mosques aim for Mus­lim youth with clean records who aren’t on the radar of intel­li­gence ser­vices. This makes it eas­i­er for them to return home lat­er, the Euro­pean diplo­mat said.

    An inter­na­tion­al Islam­ic group, Hizb al Tahrir, is at the cen­ter of this recruit­ment in Europe, West­ern offi­cials say. The group is par­tic­u­lar­ly strong in the U.K. and Den­mark, the Euro­pean diplo­mat said.

    “They cre­ate small groups and form a strong sense of group cohe­sion with a leader in the middle…surrounded by young, aspir­ing jihadists,” the Euro­pean diplo­mat said.

    They also show videos and pho­tos of the war’s human toll for emo­tion­al appeal.

    Euro­pean gov­ern­ments are most con­cerned about ISIS fight­ers return­ing because that group “wants to use Syr­ia as an al Qae­da oper­a­tions head­quar­ters for glob­al ter­ror,” this diplo­mat said.

    ...

    U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cials, work­ing with Euro­pean coun­ter­parts, have redou­bled efforts to mon­i­tor jihadist recruit­ment net­works in Europe and the West, focus­ing on those return­ing home.

    That means iden­ti­fy­ing indi­vid­u­als, track­ing the facil­i­ta­tion routes the recruit­ment net­works use, and fol­low­ing finan­cial trans­fers.

    “We assume we’re way under­count­ing,” the senior U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cial said.

    ...

    The assump­tion that “we’re way under­count­ing” might be cor­rect. Hizb al Tahrir is pret­ty good at recruit­ing:

    Jerusalem Post
    ‘More than 4,000 Euro­pean jihadists fight­ing against Assad’
    By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
    12/29/2013 22:47

    BERLIN – The Syr­i­an civ­il war con­tin­ues to serve as a mag­net for rad­i­cal for­eign jihadists to oust Pres­i­dent Bashar Assad’s regime.

    The French-lan­guage Bel­gian dai­ly La Libre Bel­gique on Fri­day cit­ed a Bel­gian secu­ri­ty source say­ing that “four to five thou­sand” Euro­pean jihadists were wag­ing war in Syr­ia. This num­ber far exceeds the fig­ure in a late Novem­ber study by Nor­we­gian coun­tert­er­ror­ism spe­cial­ist Thomas Heg­gham­mer, which said that “at least 1,200 Euro­pean Mus­lims have gone to Syr­ia since the start of the war.”

    John R. Schindler, a pro­fes­sor of nation­al secu­ri­ty affairs at the US Naval War Col­lege and a promi­nent coun­tert­er­ror­ism expert, drew atten­tion to the Bel­gian fig­ure on his wide­ly respect­ed and pop­u­lar intel­li­gence blog The XX Com­mit­tee.

    “The fig­ure of 4,000 to 5,000 EU pass­port hold­ers fight­ing in Syr­ia is a shock­ing one and quite a bit high­er than any­thing pre­vi­ous­ly seen in the Euro­pean media,” Schindler wrote. “How­ev­er, I’m not ready to dis­count it out of hand, as I’ve worked with Bel­gian intel­li­gence on coun­tert­er­ror­ism mat­ters in the past, and I’ve found them to be pro­fes­sion­als who have a good under­stand­ing of the seri­ous threats they’re deal­ing with. Addi­tion­al­ly, the fig­ures I’ve been giv­en on Euro­pean jihadists fight­ing in Syr­ia by intel­li­gence offi­cers and coun­tert­er­ror­ism experts... is not much out of the range cit­ed today by La Libre Bel­gique.”

    The Jerusalem Post con­tact­ed Germany’s domes­tic intel­li­gence – Ver­fas­sungss­chutz – in Novem­ber on the sub­ject, and the agency said the num­ber of Ger­man jihadists leav­ing for Syr­ia was “chang­ing on a dai­ly basis... What they are doing there, we don’t know, because we are a domes­tic intel­li­gence agency.” It fur­ther not­ed that move­ment of Ger­man jihadists into Syr­ia can­not be pre­cise­ly tracked because their EU pass­ports allow for wide lat­i­tude to trav­el via oth­er coun­tries such as Turkey into Syr­ia.

    The gap between the Bel­gian esti­mate and Hegghammer’s ear­li­er one can be explained by the lack of a hard sci­ence to iden­ti­fy for­eign jihadists in Syr­ia, as well as the pos­si­bil­i­ty that news orga­ni­za­tions are receiv­ing incom­plete or frag­ment­ed infor­ma­tion.

    Mean­while, a Tues­day BBC report said that as many as 11,000 for­eign fight­ers – rang­ing from Arab coun­tries to Indone­sia to Kaza­khstan to West­ern Europe – are engaged in com­bat in Syr­ia to over­throw the Iran and Hezbol­lah-backed regime of Assad.

