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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. . . .


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:

    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?



    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.


    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.


    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’
    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,


    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

    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:

    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.


    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

    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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