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Terrorism & Security

UN observers pull out of Syria as Western intelligence work ramps up

According to news reports, Britain and Germany are providing intelligence to Syrian rebels and looking the other way as Gulf countries provide rebels with heavy weapons. 

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There were also two separate reports yesterday that Britain and Germany have been offering intelligence support to the Syrian rebels.  The German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported yesterday that members of Germany's foreign intelligence service are monitoring troop movements in Syria from ships stationed off the coast.  Agence France-Presse quotes Bild as saying the ships are equipped with "technology allowing them to observe troop movements 600 kilometers (400 miles) inside the country," and "They pass their findings onto US and British officers who then supply the rebels with the information."

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The paper also cited an unnamed US official as saying that "no Western intelligence service has such good sources inside Syria" as Germany's does.

Separately, The Sunday Times in London reported that British intelligence is passing information to the Free Syrian Army from their bases in Cyprus, located off the coast of Syria, by way of the US and Turkey. The Daily Mail reports that a Syrian opposition official told the Times (paywalled) that "British intelligence is observing things closely from Cyprus. It's very useful because they find out a great deal. ... The British are giving the information to the Turks and the Americans and we are getting it from the Turks."

The official said that the British intelligence has been particularly helpful in monitoring the advance of regime forces toward the city of Aleppo, which has become a major battleground in the past month.  The rebels were able to use that intelligence to ambush the advancing columns.

The Daily Mail notes that Britain's MI6 and the CIA are believed to be "tacitly condoning" the supply of heavy machine guns from Gulf countries to the Syrian rebels.  A diplomat denied that the British were "facilitating" the supply of machine guns, but said that he could not rule out the possibility that third parties backed by countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia were enabling such transfers.

IN PICTURES: Conflict in Syria


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