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 1, 2014, 2:39 pm
  8. @Pterrafractyl–

    For some per­spec­tive on Hizb-Ut-Tahrir, check out http://spitfirelist.com/for-the-record/ftr-395-tangled-webs-deep-politics-para-politics-and-proxy-war-in-the-middle-east/

    Keep up the great work,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | January 1, 2014, 4:02 pm
  9. The civ­il war amongst the Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion is devel­op­ing a new front:

    7 Jan­u­ary 2014 Last updat­ed at 21:45 ET
    Syr­ia cri­sis: Islamist rebels urge attacks on oppo­si­tion rivals
    BBC

    A hard­line Islamist rebel group in Syr­ia has called on its sup­port­ers to attack rival oppo­si­tion fac­tions that do not sup­port its cause.

    The call by the al-Qae­da-linked Islam­ic State in Iraq and the Lev­ant (ISIS) fol­lows days of rebel infight­ing that has left scores dead.

    It came hours after anoth­er rebel group called on ISIS to observe a cease­fire.

    The Nus­ra Front said the fac­tion­al fight­ing ben­e­fit­ed the gov­ern­ment of Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad.

    Oppo­si­tion activists say some 270 peo­ple have been killed in fac­tion­al fight­ing since Fri­day. Clash­es are con­tin­u­ing in Raqqa, a city under full rebel con­trol and pre­vi­ous­ly an ISIS strong­hold.

    BBC world affairs cor­re­spon­dent Mike Wooldridge says the dam­age being done to forces oppos­ing Pres­i­dent Assad was clear­ly recog­nised in an audio mes­sage from Nus­ra Front chief Abu Mohammed al-Golani, in which he called for a truce.

    Defi­ant mes­sage

    “The regime will gain new life when it was close to col­lapse,” he said in an audio mes­sage post­ed on Twit­ter.

    “(The fight­ing) risks cost­ing us dear­ly on the ground if it con­tin­ues.”

    He accused ISIS — also known as ISIL — of hav­ing a “flawed pol­i­cy” that had played “a key role in fuelling the con­flict”.

    The Nus­ra Front leader pro­posed an ini­tia­tive to end the fight­ing that would include a cease­fire, a pris­on­er exchange and set­ting up an Islam­ic com­mit­tee to medi­ate dis­putes.

    How­ev­er, a defi­ant ISIS audio mes­sage lat­er urged its fight­ers to attack oth­er rebel groups.

    Spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani — although mak­ing no ref­er­ence to the Nus­ra Front ini­tia­tive — called on the mil­i­tants to “crush them (the rebels) total­ly and kill the con­spir­a­cy at birth”.

    He also threat­ened all mem­bers of the main oppo­si­tion group­ing, the Syr­i­an Nation­al Coali­tion (SNC).

    “Every­one who belongs to this enti­ty is a legit­i­mate tar­get for us, in all places, unless he pub­licly declares his rejec­tion of that group and of fight­ing the mujahideen,” he said.

    ISIS, formed in April 2013, grew out of al-Qaeda’s affil­i­ate organ­i­sa­tion in Iraq and has since become one of the main jihadist groups fight­ing in Syr­ia. It has gained a rep­u­ta­tion for bru­tal behav­iour in the areas it con­trols.

    ...

    No word yet on which side the heart-eat­ing guy going to choose.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 8, 2014, 7:10 pm
  10. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/04/us-germany-usa-spying-idUSKBN0F914M20140704

    Ger­many arrests sus­pect­ed dou­ble agent spy­ing for U.S.: law­mak­ers

    By Thorsten Sev­erin

    BERLIN Fri Jul 4, 2014 1:01pm EDT

    (Reuters) — An employ­ee of Ger­many’s BND for­eign intel­li­gence agency has been arrest­ed on sus­pi­cion of spy­ing for the Unit­ed States, two law­mak­ers with knowl­edge of the affair told Reuters on Fri­day.

    The Ger­man Fed­er­al Pros­e­cu­tor’s office said in a state­ment that a 31-year-old man had been arrest­ed on sus­pi­cion of being a for­eign spy, but it gave no fur­ther details. Inves­ti­ga­tions were con­tin­u­ing, it said.

    The case risks fur­ther strain­ing ties with Wash­ing­ton, which were dam­aged by rev­e­la­tions last year of mass sur­veil­lance of Ger­man cit­i­zens by the U.S. Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency, includ­ing the mon­i­tor­ing of Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.

    The man, who is Ger­man, has admit­ted pass­ing to an Amer­i­can con­tact details about a spe­cial Ger­man par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee set up to inves­ti­gate the spy­ing rev­e­la­tions made by for­mer U.S. intel­li­gence con­trac­tor Edward Snow­den, the politi­cians said.

