Rogue Regimes Reportedly Obtaining Illicit Weapons Material From Unwitting Sources in Germany

James Carstensen | February 7, 2018 | 10:03pm EST
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A photo provided by the NGO Syrians for Truth and Justice shows the ‘Made in Germany’ markings on material in a modified Iranian-built rocket reportedly found at the site of a toxic gas attack in Syria. (Photo: STJ)

Berlin ( – North Korea has been acquiring equipment and technology for its nuclear and weapons programs through its embassy in Berlin, according to Germany’s domestic intelligence agency (BfV).

In a documentary by German public broadcaster NDR, BfV chief Hans-Georg Maassen said the agency has become concerned by the scale of “procurement activities” taking place via the North Korean embassy in Berlin. 

Maassen did not say exactly what kind of technology and equipment was being procured – or from whom – but did say it included goods that could be used for civilian as well as military purposes (“dual-use”).

“From our point of view, they were for the missile program but also partly for the nuclear program,” he said.

Meanwhile it was reported that German-made electronic insulating material sold to Iranian companies has turned up in rockets allegedly used by the Assad regime in chemical attacks in Syria.

Images released by the Bellingcat “citizen journalism” activist site showed rocket debris with chemical tanks attached, with the logo of German technology company Krempel and “Made in Germany” labels clearly visible.

According to an investigation by an NGO called Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ), the German-made material was found in modified Iranian-built 107 mm rockets used to bomb residential areas of Syria with chlorine gas.

They were allegedly found at the location of two toxic gas attacks, on January 22 and February 1 this year, which injured dozens of civilians.

Like the “procurements” from the North Korean embassy, the Krempel material fall under the “dual use” category – items considered usable for civilian as well as military purposes.

Krempel was granted a special permit from the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control to export what’s described as “insulating material with a cellulose base” to Iran.

Krempel’s managing director, Uwe Assmuth, confirmed to the Bild newspaper that the company had delivered the material to Iran and said it was “shocked” that it had been used in weapons of war.

“The use of poison gas is inhumane and is condemned by us in the strongest terms,” he said.

The Green Party’s Iranian-born spokesman on foreign affairs, Omid Nouripour, told the paper that the fact German technology was being used in his way “shows that the federal government is too negligent regarding its dual-use policy.”

Syria was meant to have surrendered its chemical weapons stockpile under a 2013 deal brokered and supposedly guaranteed by Russia, after more than 1,400 Syrians were killed in a sarin attack near Damascus.

Another sarin attack last April prompted President Trump to order a punitive cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase.

The regime appears to be now relying increasingly on chlorine gas. In the space of a month it has allegedly used chlorine gas in civilian areas held by rebels on at least six occasions.

(Chlorine has peaceful applications as well and so is not generally listed as a chemical weapon. But according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons a toxic chemical such as chlorine “may be defined as a chemical weapon depending on its intended purpose.”)

Iran is the Assad regime’s key backer, but North Korea too has reportedly been illicitly supplying goods to Syria that may be benefitting its chemical weapons program.

A confidential U.N. report seen by news agencies in recent days is reported to say that 40 shipments from North Korea to the Syrian entity responsible for the regime’s chemical weapons program provided “further evidence of arms embargo and other violations, including through the transfer of items with utility in ballistic missile and chemical weapons programs.”

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