Matthias Küntzel Iran and Germany
As Berlin’s Federal Agency for Foreign Trade pointed out in last September’s brochure “Growth Markets in the Near and Middle East,” Germany is Iran’s No. 1 supplier of almost all types of machinery except for power systems and the building sector, where Italian manufacturers dominate the Iranian market.
But perhaps it’s not so surprising. The country’s position toward Tehran seems to be at a crossroads. The “grand coalition” government looks at Iran through different prisms. While Chancellor Angela Merkel argues for tougher sanctions if necessary to stop the Iranian bomb, Germany’s foreign policy establishment, including a key advisor to Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, preaches accommodation, even a “strategic partnership” with Iran.
Not so in Germany itself. “Sanctions get us nowhere!” countered Christoph Bertram in the weekly Der Spiegel last month. “Chancellor Angela Merkel should not back every Israeli warning of catastrophe.”
Berlin was particularly persistent in seeking to become a partner of Iran. Thus, the American sanctions effort was undermined by an intensified German export drive to Iran. Iran’s former ambassador to Germany, Hossein Mousavian, records the great delight this caused in Teheran: “Iranian decision-makers were well aware in the 1990s of Germany’s significant role in breaking the economic chains with which the United States had surrounded Iran…. Iran also saw the potential acquisition of German technology, in the context of the impositions of sanctions by the United States, as vital to the development of the Iranian economy.”
To date the watchword of Berlin’s Iranian policy has been: as few sanctions as possible, in order to protect German industrial interests; as many sanctions as necessary, in order to avoid negative headlines. It has been easy to advocate “a united approach” and hide behind the obstruction of Moscow and Beijing.
While Ms. Merkel emphasizes Germany’s historical responsibilities, particularly toward the Jewish state, Messrs. Perthes and Bertram unscrupulously reject such considerations. Economic and strategic interests trump all other concerns.