    Both law­mak­ers are mem­bers of the nine-per­son par­lia­men­tary con­trol com­mit­tee, whose meet­ings are con­fi­den­tial, and which is in charge of mon­i­tor­ing the work of Ger­man intel­li­gence agen­cies.

    The par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee inves­ti­gat­ing the NSA affair also holds some con­fi­den­tial meet­ings.

    The Ger­man For­eign Min­istry said in a state­ment that it had invit­ed the U.S. ambas­sador to come for talks regard­ing the mat­ter, and asked him to help deliv­er a swift expla­na­tion.

    “This was a man who had no direct con­tact with the inves­tiga­tive com­mit­tee ... He was not a top agent,” said one of the mem­bers of par­lia­ment, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty. The sus­pect had offered his ser­vices to the Unit­ed States vol­un­tar­i­ly, the source said.

    Merkel’s spokesman Stef­fen Seib­ert said: “We don’t take the mat­ter of spy­ing for for­eign intel­li­gence agen­cies light­ly.”

    When asked whether Merkel had dis­cussed the issue with Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma dur­ing a phone con­ver­sa­tion on Thurs­day night, he mere­ly said they had talked about for­eign affairs.

    The U.S. embassy in Berlin, the State Depart­ment in Wash­ing­ton and the White House all declined to com­ment.

    Ger­many is par­tic­u­lar­ly sen­si­tive about sur­veil­lance because of abus­es by the Stasi secret police in com­mu­nist East Ger­many and by the Nazis. After the Snow­den rev­e­la­tions, Berlin demand­ed that Wash­ing­ton agree to a “no-spy agree­ment” with its close ally, but the Unit­ed States has been unwill­ing.

    Ger­many’s Sued­deutsche Zeitung news­pa­per and the broad­cast­ers WDR and NDR report­ed that the alleged spy was first detained on sus­pi­cion of con­tact­ing Russ­ian intel­li­gence agents. He then admit­ted he had worked with Amer­i­cans.

    Bild news­pa­per said in an advance copy of an arti­cle to be pub­lished on Sat­ur­day that the man had worked for two years as a dou­ble agent and had stolen 218 con­fi­den­tial doc­u­ments.

    He sold the doc­u­ments, three of which relat­ed to the work of the com­mit­tee in the Bun­destag, for 25,000 euros ($34,100), Bild said, cit­ing secu­ri­ty sources.

    Oppo­si­tion law­mak­ers called for diplo­mat­ic con­se­quences if the alle­ga­tions should prove true.

    The head of par­lia­men­t’s com­mit­tee inves­ti­gat­ing the NSA affair, Patrick Sens­burg, said its mem­bers had long feared they might be tar­get­ed by for­eign intel­li­gence agents and had tak­en spe­cial mea­sures.

    (Addi­ton­al report­ing by Wash­ing­ton bureau; Writ­ing by Alexan­dra Hud­son; Edit­ing by Mark Trevelyan)

    Posted by Vanfield | July 4, 2014, 9:20 am
  11. There are uncon­firmed reports of heavy fight­ing in Grozny:

    VOA News

    BREAKING: Explo­sion, Heavy Fight­ing Report­ed in Grozny, Chech­nya

    Decem­ber 03, 2014 8:34 PM

    A pow­er­ful explo­sion and sounds of heavy fight­ing have been report­ed in Chechnya’s cap­i­tal of Grozny, accord­ing to sources on Twit­ter and some media out­lets in the region.

    Mul­ti­ple sources on Twit­ter are report­ing that Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s motor­cade has been seen pulling into the Krem­lin in the mid­dle of the night, around the time the unrest unfold­ed in Grozny.

    Uncon­firmed sources are point­ing to the pre­sense of Islamist mil­i­tants in the city.

    Grozny has been the epi­cen­ter of two bloody wars in the past two decades between Russ­ian forces and Chechen rebels seek­ing inde­pen­dence from Moscow.

    Some Russ­ian media out­lets are report­ing via Twit­ter that three police­men have been shot dead in fire fights with mil­i­tants. Accord­ing to some tweets, the mil­i­tants num­ber in the hun­dreds.

    Some pur­port­ed eye­wit­ness­es are tweet­ing about the pres­ence of tanks and heli­copters in and around the city.

    The explo­sion is said to have occurred in a major local pub­lish­ing house.

    There is no inde­pen­dent con­fir­ma­tion of the devel­op­ments, which come just hours before a wide­ly antic­i­pat­ed speech by Pres­i­dent Putin before the Fed­er­a­tion Coun­cil, the upper house of Russia’s par­lia­ment.

    ...

