The German government has opened a probe into an illegal Pentagon arms trafficking operation after a bombshell investigative report on the secret program went viral this week.
On Wednesday we reported on the continuing Pentagon arms pipeline to Syria which runs through Europe, the Balkans, and Caucuses, and which is based on a shady network of private contractors and altered US government paperwork. The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) produced conclusive evidence and internal memos proving that not only is the Pentagon currently involved in shipping up to $2.2 billion worth of (mostly old Soviet) weapons from private dealers to US-backed Syrian militants, but is actually manipulating paperwork such as end-user certificates in order to conceal the ultimate destinations of the weaponry (in this case Syria).
The new investigation also confirms Bulgarian journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva's prior findings, which exposed the role of Azerbaijan-operated Silk Way Airlines in the weapons airlifts. Though independent journalists and regional monitoring groups have been digging into the Pentagon arms shipments throughout the summer, mainstream European and American press were reluctant to cover the story, even as a steady flow of incontrovertible proof emerged online in the form of documents, photos, and videos of mysterious cargo planes being loaded with weapons. Over the past two weeks WikiLeaks has also highlighted the emerging details of a developing story which saw at least one journalist come under scrutiny by European security officials.
After a week of the story picking up momentum, it appears we may finally be seeing the beginnings of public and governmental investigations forming as European governments perhaps reluctantly take stock of Pentagon arms pipelines in their territories now coming under public attention and outrage. As Stripes reports, Germany announced a new legal inquiry early Friday:
The German prosecutor’s office in Kaiserslautern said Friday it is looking into a report that the Pentagon used Ramstein Air Base to transport weapons covertly to rebel fighters in Syria — an allegation, that if true, might have broken German law.
...The weapons transfer through Ramstein would have required permission from the German government, the report stated.
Officials with Germany’s Economic Affairs Ministry told Stars and Stripes that the ministry did not give the U.S. military permission to transport weapons to Syria through the country. They denied having any knowledge of such activities.
Part of the OCCRP and BIRN investigation spotlighted Ramstein as one of the many key transport hubs used in the Syria weapons trafficking program. The arms monitoring groups jointly published a side report on the Pentagon's questionable activities at the German US installation as part of its broader findings on Tuesday.
That report included a newly unearthed internal email authored by the Pentagon’s US Special Operations Command Mission (SOCOM) instructing its partnering contractors to, as BIRN summarizes, "stop trucking Soviet-style weapons from the Balkans through Germany" because "officials in Berlin became concerned about the deliveries."
The closing line of the SOCOM email explicitly acknowledges that, "Germany has become very sensitive to these requests."
SOCOM email published by BIRN's Balkan Insight on Tuesday: "Germany has become very sensitive to these requests."
BIRN questioned the German government over the findings this week and immediately caught German officials lying about their knowledge of the Pentagon weapons transfers. According to the BIRN/OCCRP summary of the exchange:
The German government earlier declined to comment on the nature of its “sensitivities”, and at a press conference on Thursday, continued to insist it has no knowledge of the movement of weapons to Syria.
German laws, however, dictate that licences to transport weapons must be accompanied by end user certificates which states the final destination of the shipment and who will be using the equipment.
According to the German government, no such licence has been issued for deliveries to Syria or neighbouring countries since 2010.
The report was backed up by one of SOCOM’s most important contractors on its Syrian contract, Global Ordnance, which shared the story on Facebook adding: “Glad Global Ordnance could contribute to support our military!”
Both leaked and public documents confirm Serbia to be another key logistical hub in the Syria weapons transport program. Multiple weapons end-user certificates were proven to be falsified or altered by the Pentagon, which is likely exactly what the newly announced German probe will look into. One of the weapons trafficking investigators told Foreign Policy this week that, “The Pentagon is removing any evidence in their procurement records that weapons are actually going to the Syrian opposition.”
Yet it appears that some of the very contracting companies and individuals involved in the shadowy scheme have over the years taken to Facebook and other social media platforms to brag about their role in the program and huge profits that resulted. BIRN's Balkan Insight has just today published a trove of photographs and postings it culled from social media which connect various arms dealers - some of them with known links to organized crime - to the Pentagon weapons program.
Arms dealer and Pentagon contractor for the Syria covert program, Marc Morales, uploaded photos on January 29, 2015 from the Zastava factory, Kragujevac, Serbia. He openly bragged about the contracts he procured: 'Another day in the office,' he wrote.
As the latest BIRN report notes, what is depicted in the Hollywood film War Dogs is sadly not at all a thing of the past or mere of recent history, but is current and ongoing. And unlike in the movies, real people - specifically Syrians and Iraqis - are dying as a result. But with the new German government probe just announced which was surely the result the story going viral this week, there is perhaps some hope that public outrage could continue to shine a light on such disgusting US government criminality.