AUS DEM SPIEGEL
Ausgabe 14/2003

Cover Story Apprehensive about victory

War opponents Russia, Germany and France are worried that the United States will find new evidence of their roles in the arming of Iraq, and will use it to its political advantage.


It began with small caliber weapons and developed into an exchange of heavy verbal artillery. The Americans complained of "a disturbing turn of events" that "raises concerns." Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov angrily responded to what he referred to as "unfounded allegations." Then, according to ear-witness reports, voices were raised during a telephone conversation between Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin.

After the Americans had accused the Russians of having provided Iraq with bazookas, night-vision equipment and jamming transmitters against their GPS-guided weapons, the dispute almost began to take on Cold War proportions. But this time Russia was not the only enemy. Anyone who was involved in arming the Saddam regime and now stands by his side in battle can expect to incur the wrath of the Americans, including the Germans and the French.

The Germans, lacking the confidence to display the Russians' stoic gruffness, prepared for possible accusations by the Americans in their own way. Before the first bombs began to fall on Iraq, archivists at the Federal Chancellery sorted through files long since placed into storage at the Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Economic Affairs, many of which, such as handwritten memos, had already been submitted to long-term Chancellor Helmut Kohl. More recent reports submitted to the UN Security Council by the Iraqis were quickly reviewed at the Customs Police Agency in Cologne. According to orders from Berlin, these documents were to be examined to determine whether they contain any new information. With the aid of powerful desk lamps, six investigators assigned exclusively to this task even attempted to decipher text that had been blacked out under pressure from the United States.

However, efforts at political damage control may be too late. "What will the world discover once the war has ended? Which countries secretly helped Saddam develop his weapons of terror?," asked conservative columnist William Safire, full of anticipation, in the "New York Times" the week before last. And publicist Kenneth Timmermann, author of an influential book on the arming of Iraq ("The Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq"), predicts: "We will experience a completely new discussion once again. And you Germans will not look good when that happens."

The Russians were the first victims. Unlike the French and Germans, who were especially active in supplying Saddam with weapons in the 1980s, the Russians have apparently done so until recently.

The Moscow-based firm Aviakonversija, little known until now, allegedly supplied the jamming transmitters, which are designed to distract the guidance system for American bombs, and of which the Americans claim to have destroyed at least six. Nowadays, this Russian company, with its headquarters on Tverskaya Boulevard near the Kremlin, prefers to advertise its medical devices.

According to Director Oleg Antonov, the company's own jamming transmitters were "admired as a sensation" as early as 1997 at a weapons convention near Moscow. Because of the UN embargo, his company – naturally, says Antonov – did not ship its highly sought-after, three-kilogram device to Iraq.

Instead, Antonov assures that the US Defense Department "purchased large numbers of these devices to test their effects on 'Tomahawk' missiles and remotely guided bombs."

Arkadij Schipunov, who works for another accused company, "Equipment Construction Design Office," a weapons manufacturer in Tula, cannot comprehend the Americans' sudden outrage over anti-tank weapons from his factory, except perhaps as an "attempt to justify their own failures during the first half of the invasion of Iraq." However, according to Moscow-based military experts, a high-tech bazooka manufactured in Tula, the "Konkurs-M," was certainly delivered to the Iraqi army by the Soviet Union in the 1980s. But exactly when which weapon within a weapons package worth billions of dollars was delivered is probably a well-kept secret among Moscow's intelligence services.

Moscow-based military journalist Pavel Felgenhauer describes how the shipments of "Kornett" anti-tank rockets from Tula to Iraq alleged by the United States corresponded to classic models of Russian weapons transactions: helicopters, disassembled and packed into containers, were apparently shipped to Iraq through Bulgaria, and then assembled in Baghdad by Russian specialists. "If the sanctions put in place in September 1990 had been fully effective," says Felgenhauer, "not a single Iraqi jet or helicopter would be flying today," due to a lack of spare parts or mechanics.

THE RED-GREEN COALITION MUST BE PREPARED TO DEFEND THE SINS OF THE KOHL ERA.

It recently became evident just how strong the foundations of the friendship forged between the former Soviet government and the Baath regime in Baghdad remain today. A six-member delegation of Russian military personnel returned from Baghdad just ten days before air attacks began. One of the Russians, a retired general, returned home freshly decorated – with a medal, presented by Saddam's defense minister, showing the Iraqis' appreciation for his many years of assistance in building Iraq's air defenses.