    Uh oh.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 3, 2014, 7:34 pm
  12. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/11345324/Thousands-of-German-spies-at-risk-after-double-agent-stole-list-of-identities.html

    Thou­sands of Ger­man spies at risk after dou­ble-agent stole list of iden­ti­ties
    Dou­ble agent work­ing for US, iden­ti­fied only as Markus R, may have sold top-secret details of 3,500 Ger­man intel­li­gence offi­cers post­ed abroad, accord­ing to Bild news­pa­per

    By Justin Hug­gler, Berlin

    2:21PM GMT 14 Jan 2015

    Thou­sands of Ger­man spies post­ed around the world could be at risk after it emerged that a dou­ble agent unmasked last sum­mer stole a list of their real iden­ti­ties and may have sold it.

    The dou­ble agent, who has been iden­ti­fied only as Markus R under strict Ger­man pri­va­cy laws, obtained a top secret list of the real names, alias­es and loca­tions of 3,500 Ger­man intel­li­gence offi­cers post­ed abroad, accord­ing to a report in Bild news­pa­per.

    But Ger­man intel­li­gence sources sought to down­play the inci­dent, brief­ing that the list in ques­tion was out of date and con­tained far few­er than 3,500 names, the DPA news agency report­ed.

    The arrest of Markus R last sum­mer caused a major diplo­mat­ic rift between Ger­many and the US, after it emerged he had act­ed as a dou­ble agent for the CIA.

    He had also approached Russ­ian intel­li­gence and offered to sell them secret infor­ma­tion, and there are fears he may have passed the list of Ger­man spies’ names to a hos­tile for­eign agency.

    An employ­ee of the BND, Ger­many’s equiv­a­lent of MI6, Markus R worked in the reg­istry sec­tion of its over­seas oper­a­tions depart­ment, where he had access to top secret doc­u­ments includ­ing the iden­ti­ties of oper­a­tives post­ed abroad.

    The stolen list, which is said to date from 2011, is believed to con­tain the real iden­ti­ties and alias­es of BND offi­cers post­ed under cov­er as diplo­mats to var­i­ous embassies around the world, and of those work­ing secret­ly in coun­tries where the Ger­man mil­i­tary has mis­sions abroad, includ­ing Afghanistan.

    It is not clear whether Markus R passed it to any for­eign intel­li­gence agen­cies. It was found on a hard dri­ve seized dur­ing a search of his home after his arrest last sum­mer, which has only recent­ly been prop­er­ly eval­u­at­ed.

    Markus R’s unmask­ing was one of two spy­ing scan­dals that bad­ly shook US-Ger­man rela­tions last sum­mer, and saw Angela Merkel’s gov­ern­ment ask the CIA sta­tion chief in Berlin to leave the coun­try.

    Markus R has report­ed­ly con­fessed to pass­ing the CIA more than 200 secret doc­u­ments over a peri­od of two years, in return for pay­ments of €25,000 (£16,500).

    He appears to have been moti­vat­ed by mon­ey rather than ide­ol­o­gy, and it is the pos­si­bil­i­ty that he may have sold Ger­man spies’ real iden­ti­ties to a hos­tile for­eign intel­li­gence agency that will be of most con­cern now.

    He was dis­cov­ered after an email he sent the Russ­ian Embassy in Berlin offer­ing to sell secrets in exchange for cash was inter­cept­ed, and Ger­man inves­ti­ga­tors were stunned when he con­fessed he had been spy­ing for the Amer­i­cans.

    They had even asked the CIA for help unmask­ing their own mole, con­vinced the man they were hunt­ing was a Russ­ian dou­ble agent, and had been sur­prised when there was no reply from the Amer­i­cans.

    The arrest came with US-Ger­man ties already strained by the rev­e­la­tion that the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency had spied on Mrs Merkel’s phone calls, and it was fol­lowed days lat­er by the ques­tion­ing of a sec­ond pos­si­ble dou­ble agent, an offi­cial in Ger­many’s Defence Min­istry who was sus­pect­ed of at the time of pass­ing secret infor­ma­tion to the Amer­i­cans.

    Mrs Merkel’s gov­ern­ment ordered sur­veil­lance of Amer­i­can and British intel­li­gence gath­er­ing on Ger­man soil for the first time since 1945, and asked the CIA sta­tion chief to leave the coun­try, a rare step between allies.

    US-Ger­man rela­tions have improved since then, but it was report­ed ear­li­er this week that pros­e­cu­tors now believe the case of Markus R is more seri­ous than pre­vi­ous­ly thought.

    Pros­e­cu­tors now believe he was recruit­ed by the CIA a year and a half ear­li­er than he has admit­ted, in 2010, and was paid €75,000 for pass­ing secrets over a peri­od of four years, accord­ing to Spiegel mag­a­zine.

