German intel officers say Schalit deal 'still fragile'

Senior BND officials say the Iranian government could attempt to sabotage the prisoner exchange; BND head says deal "a source of pride."

By JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
October 15, 2011 18:17
2 minute read.
German intelligence agency BND

Germany's intelligence agency BND 311 (R). (photo credit: Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters)

 
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BERLIN – The prisoner swap to free Gilad Schalit is “still fragile” and Iran’s government could try to throw a wrench into the negotiation process to disrupt the agreement, Germany’s senior foreign intelligence representatives told reporters in the capital on Friday.

Ernst Uhrlau, the head of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) and Gerhard Konrad, the BND agent who helped lay the groundwork for the exchange, expressed worries about possible intervention by Iran.

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Uhrlau, a member of the Social Democratic Party who plans to step down as head of the BND this year, said Germany’s role in the Schalit agreement was a source of “pride.” Uhrlau has overseen the BND since 2005.

Dieter Arndt, the BND’s spokesman, told The Jerusalem Post on Friday, “We are, of course, pleased that this issue has reached an agreement and we are pleased for Schalit and the family of Schalit, when it comes to a conclusion.”

Arndt told the Post the BND agent “no longer” played a role during the final stages of the negotiations. According to Israel’s and Germany’s governments, the Egyptians took over the lead in the complex bargaining process and sealed the agreement.

Arndt did say, however, that Konrad “invested a lot of time, work and energy” in the Schalit release and he was involved during the years 2008-2010, and a “little in 2011.”

Konrad, who is in 50s, was the head of BND office in Damascus between 1998 and 2002 and speaks fluent Arabic.

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He apparently has a PhD in Islamic studies, and his wife also works for the BND.

He currently has a beard. It is unclear if Konrad speaks Hebrew. Konrad has crisscrossed the Middle East, including spending time in Gaza, Egypt and Israel, to secure Schalit’s release.

According to a report in the mass circulation Bild newspaper, a Mossad official said that if Konrad could get frequent flyer bonus miles, he could fly free for the rest of his life. An Israeli negotiating partner of Konrad said he has “nerves of steel,” The Guardian paper wrote.

Konrad’s motto is, “I fail until I’m successful,” according to the Guardian.

The BND head, Uhrlau, played a critical role in the talks to secure former IDF colonel Elhanan Tannenbaum from Hezbollah imprisonment in 2004 as part of a prisoner swap. The swap resulted in the exchange of 435 prisoners held by Israel in return for Tannenbaum’s release and the return of the bodies of three soldiers killed during an ambush along the Lebanese border.

Konrad led the talks in 2009 to gain the release of the bodies of two IDF reservists, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, for the freedom of five terrorists, including the child-murderer Samir Kuntar.

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