Gee, These Saudis Ain’t Really Kosher

Germany’s secret service BND discovered something entirely new last week. At least Germany’s citizens know now what their spooks are getting paid for. Saudi Arabia, so a recent BND report concludes, might not be the perfectly ideal ally for democratic nations. Who could have known?


ARP3616099Behind these walls, Germany’s spook agency usually does the bidding of the NSA. That it dares to publicly pipe up about the Saudis is quite astonishing actually.

Photo credit: Stephan Jansen / DPA


We dimly remember that others have come to similar conclusions, some 20 years or so ago. Recently cartoonists have picked up on the many philosophical similarities between the so-called Islamic State (bloodthirsty gang of decidedly non-moderate habitual beheaders) and Saudi Arabia (valued ally, administered by a feudal medieval monarchy apparently consisting of decidedly non-moderate habitual beheaders as well).


Spot the differenceAssorted Middle Eastern beheaders.


Was the BND impressed by a recent weekend of mass executions in a public square in Saudi Arabia, an occasion on which more than 50 people lost their heads for crimes as varied as “sorcery” and “damaging the reputation of the government”?

No, not really. What got the attention of the spook agency was the fact that the new Saudi government includes one Mohammed bin Salman, son of King Salman, vice crown prince and new minister of defense of Saudi Arabia (it would be more honest to call him minister of war).


Mohammed bin Salman – a war minister you can trust…or maybe not.

Photo credit: AFP


Mohammed bin Salman, so says the BND,


[…] has concentrated an extraordinary amount of economic and military power in his hands, which harbors the latent danger that he will go too far in the attempt to establish himself as the heir to the throne already while his father is still alive”

Moreover, “with expensive measures or reforms he might provoke resentment in the population or among other members of the royal household, furthermore there is a danger that he will strain relations with friendly and allied nations in the region.”

Furthermore, “King Salman and his son want to make a name for themselves as the leaders of the Arab world, and are trying to expand Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy agenda by a strong military component as well as new regional alliances”.


Even the ongoing Saudi slaughter in Yemen rates a mention (readers may have noticed that the Western mainstream media barely mention this conflict, in which an entire country is reduced to rubble and penury). The BND offers the following interpretation:


“Trust in the US as a protecting and peacekeeping power [HA!, ed.] in the region is declining, which is a major reason for the regional power struggle with Iran. The relationship between Riyadh and Teheran is characterized by a high level of mutual distrust and a religious-ideological enmity, which escalates their mutual threat perception.” […]

“With its military intervention in Yemen, Saudi Arabia wants to prove that it is prepared to take unprecedented military, financial and political risks in order not to fall behind in terms of regional politics.”

“Primarily Saudi Arabia wants to depose the regime of Bashar al Assad in Syria, so as to push back Iran’s influence and end Syria’s support for Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hezbollah.”


Germany’s Government Not Amused

The German government was apparently surprised by this analytical assault published by its own spies. And not in a good way. The foreign ministry let it be known that “the BND does certainly not speak for German foreign policy”. The government issued an official statement, saying, “the BND’s assessment of Saudi Arabia does not exactly reflect the Federal government’s stance.”

The government reportedly fears an altercation with the Saudi royals. Especially the son of King Salman is allegedly held to be “an important dialog partner of the West in the fight against the Islamic State”.

Say what? The same Islamic State that gets funding and weapons from the Saudis and Qatar? Just asking.

The foreign ministry stressed the “important role played by Saudi Arabia in peace talks over Syria…without the collaboration of Saudi Arabia it will be impossible to achieve the political progress in Syria and elsewhere in the region which we so urgently need.

We are actually wondering if they were in tears from laughing themselves silly while they concocted that one. “Der Spiegel” indicates that the BND’s assessment is actually widely shared, but that good contacts with the Saudi rulers are held to be essential from a realpolitik perspective. And then there is of course this:


weapons salesA slightly dated chart of European arms sales to Saudi Arabia (which incidentally has become the largest market in the world for US arms exports as well) – via Der Spiegel

It certainly wouldn’t do to snub such a good customer.



The BND didn’t tell anyone anything that wasn’t already known (unless one spent the past 20 years on Mars with a defect radio). What is remarkable is that it spoke out at all. Is it an act of rebellion, or is the government’s indignant response just political theater? It is hard to tell, but it is definitely fascinating to watch.




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One Response to “Germany’s Spook Agency vs. Saudi Arabia”

  • John Galt III:

    I worked right next to these guys in the 1960’s. We were Arny Security Agency a division of NSA. We were the first to notify the president of the US when the USSR and its allies invaded Czechoslovakia. I was a Czech linguist at a ‘listening post’ on a mountain a few miles from the Czech border. We intercepted Warsaw Pact military voice traffic and it looked like WWIII was starting. The USSR invaded Czechoslovakia with 6,500 tanks, twice the number Hitler used to invade the USSR in Operation Barbarossa in 1941. My German friends stationed a few hundred feet away sent the same info to the German government. President Johnson was an utter dunce as can be seen by the Germans warning of the invasion. Even American news publications were reporting of the USSR getting extremely pissed off at the Dubcek regime. All of the spies I worked with liked Dubcek and his reforms.

    From Wiki about the Bundesnachtrichtendienst”

    “A further laudable success involved the BND’s activity during the Czech crisis in 1968. With Pullach cryptography[clarification needed] fully functioning, the BND predicted an invasion of Soviet and other Warsaw Pact troops into Czechoslovakia.[dubious – discuss] CIA analysts on the other hand did not support the notion of “fraternal assistance” by the satellite states of Moscow; and US ambassador to the Soviet Union, Llewellyn Thompson, quite irritated, called the secret BND report he was given “a German fabrication”.[8] At 23:11 on 20 August 1968, BND radar operators first observed abnormal activity over Czech airspace. An agent on the ground in Prague called a BND out-station in Bavaria: “The Russians are coming.” Warsaw Pact forces had moved as forecast.”

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