    Posted by Vanfield | January 14, 2015, 9:43 am
  13. It looks like chem­i­cal weapons are get­ting used on Syr­ia again accord­ing to a series of new reports by the Organ­i­sa­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons (OPCW). The Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment is sus­pect­ed of using “one or more chem­i­cals” in sev­er­al inci­dents between March and May of 2015. Also, it looks like ISIS is using mus­tard gas:

    Reuters
    Exclu­sive: Chem­i­cal weapons used by fight­ers in Syr­ia — sources
    THE HAGUE | By Antho­ny Deutsch

    Fri Nov 6, 2015 7:27am EST

    Chem­i­cal weapons experts have deter­mined that mus­tard gas was used in a Syr­i­an town where Islam­ic State insur­gents were bat­tling anoth­er group, accord­ing to a report by an inter­na­tion­al watch­dog seen by Reuters.

    A con­fi­den­tial Oct. 29 report by the Organ­i­sa­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons (OPCW), a sum­ma­ry of which was shown to Reuters, con­clud­ed “with the utmost con­fi­dence that at least two peo­ple were exposed to sul­fur mus­tard” in the town of Marea, north of Alep­po, on Aug. 21.

    “It is very like­ly that the effects of sul­fur mus­tard result­ed in the death of a baby,” it said.

    The find­ings pro­vide the first offi­cial con­fir­ma­tion of use of sul­fur mus­tard, com­mon­ly known as mus­tard gas, in Syr­ia since it agreed to destroy its chem­i­cal weapons stock­pile, which includ­ed sul­fur mus­tard.

    The report did not men­tion Islam­ic State, as the fact-find­ing mis­sion was not man­dat­ed to assign blame, but diplo­mat­ic sources said the chem­i­cal had been used in the clash­es between Islam­ic State and anoth­er rebel group tak­ing place in the town at the time.

    “It rais­es the major ques­tion of where the sul­fur mus­tard came from,” one source said. “Either they (IS) gained the abil­i­ty to make it them­selves, or it may have come from an unde­clared stock­pile over­tak­en by IS. Both are wor­ry­ing options.”

    Syr­ia is sup­posed to have com­plete­ly sur­ren­dered the tox­ic chem­i­cals 18 months ago. Their use vio­lates U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions and the 1997 Chem­i­cal Weapons Con­ven­tion.

    The find­ings were part of three reports released to mem­bers of the OPCW last week. They add to a grow­ing body of evi­dence that the Islam­ic State group has obtained, and is using, chem­i­cal weapons in both Iraq and Syr­ia.

    Kur­dish author­i­ties said ear­li­er this month that Islam­ic State fight­ers fired mor­tar rounds con­tain­ing mus­tard agent at Kur­dish Pesh­mer­ga fight­ers in north­ern Iraq dur­ing clash­es in August. They said blood sam­ples tak­en from around 35 fight­ers who were exposed in the attack south­west of the region­al cap­i­tal of Erbil showed “sig­na­tures” of mus­tard gas.

    A team of OPCW experts has been sent to Iraq to con­firm the find­ings and is expect­ed to obtain its own sam­ples lat­er this month, one diplo­mat said.

    ASSAD’S FORCES ALSO UNDER SUSPICION

    In the Idlib Province south of Alep­po, anoth­er report said, there were sev­er­al inci­dents between March and May of 2015 which “like­ly involved the use of one or more tox­ic chem­i­cals,” includ­ing chlo­rine.

    Those attacks, which result­ed in the deaths of six peo­ple in the oppo­si­tion-con­trolled region, have been blamed on gov­ern­ment forces.

    “Wit­ness­es report­ed hear­ing heli­copters over­head at the time the chem­i­cal muni­tions explod­ed. Only the Assad regime has heli­copters,” State Depart­ment spokesman John Kir­by said, refer­ring to Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad’s gov­ern­ment.

    A spe­cial ses­sion has been called by the OPCW’s 41-mem­ber Exec­u­tive Coun­cil to dis­cuss the Syr­i­an find­ings and it will be held in The Hague on Nov. 23, sources at the OPCW told Reuters.

    Sul­fur mus­tard — which caus­es severe delayed burns to the eyes, skin and lungs — is a so-called Sched­ule 1 chem­i­cal agent, mean­ing it has few uses out­side war­fare.

    The third report by the OPCW fact-find­ing mis­sion to Syr­ia said the team had so far been unable to sub­stan­ti­ate claims from the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment that its forces had been tar­get­ed by insur­gents using chem­i­cal weapons.

    The mis­sion “can­not con­fi­dent­ly deter­mine whether or not a chem­i­cal was used as a weapon” by mil­i­tants in the Jober area on Aug. 29, 2014, it said.

    Syr­ia agreed in Sep­tem­ber 2013 to destroy its entire chem­i­cal weapons pro­gram under a deal nego­ti­at­ed with the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia after hun­dreds of peo­ple were killed in a sarin gas attack in the out­skirts of the cap­i­tal, Dam­as­cus.

