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Germany

Opinion: Who's Taking Aim at Berlin?

A news report claiming German secret agents gave the US Iraq's war plans has drawn indignant denials from both Berlin and Washington. DW's Daniel Scheschkewitz believes the leak must have been carefully planned.

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Germany claims a clear conscience in the Iraq war

The allegations in The New York Times have certainly had an effect, not only because of the serious nature of the newspaper in question, but the fact that it cites a secret US military report. The resulting question is who, in Washington, is interested in leaking evidence of cooperation between the German secret service and the US during the Iraq war, to the public?

There can, after all, be no doubt that this is about a pointed indiscretion. How else could the US newspaper get its hands on confidential information, and a sketch to boot? Perhaps Washington, outraged at the moral sanctimony with which the former German government voiced its opposition to the Iraq war while simultaneously providing its ally with information, is out to discredit Germany and former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's administration.

In Berlin, spokespeople for the new government have been quick to deny the claims. But what option do they have given that the old government in the form of the SPD and moreover the Social Democratic Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, are in the new cabinet? Following allegations of CIA terror flights over Europe, he has already born the glare of negative spotlight, and is thus particularly sensitive to these claims.

Steinmeier under fire?

Under Schröder, Steinmeier was chief of staff and responsible for overseeing the work of the security services. A designed indiscretion would, if that is what this is, be a political affront directed at him.

But the government's denials are also plausible. The claim that German secret agents informed the US in its run-up to an attack of Saddam's secret defense plans is simply ridiculous. In the days leading up to the outbreak of war, it was easy -- for anyone wishing to know -- to learn that the Iraqis were planning to defend their capital by massing forces in concentric rings around it. The information was no secret even in Washington and among US military experts.

What is more explosive is the apparent expectation in US circles, even during the war, that in the absence of any credible informers of their own in Baghdad, the two BND agents would be forthcoming with their information. What is strange, however, is that at the time, US Defense Minister Donald Rumsfeld had already put Germany in the same category as Libya and Cuba.

The real scandal is the hypocrisy used to dupe the public on both sides, and there is little that a parliamentary probe in Berlin can do to change that, not least because it would certainly not include any testimony from US generals or politicians.

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