BERLIN – An opposition party on Thursday warned it may trigger a parliamentary probe of German intelligence operations in the Iraq war unless the government addresses more fully a report that its spies passed Iraqi defense plans to U.S. forces.
A leader of the Free Democrats, the biggest opposition party, said it could force a parliamentary investigation of the matter unless it is satisfied with the government's rebuttal of the report before a panel of lawmakers on Monday.
The government admitted last week that German intelligence gave limited information on Iraqi forces to U.S. authorities before or during the March 2003 invasion, despite then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's outspoken opposition to the war.
But it denied a report Monday in The New York Times, citing a classified U.S. military study, that German agents supplied Saddam Hussein's defense plan for Baghdad to their U.S. counterparts.
The government's denial "stands on very unsteady feet," Free Democrats parliamentary leader Wolfgang Gerhardt said on N24 television. "If it turns out on Monday that the government was not clear in its denial and that there are gaps here, then you will find in me someone who will not hesitate for one second."
Opposition complaints were fueled by a new report in the Times Thursday that a German intelligence officer was attached to the wartime headquarters of U.S. commander Gen. Tommy Franks in Doha, Qatar.
The newspaper cited a classified government report presented to a committee of the German parliament last week in closed-door hearings on the intelligence agency's role during the U.S.-led war that ousted Saddam. Portions of the report have been made public.
Germany lined up with France and Russia to oppose the war in Iraq, and Schroeder insisted his country would provide no active support for the U.S.-led operation. That stance damaged relations with Washington.
Government officials have declined to answer questions about the reported stationing of a German agent to act as a liaison officer in Doha.
But the Times said Thursday that the classified sections of the German report confirmed the officer's deployment and said the decision to install a liaison in Qatar was planned and approved at the highest levels of government as Germany sought to continue to gather intelligence about Iraq despite declining relations with the U.S.
The Germans recognized that their own sources in Iraq "could be used as extremely valuable barter material for the U.S. agencies," the report said, according to the Times.
The report said the liaison provided information on Iraqi police and military units in Baghdad, but it does not state that German intelligence provided a copy of Saddam's plan to defend the capital.
It said the German officer delivered 25 reports to the Americans, answering 18 of 33 specific requests.
The public section of the 300-page report says that the intelligence service passed on information gathered by two German agents in Baghdad providing details of the location of embassies and synagogues so they would not be bombed, and of the possible location of a missing U.S. pilot.
Christian Stroebele, the opposition Greens party's representative on the panel, last week listed what he called 11 potential military targets about which German agents passed information to U.S. authorities in March and April of 2003.
Stroebele has cast doubt on the government's assertion that none of the 11 locations, including Iraqi Republican Guard and intelligence positions and a suspected underground bunker, were actually bombed as a result.
The Free Democrats, together with the Greens and the Left Party, have just enough votes in the lower house to force a parliamentary inquiry. The Greens and the Left Party have already said they would vote for an investigation, though they differ on what exactly it should probe for.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and their Social Democrat coalition partners argue that the matter is best discussed in the parliamentary panel, whose proceedings are not public.
Government officials have warned that a full inquiry could endanger Germany's ability to cooperate with other countries' intelligence agencies in the fight against international terrorism.
Olaf Scholz, the Social Democrat on the panel, said Thursday that the lawmakers had "long since cleared up the connections" between the U.S. and German intelligence services. He didn't say whether the liaison officer was stationed in Doha.