    The last of 1,300 tonnes of chem­i­cal weapons declared to the OPCW was hand­ed over in June, 2014, but sev­er­al West­ern gov­ern­ments have expressed doubt that the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad declared its entire arse­nal.

    With Syr­i­a’s civ­il war in its fifth year, chlo­rine has also been used ille­gal­ly in sys­tem­at­ic attacks against civil­ians, the OPCW found.

    A U.N.-OPCW joint inves­tiga­tive mis­sion has been assigned to deter­mine who was behind those attacks.

    ...

    “It rais­es the major ques­tion of where the sul­fur mus­tard came from...Either they (IS) gained the abil­i­ty to make it them­selves, or it may have come from an unde­clared stock­pile over­tak­en by IS. Both are wor­ry­ing options.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 6, 2015, 4:02 pm
  14. The Ger­man par­lia­ment just over­whelm­ing vot­ed to approve the use of Ger­man forces for non­com­bat roles in Syr­ia. So it’s worth not­ing that, BND issued a rather blunt warn­ing about Sau­di Ara­bia a cou­ple days ago: Accord­ing to a memo the BND dis­trib­uted to the Ger­man press Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s new lead­er­ship, includ­ing its new young defense min­is­ter who is jock­ey­ing to become king, is risk­ing desta­bi­liz­ing the entire region in an attempt to assert itself as the new leader of the Arab world:

    The Tele­graph
    Sau­di Ara­bia ‘desta­bil­is­ing Arab world’, Ger­man intel­li­gence warns
    It is unusu­al for the BND spy agency to pub­licly release such a blunt assess­ment on a coun­try that is con­sid­ered an ally of the West. Ger­many has long-stand­ing polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic ties with Sau­di Ara­bia

    By Justin Hug­gler, Berlin

    7:00PM GMT 02 Dec 2015

    Sau­di Ara­bia is at risk of becom­ing a major desta­bil­is­ing influ­ence in the Arab world, Ger­man intel­li­gence has warned.

    Inter­nal pow­er strug­gles and the desire to emerge as the lead­ing Arab pow­er threat­en to make the key West­ern ally a source of insta­bil­i­ty, accord­ing to the BND intel­li­gence ser­vice.

    “The cur­rent cau­tious diplo­mat­ic stance of senior mem­bers of the Sau­di roy­al fam­i­ly will be replaced by an impul­sive inter­ven­tion pol­i­cy,” a BND memo wide­ly dis­trib­uted to the Ger­man press reads.

    The memo focus­es par­tic­u­lar­ly on the role of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 30-year-old son of King Salman who was recent­ly appoint­ed deputy crown prince and defence min­is­ter.

    The con­cen­tra­tion of so much pow­er in Prince Mohammed’s hands “har­bours a latent risk that in seek­ing to estab­lish him­self in the line of suc­ces­sion in his father’s life­time, he may over­reach,” the memo notes.

    “Rela­tions with friend­ly and above all allied coun­tries in the region could be over­stretched.”

    Prince Mohammed is believed to have played a key role in Sau­di Arabia’s deci­sion to inter­vene in the civ­il war in Yemen ear­li­er this year.

    Both he and King Salman want Sau­di Ara­bia to be seen as “the leader of the Arab world” and are try­ing to extend its for­eign pol­i­cy “with a strong mil­i­tary com­po­nent and new region­al alliances,” the BND ana­lysts write.

    Prince Mohammed is believed to want to suc­ceed his father as king, but he is cur­rent­ly sec­ond in line to the throne, behind the 56-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, King Salman’s nephew.

    Ana­lysts at the Roy­al Bank of Cana­da recenl­ty desr­cribed the jock­ey­ing for posi­tion inside the exten­sive roy­al fam­i­ly as “Sau­di Arabia’s Game of Thrones”.

    The roy­al fam­i­ly has thou­sands of mem­bers of vary­ing influ­ence and pow­er, and any sug­ges­tion Prince Mohammed is try­ing to move ahead of the crown prince in the line of suc­ces­sion could trigeer a dan­ger­ous pow­er strug­gle.

    Region­al­ly, the Sun­ni king­dom is locked in a rival­ry with Shia Iran “rein­forced by mutu­al mis­trust and reli­gious-ide­o­log­i­cal enmi­ty,” the memo warns.

    This rival­ry between the two coun­ties is being fuelled by a Sau­di loss of faith in the US as the dom­i­nant strate­gic pow­er in the region and in its abil­i­ty to pro­vide pro­tec­tion, it says.

    Sau­di Arabia’s inter­ven­tion in Yemen was dri­ven by a desire to show the coun­try was “will­ing to take mil­i­tary, finan­cial and polit­i­cal risks in order not to fall behind in region­al pol­i­tics”.

    The over­throw of Syria’s pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad remains a pri­or­i­ty for the king­dom, the BND says.