It is certainly conceivable that the Americans have chosen to wait until their invasion was underway to publicize the fact that prohibited products were shipped from Germany. This could serve as an elegant way to detract from their own past sins. For example, ATCC, a US firm, supplied pathogens that Iraq used in its biological weapons program. And there are certainly many other reasons to justify public outrage, since UN inspectors in Iraq operated on the basic principle that the names of companies and countries from which they originate were to remain securely under lock and key, especially Iraqi declarations in which the regime identified its "foreign helpers." "Many of the dirty business of the past," says former German UN weapons inspector Robert Schmucker, "were never revealed to the public."

The Germans can certainly be pleased with this arrangement. After all, 18 of 56 firms identified by Iraq as suppliers to its chemical weapons program are allegedly from Germany, including Hoechst and Preussag. Both companies deny this.

The situation is evenly less savory in the nuclear realm. According to a list prepared by Baghdad for the International Atom Energy Agency, almost a third of 428 shipments for Saddam's nuclear weapons program for the years 1989/90 consisted of products made in Germany. Almost all companies involved deny having been aware of the intended uses of their products.

Controls were lax. Government officials supposedly responsible for inspecting exports spent their free time advising firms on how best to go about declaring sensitive equipment. After having prosecuted two German suppliers, judges on the Darmstadt Regional Court bitterly remarked that for some time "a climate prevailed in which Iraq was actively courted as a trading partner."

Now, in a particularly bizarre turn of events, the red-green coalition must prepare itself to defend the policies of the Kohl era. During the first Gulf War, Heide Wieczorek-Zeul, now Germany's Foreign Aid Minister, was outraged that tolerance of arms shipments enabled Saddam to "ignite the powder keg in the Middle East." Even earlier, the current Interior Minister, Otto Schily, railed against arms shipments as being "one of the worst scandals of today." In fact, the Green Party's leadership in the Bundestag even filed criminal complaints against Klaus Kinkel.

In the future, however, at least in the case of the Germans, Russians and French, secrecy is no longer likely to be guaranteed. Advancing US units are followed by US military intelligence teams prepared to find chemical and biological weapons materials they hope will provide President Bush with the urgently needed proof that Saddam still has weapons of mass destruction. The army maintains lists of Iraqi scientists it intends to bring in for questioning.

"ONCE THE AMERICANS BEGIN RAIDING THE ARCHIVES, THERE WILL BE A FLOOD OF NEW LAWSUITS."

The Federal Chancellery has already anticipated the following scenario: Even if current evidence cannot be found, the US authorities will have at their disposal, simply by means of interrogation and records secured in Baghdad, plenty of additional details on unsavory dealings of the past that have only been vaguely known or have even remained hidden. "It will be reminiscent of the Stasi files," says a German security expert. "Back then, even when they thought they knew the details of a particular case, the records produced all kinds of surprises."

This is an experience the German government has already faced: Karl-Heinz Schaab, who later gained dubious celebrity status as a "nuclear spy," managed to emerge from his 1993 trial with a mere eleven months' probation.

Then, in 1995, the Iraqi regime, shortly after the defection of Saddam's son-in-law Hussein Kamil, turned over dozens of boxes of previously clandestine documents. In addition to reports in which young Iraqi trainees proudly reported on just how many documents they were able to photocopy while their German colleagues were at lunch, new documents relating to Schaab were discovered in container number 8. According to these documents, he sold uranium enrichment plans to Iraq, and even lent a hand during construction. In a new trial, he was sentenced to five years in prison for treason.

As was initially the case with Schaab, many of a total of 137 businessmen who were investigated for engaging in prohibited business transactions with Iraq managed to emerge relatively unscathed. Proceedings against 85 were suspended, and the 16 individuals sentenced to prison terms served a total of 32 years and eight months combined. In retrospect, many of the rulings proved to be far too lenient, and new cases are now pending. "The first of the alleged suspects are already shaking in their boots," says attorney Michael Rietz, who has defended many of these export sinners. "Once the Americans begin raiding the Iraqi archives, there will be a flood of new lawsuits."

UWE KLUßMANN, GEORG MASCOLO, WALTER MAYR

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