BERLIN – Syrian President Bashar Assad has repeatedly rejected requests from his field commanders to use chemical weapons, according to a weekend report in a German newspaper.
The widely read Bild am Sonntag reported that the head of the German Foreign Intelligence agency, Gerhard Schindler, last week told a select group of lawmakers that intercepted communications had convinced German intelligence that Assad did not approve what is believed to be a sarin gas attack on Aug. 21 that killed hundreds in Damascus’ eastern suburbs.
The article said that on numerous occasions in recent months, the German intelligence ship Oker has intercepted communications indicating that field officers sought permission to use chemical weapons and have been turned down. The article added that German intelligence does not believe Assad sanctioned the alleged attack.
Last week, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel said that the Oker had intercepted a phone call between a commander from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and an official at an unidentified Iranian embassy saying that Assad had ordered the Aug. 21 chemical attack out of anger. The Hezbollah commander called the attack a “huge mistake,” Der Spiegel said. It was not clear if the two news accounts were based on the same or different briefings. MCT