    Sau­di Ara­bia has pre­vi­ous­ly been accused of sup­ply­ing arms and fund­ing to jihadist groups fight­ing in Syr­ia, includ­ing Islam­ic State in Iraq and the Lev­ant (Isil).

    Ok, so it sounds like roy­al inse­cu­ri­ties dri­ven in part by con­cerns that the US won’t remain in the region as pro­tec­tion. But it’s also dri­ven a desire by the new king, and his son who he wants to fol­low him as king and appoint­ed the new defense min­is­ter, to project Sau­di Ara­bia as the “the leader of the Arab world...with a strong mil­i­tary com­po­nent and new region­al alliances”. So the thrust of the memo appears to be tha the Saud­is will become more mil­i­tar­i­ly aggres­sive unless the US ramps up its mil­i­tary pres­ence:

    ...
    The memo focus­es par­tic­u­lar­ly on the role of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 30-year-old son of King Salman who was recent­ly appoint­ed deputy crown prince and defence min­is­ter.

    The con­cen­tra­tion of so much pow­er in Prince Mohammed’s hands “har­bours a latent risk that in seek­ing to estab­lish him­self in the line of suc­ces­sion in his father’s life­time, he may over­reach,” the memo notes.

    “Rela­tions with friend­ly and above all allied coun­tries in the region could be over­stretched.”

    Prince Mohammed is believed to have played a key role in Sau­di Arabia’s deci­sion to inter­vene in the civ­il war in Yemen ear­li­er this year.

    Both he and King Salman want Sau­di Ara­bia to be seen as “the leader of the Arab world” and are try­ing to extend its for­eign pol­i­cy “with a strong mil­i­tary com­po­nent and new region­al alliances,” the BND ana­lysts write.

    ...

    Region­al­ly, the Sun­ni king­dom is locked in a rival­ry with Shia Iran “rein­forced by mutu­al mis­trust and reli­gious-ide­o­log­i­cal enmi­ty,” the memo warns.

    This rival­ry between the two coun­ties is being fuelled by a Sau­di loss of faith in the US as the dom­i­nant strate­gic pow­er in the region and in its abil­i­ty to pro­vide pro­tec­tion, it says.

    Sau­di Arabia’s inter­ven­tion in Yemen was dri­ven by a desire to show the coun­try was “will­ing to take mil­i­tary, finan­cial and polit­i­cal risks in order not to fall behind in region­al pol­i­tics”.

    ...

    So is the les­son that if the US does­n’t com­mit itself to being the long-term mil­i­tary police­man of the region the Sau­di regime will attempt to fill that vac­u­um? That appears to be the thrust of the memo which is a very inter­est­ing mes­sage to get inde­pen­dent­ly pushed by the BND just days before Ger­many’s par­lia­ment votes on increas­ing Ger­many’s mil­i­tary par­tic­i­pa­tion in Syr­ia.

    It’s also inter­est­ing that the BND’s memo to the press appears to have real­ly pissed off the for­eign min­istry:

    The New York Times
    Ger­many Rebukes Its Own Intel­li­gence Agency for Crit­i­ciz­ing Sau­di Pol­i­cy

    By ALISON SMALE
    DEC. 3, 2015

    BERLIN — The Ger­man gov­ern­ment issued an unusu­al pub­lic rebuke to its own for­eign intel­li­gence ser­vice on Thurs­day over a blunt memo say­ing that Sau­di Ara­bia was play­ing an increas­ing­ly desta­bi­liz­ing role in the Mid­dle East.

    The intel­li­gence agency’s memo risked play­ing hav­oc with Berlin’s efforts to show sol­i­dar­i­ty with France in its mil­i­tary cam­paign against the Islam­ic State and to push for­ward the ten­ta­tive talks on how to end the Syr­i­an civ­il war. The Bun­destag, the low­er house of the Ger­man Par­lia­ment, is due to vote on Fri­day on whether to send recon­nais­sance planes, midair fuel­ing capac­i­ty and a frigate to the Mid­dle East to sup­port the French.

    The memo was sent to select­ed Ger­man jour­nal­ists on Wednes­day. In it, the for­eign intel­li­gence agency, known as the BND, offered an unusu­al­ly frank assess­ment of recent Sau­di pol­i­cy.

    ...

    The intel­li­gence agency’s memo was flat­ly repu­di­at­ed by the Ger­man For­eign Min­istry in Berlin, which said the Ger­man Embassy in Riyadh, Sau­di Ara­bia, had issued a state­ment mak­ing clear that “the BND state­ment report­ed by media is not the posi­tion of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.”

    Frank-Wal­ter Stein­meier, the Ger­man for­eign min­is­ter, “is in reg­u­lar con­tact with his Sau­di col­league Adel Al-Jubair, and has always stressed that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment counts on con­struc­tive coop­er­a­tion with Sau­di Ara­bia,” the state­ment added.

