German War Assistance

DAMASCUS/BERLIN | | syrien

DAMASCUS/BERLIN (Own report) - Leading up to talks between the German chancellor and the US president, the German Foreign Ministry reiterated its continuous support for the insurgents in Syria. Germany - unlike the USA, Great Britain and France - will not be furnishing weapons to the insurgent militias. Still, at the next summit conference, Germany will seek a "concentrated exchange on what can responsibly be done to help the Syrian opposition in this difficult situation," explains a spokesperson for the foreign ministry. Until now, Berlin's efforts have been mainly oriented toward political support for the insurgents and the implementation of measures to strengthen ties between the isolated opposition in exile with the militias operating locally. The foreign ministry has been deploying the services of relief organizations and providing medical treatment for wounded militiamen in Bundeswehr hospitals, organized with the support of exiled regime opponents. As shown by the huge stashes of weapons discovered by government troops after retaking the small town of Al Qusayr, a large amount of the insurgents' weapons were smuggled into Syria by ship - through the German Navy's area of operations off the coast of Lebanon.

Weapons for Insurgent Militias

The announcement by various Western governments that they would now deliver weapons to the insurgents in Syria officially, came on the heels of the Syrian government's new military successes. At the beginning of the month, government troops, supported by Lebanese Hezbollah units, retook the small town of Al Qusayr situated close to the Lebanese border. Syrian troops have remained on the offensive ever since, most recently announcing advances into the suburbs of Damascus and into Aleppo. Subsequent to announcements by France and Great Britain, the US government has now announced that it also will deliver weapons to the insurgents. The USA, which for some time has been furnishing non-military support, such as military-feasible "non-lethal" instruments, will now also provide small arms, ammunition and portable anti-tank rocket launchers. The Obama administration's official justification is that it is now certain that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons - with absolutely no tangible proof for this allegation - leading to ironic commentaries among members of the German establishment. For example, lead editorials are commenting that it was probably "not necessarily 'proof' of chemical weapons use" that was the motivation for Washington's new decision to send weapons, but, "rather a realistic assessment (...) that the military situation of the insurgents has seriously deteriorated."[1]

Everything within our Power

Berlin also wants to intensify its war assistance to the insurgents. This was explicitly reiterated by the foreign ministry. According to a spokesperson for the ministry, even though Berlin will itself "not send weapons to Syria," also in the future, it will, however, "with our partners" in the course of a "concentrated exchange on the subject, seek measures that can responsibly be taken to help the Syrian opposition in this difficult situation." This refers particularly to the unification of the fragmented insurgent forces. Berlin seeks to contribute toward establishing "a unified organizational structure, toward a common objective and toward unified action in terms of a new beginning in Syria," explains the ministry spokesperson. For this "we will do everything within our power."

Network Between Opposition and Militias

At least since early 2012, the German government has been intensively seeking to reach a unification of the Syrian opposition. This objective was first of all served by the project "The Day After," implemented during the first half of 2012 by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) and the US Institute for Peace (USIP). This project provided a forum for opponents of the Syrian regime to attempt to reach an agreement on a common political platform. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[2]) In late summer 2012, the German Foreign Ministry pressured German relief organizations to take up activities in insurgent-controlled areas of Syria. Additionally, preparations were made to establish a "project office" in the Turkish town of Gaziantep, close to the border with Syria, which has been serving, since January 2013, as a base of operations for an assistant of the German Association for International Cooperation (GIZ) engaged in infrastructure reconstruction efforts. In these projects, relief organizations and the GIZ are cooperating not only with the exiled opposition, but primarily with the local insurgents. According to reports, the primary objective is "to establish a network" between the insurgency at the "local level" and the "opposition leadership" in exile - "to also counteract the impression" that the opposition leadership is comprised merely "of exiles, with no real local ties."[3]

Elite Change in the Arab World

Treating wounded insurgents in Bundeswehr hospitals is also serving to politically reinforce the opposition. In mid-April, the Bundeswehr accommodated 36 seriously wounded insurgents - officially, for humanitarian reasons. But as the foreign ministry admits, this was also done "to enhance" the "legitimacy" of the Syrian opposition in exile "in the eyes of the population" in the insurgent-controlled regions.[4] This is supposed to be achieved through involving the exile opposition in the relief effort. The German Foreign Ministry has therefore charged the Berlin based Syrian government opponent, Pelican Mourad, with establishing a network to render practical assistance to the insurgents, being treated in German hospitals. Mourad is the wife of Riad Seif, a Syrian government opponent, who has been cultivating contacts to the German foreign policy establishment since the 1990s. He moved to Berlin in June 2012 and is still closely cooperating with the German Foreign Ministry. Today, he is vice-president of the "National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces."[5] Mourad, who studied in Germany in the 1990s, worked at the Goethe Institute in Damascus from 1999 to 2012 as a program assistant. Since January of this year, she is Research Assistant in the SWP project "Elite Change and New Social Mobilization in the Arab World."[6]

"Alawites to the Grave"

New reports have been published about social developments in the insurgent-controlled regions - describing the example of Al Qusayr, a small town recently recaptured by government troops. According to the report, published last week, an "Islamic state" had been established subsequent to the insurgents' take-over in the spring 2012. Using minarets, Al Qusayr's Christians, which originally made up 35 percent of the population, were called upon to leave town. At rallies, the slogan was heard "Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the grave."[7] The Al Nusra Front, which is affiliated with the terrorist Al Qaeda, soon took control of Al Qusayr.

Successfully Overlooked

Al Qusayr served particularly as the insurgents' arsenal. According to reports, "large stashes of portable arms of all kinds" were discovered, following the recapture of the town. These arms had obviously been delivered by Qatar to Libya two years earlier - to be used in the Western supported insurgency against the Gaddafi regime. In the meantime, these arms have been brought from Libya "by ship to the Lebanese harbor of Tripoli," from where they were taken via the "Sunni-inhabited border towns of Arsal and Wadi Khalid to Qusayr."[8] That these routes were being used for smuggling has long been known. This was merely confirmation. The weapons were smuggled by way of the Mediterranean along the Lebanese coastline, where the German Navy is also patrolling within the framework of the UNIFIL mission. Earlier this month, the German cabinet decided to extend the UNIFIL mandate. The German government explicitly explained: "The mission aims at preventing arms smuggling to Lebanon via the Mediterranean."[9] This does not affect the arms trafficking to the Syrian insurgents - as the Al Qusayr discoveries show.

Other reports and background information on Germany's policy toward Syria can be found here: War Threats against Syria, Iran's Achilles Heel, War Scenarios for Syria, War Scenarios for Syria (II), With the UN toward Escalation, Market Economy for Syria, The Yemenite Solution, Smuggle Supervisors, The Day After, The Day After (II), The Day After (IV), The Islamization of the Rebellion, Air Defense for the Exile Leadership, A Proxy War, In Rebel Territory (II), In Rebel Territory (III), The End of Artificial Borders and In Rebel Territory (IV).

[1] Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger: Die rote Linie; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 15.06.2013
[2] see also The Day After, The Day After (II) and The Day After (IV)
[3] Im rechtsfreien Raum; www.faz.net 05.05.2013. See also In Rebel Territory (IV)
[4] Syrische Patienten; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 11.06.2013
[5] see also The Day After (III) and Air Defense for the Exile Leadership
[6] see also The Day After (III)
[7], [8] Rainer Hermann: Waffenlager in der Kirche; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12.06.2013
[9] Einsatz vor Libanons Küste geht weiter; www.bundesregierung.de 14.06.2013