The German government secretly provided battlefield intelligence to the invading US-led coalition during the 2003 Iraq War, which it formally opposed, opposition parties have alleged.
Members of Germany’s Left and Green Parties made their allegations as two German intelligence agents who were stationed in Baghdad in 2003 gave testimony to a closed German parliamentary panel Thursday in an unfolding affair that threatens to embarrass the German Social Democrats, who were the governing party at the time.
Observers on both sides of the Atlantic will remember that along with France, Germany was lumped under the epithet “Old Europe” by former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for its opposition to the invasion. Gerhard Schroeder, of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) who was chancellor at the time of the invasion, won his 2002 election bid in part by campaigning forcefully against the impending war.
Schroeder stepped down after the 2005 German elections to allow Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) to become chancellor in a CDU-SPD Grand Coalition government.
German official broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that German parliamentarians Norman Paech, of the Left Party, and Hans-Christian Stroebele of the Green Party allege that German spies in Baghdad provided American forces with information on “expected resistance and coordinates for military positions that were subsequently bombed.”
The possible German role in a war that the SPD-led government officially opposed could embarrass the SPD candidate for chancellor in Germany’s 2009 elections, Frank Walter Steinmeier. Steinmeier, currently foreign minister, was head of the chancellery under Schroeder and would have overseen German intelligence operations. The parliamentary investigation is examining Steinmeier’s role in particular. Max Stadler, an MP with the opposition Free Democratic Party, “said it was important not to leap to conclusions, but that the spies had fed information on the effectiveness of bombing raids,” Deutsche Welle writes, referring to one instance where US bombers struck an Iraqi officers club two times over four days after receiving information from the German agents.
An investigation into Steinmeier’s role is underway in the German intelligence agency, known by its German initials, BND.
Social Democrats have rejected the allegations. Steinmeier told a German newspaper that the presence of German intelligence agents in Baghdad was not enough "to make Germany a warring party after the fact," saying the German public would reject the charges.
See here for a German debate over its future position in Iraq.