In a dramatic move, Germany is set to become the first western nation and NATO member to break ranks and begin cooperating with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and set up an intelligence agency branch in Damascus, Sputnik News reports.
Although there has been no official announcement, anonymous sources quoted in the German Bild newspaper, confirmed that the federal government is keen to establish a branch of its Federal Intelligence Service (BND) in Damascus in an effort to counter IS.
The source said a decision on the move to renew ties with the Syrian intelligence agencies could be made as early as 2016 and may even involve reopening the German embassy in Damascus, which was closed in February 2012, when the German ambassador was withdrawn. The BND is reported to be anxious to quickly set up as a so-called Residentur in the Syrian capital, with a view to permanently stationing staff there.
There has been a long history of intelligence-sharing between Berlin and Damascus, which Germany believes is an important partner in the fight against radical Islamists. Diplomatic relations were broken off in 2012 when, the then Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, expelled the Syrian ambassador from Germany. The German ambassador to Damascus was withdrawn and the embassy closed for safety reasons.