Friday, January 13, 2006
The Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) helped the U.S. military during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, ARD‘s Panorama magazine and the Los Angeles Times concordantly reported on Thursday.
According to their information, two agents of the BND stayed in Baghdad during the war even after the German embassy was evacuated on March 17, 2003. A former “high-ranking official” in the U.S. Department of Defense told Panorama that the agents helped to track down targets throughout the Iraqi capital for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) as they didn’t have enough reliable sources in Baghdad. A BND official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that there was “no dumbness between the BND and DIA” during that time and that it was part of the BND’s “job” in Iraq to identify “non targets” like hospitals or embassies. He said this was authorized by the chancellor’s office.
The Pentagon informant of Panorama however said that the German agents were much more involved. A common saying during the war was supposedly: “Do we have anything from the Germans?” According to him, they drove to a restaurant in Mansur district of Baghdad on April 6th where Saddam Hussein was assumed to be dining. The BND agents reported back to the DIA that many Mercedes cars were parking there. As those cars were presumed to be of Saddam Hussein, the U.S. military conducted an air strike on the location. Hussein escaped, but twelve civilians were killed.
The BND confirmed that two of its agents operated in Iraq during the war but denied all other reports. A spokesperson told Panorama that it’s agency “did not provide target information or target coordinates to the warfaring parties.” The intelligence committee of the Bundestag exculpated the BND. Its chair Norbert Röttgen said that the in secret sitting committee, controlled by government parties, concluded with two-third majority that there are no indications that the agents aided the U.S. in selecting targets.
German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called the accusations “schizophrenic” while opposition parties are demanding an parliamentary investigation committee. And during a visit of German chancellor Merkel to the White House, U.S. president Bush said in a response to a reporter’s question whether he knew anything about the allegations: “The truth of the matter is, the Chancellor brought this up this morning. I had no idea what she was talking about. The first I heard of it was this morning, truthfully”.