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Intelligence service September 10, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in International Politics.

Some may have mentioned this already, but what of this here? In a report on the Syrian chemical weapons issue, one which suggests that Assad was not personally involved (something that, and I’m no fan of the man, would seem entirely likely given he would be aware of the counterproductive nature of any such use of those weapons in this conflict) it states:

The intelligence findings were based on phone calls intercepted by a German surveillance ship operated by the BND, the German intelligence service, and deployed off the Syrian coast, Bild am Sonntag said.

What precisely is a German intelligence ship doing off the coast of Syria in the first place? It’s a fascinating question in the sense that it reveals just how far flung intelligence operations appear to be. And it raises further questions. Are there German, French, Brazilian, or whoever, intelligence ships off the coast, of say, the PRC? Vast fleets of vessels listening in on other states, and non-state actors, communications. A sort of covert panopticon.

By the way, it’s worth noting that if the BND picked up a communication like this then most likely others would have done so too (and interesting too the way this crisis is unfolding, not least the Russian response in the last twenty-four hours. It will be telling if the Syrians bow to pressure from Moscow, or rather if they feel they have no choice but to).


1. steve white - September 10, 2013

his army


WorldbyStorm - September 10, 2013

I tend to think it was the army.


steve white - September 11, 2013

I meant his army, he’s to blame, I didn’t get the distinction at all, but this mcclatchy article puts it more strongly that he rejected their use, but part of his army used them anyway

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

so now all we need is for him to admit he’s not in control of his army 🙂


2. vacantpenguin - September 10, 2013

There are intelligence operations all over the world from Germany / UK / USA / Russia / China etc. It isn’t that odd. I can’t see the Syrian civil war ending any time soon. Assad is stubborn, many more Syrians will die. There’s no stopping Assad.


WorldbyStorm - September 10, 2013

I get that, it’s just that this is well out of theatre for the BND, and one wonders where it stops. I remember very well the hassle the Soviets got over spy ‘trawlers’ etc and that was in areas they might arguably have had a legitimate interest.


3. shea - September 11, 2013

If they have a ship in the Mediterranean would it not be more beneficial to be using them to spy on EU countries where they have an Interest, not in some over lord way i presume they are all doing it but the EU is a major theater of operations for them, it would be practical to have as much intelligence as possible on what others are thinking in europe. Having spys here there and every where would be a bit of a waste, don’t think it happens as much is alleged, cut your cloth to suit your measure and all that. Maybe the Mediterranean is just a good spot to have an ease dropping post, in 360 D how many Allies and hot spots would they pick up.


WorldbyStorm - September 11, 2013

That’s it precisely shea, that’s what raises questions in my mind.


4. shea - September 11, 2013

i presume we are punching way below our weight. This state since its foundation has been more concerned about potential internal threats than external ones. If its a case about the honour of spying on your friends, the person most likely to look at my private text messages is not my enemy, don’t mean to sound melodramatic but at some level some one is always snooping on someone else, personal/buisiness/politics all the same. you can call out the germans on it and they will try better next time not to get caught only value i see in it is self motivation.


5. Gewerkschaftler - September 11, 2013

OK – this is the context:

The BND work hand-in-glove with the CIA. In fact if you look into the history of the BND it’s birth lies in the clever change of flag operation by the Nazi head of anti-Soviet intelligence, complete with the relevant files, which he hid in the (I think) Bavarian woods, and then used as a bargaining chip when he went over to the Americans.

Secondly, the Federal Republic is a major arms supplier and therefore has commercial interests in the region. Not just hand-guns but we’re talking nuclear-capable submarines.

Thirdly, given the close historical relationship between the Federal Republic and Israel (who do you think supplied much of the equipment for the ‘Research Reactor’ in the Negev that led to the Israeli nuclear arsenal?), there is probably some connection with the fossil-fuel basis for the Syrian engagement – namely the gas fields off-shore. In the Middle East there is always and primarily a fossil fuel motive.

Fourthly, I imagine keeping an eye on both Turkey and Greece are part of the BND’s remit.

I could go on, but I’d probably better stop here.


WorldbyStorm - September 12, 2013

Gehlen,wasn’t it and his famous bureau who went over to the US. That makes a lot if sense re German Israel relations etc just thinking though the push to open a chink of light between Assad and his army serves he Germans and most Europeans more than the US but as you say later the intention is clearly to disable Assad et al not destroy


6. Gewerkschaftler - September 11, 2013

More generally, if the end result is that Syria gives up some of it’s chemical weapons stockpiles, and whoever used the Sarin is less inclined to do it again, I’d say we’ve got an unexpected win-win.

I think the Russians played a blinder on this one, once Kerry let the cat out of the bag.


Enya Rand - September 12, 2013

Hm – win-win is grossly inappropriate for anything that’s happening in Syria, may I suggest?

Perhaps you mean – ‘rather less slaughter of civilians in the short term than expected’?


7. Gewerkschaftler - September 11, 2013

BTW – who has 37 ktons of Sarin and other chemical weapons at their disposal and has been promising to get rid of them for more than twenty years without following through?

The answer is not Syria.


8. doctorfive - September 12, 2013

wonderful article in Foreign Affairs


As morally satisfying as it might be, a rebel victory may be the most dangerous outcome of all for the eastern Mediterranean. Such a turn of events would open a security vacuum in a resource-rich and already volatile region


The human costs of this scenario are staggering. Still, although a Syrian stalemate would not be helpful for economies in the region, it would likely be the least disruptive prospect for gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.


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