    A gov­ern­ment offi­cial in Berlin, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty, added that it was the BND’s job “to sup­ply the gov­ern­ment with infor­ma­tion, and to deliv­er hope­ful­ly clever analy­sis.”

    “The BND cer­tain­ly does not speak for Ger­man for­eign pol­i­cy, and def­i­nite­ly not through third par­ties” like the media, the gov­ern­ment offi­cial said, adding that polit­i­cal advances in Syr­ia and the Mid­dle East in gen­er­al could be achieved only with “con­struc­tive coop­er­a­tion with Sau­di Ara­bia.”

    The BND declined on Thurs­day to com­ment on the memo, although an agency spokesman, Mar­tin Heine­mann, dis­put­ed Ger­man media reports describ­ing it as a warn­ing.

    Ger­many has eco­nom­ic ties with Sau­di Ara­bia, includ­ing arms sales to the gov­ern­ment in Riyadh. Despite that, the gov­ern­ment in Berlin has some­times been pub­licly crit­i­cal of the Saud­is on human-rights issues. Last March, for exam­ple, just before vis­it­ing Riyadh, Vice Chan­cel­lor Sig­mar Gabriel, the leader of the Social Democ­rats, crit­i­cized the sen­tenc­ing of a Sau­di blog­ger, Raif Badawi, to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lash­es and a large fine.

    Mr. Stein­meier was instru­men­tal in con­ven­ing talks in Vien­na last month on the Syr­ia con­flict, draw­ing togeth­er Sau­di Ara­bia; its main region­al rival, Iran; as well as Rus­sia, the Unit­ed States and oth­er West­ern pow­ers and region­al actors includ­ing Turkey and Iraq.

    Germany’s defense min­is­ter, Ursu­la von der Leyen, stressed the impor­tance of what she repeat­ed­ly called “the Vien­na process” and over­all diplo­ma­cy even as she explained Berlin’s deci­sion to assist mil­i­tary assaults on the Islam­ic State.

    Ger­many is tra­di­tion­al­ly wary when it comes to deploy­ing its mil­i­tary out­side the NATO alliance. But both Mr. Stein­meier and Ms. von der Leyen have argued for the past two years that a more mus­cu­lar pres­ence over­seas should be part of their country’s grow­ing glob­al lead­er­ship role. In the case of Syr­ia, Ger­many is answer­ing a call from its clos­est Euro­pean ally, France, which has called for more inter­na­tion­al assis­tance to attack the Islam­ic State after ter­ror­ists killed 130 peo­ple in Paris on Nov. 13.

    ...

    As we might expect, Ger­many’s diplo­mats weren’t exact­ly enthu­si­as­tic about the con­tent of the memo. At least not offi­cial­ly:

    ...

    “The BND cer­tain­ly does not speak for Ger­man for­eign pol­i­cy, and def­i­nite­ly not through third par­ties” like the media, the gov­ern­ment offi­cial said, adding that polit­i­cal advances in Syr­ia and the Mid­dle East in gen­er­al could be achieved only with “con­struc­tive coop­er­a­tion with Sau­di Ara­bia.”

    ...

    Ger­many is tra­di­tion­al­ly wary when it comes to deploy­ing its mil­i­tary out­side the NATO alliance. But both Mr. Stein­meier and Ms. von der Leyen have argued for the past two years that a more mus­cu­lar pres­ence over­seas should be part of their country’s grow­ing glob­al lead­er­ship role. In the case of Syr­ia, Ger­many is answer­ing a call from its clos­est Euro­pean ally, France, which has called for more inter­na­tion­al assis­tance to attack the Islam­ic State after ter­ror­ists killed 130 peo­ple in Paris on Nov. 13.

    ...

    But you have to won­der if the mes­sage in the memo was sim­ply “hey, Ger­many had bet­ter watch out and not get sucked into mil­i­tary com­mit­ments in a region that Sau­di Ara­bia is poised to fur­ther desta­bi­lize.” Because there’s also an implied mes­sage in the memo to not just Ger­many’s lead­ers but the entire EU’s lead­er­ship: “If the US pulls back from the region, some­one else had bet­ter step in to fill that role if the EU does­n’t want to see Sau­di Ara­bia light the Mid­dle East on fire in a fit of para­noia and chest-thump­ing.” At least, that’s one way to inter­pret the mes­sage.

    It’s some­thing to keep in mind as Europe con­tin­ues to freak out over what to do with Mid­dle East­ern refugees and the US pub­lic con­tin­ues to sour on the idea of more wars in the Mid­dle East. There’s no rea­son an EU with much bold­er mil­i­tary ambi­tions could­n’t fill that vac­u­um if the US pulls back. Sure, there might be an abun­dance of rea­sons why the EU should­n’t do that, but it could.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 4, 2015, 3:34 pm

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