(photo credit: AP [file])
The unfolding German police scandal over elite commandos who allegedly trained Libyan security forces has revealed the possible presence of private German security firms in Iran. In an interview with the FAZ newspaper, Thomas Oppermann, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) chairman of the parliamentary panel that oversees intelligence and police agencies, said "there is cooperation on security with countries that cannot be considered 'perfect.'"
Oppermann cited Iran, Belarus, and Pakistan as examples of German security cooperation.
When questioned about Oppermann's statements in FAZ, an SPD spokesman told The Jerusalem Post that he "assumed that the connection is with private" German security companies who were conducting business with Iran.
On Saturday, Oppermann said he "did not know anything about Iran," and he did not understand how Iran appeared in the FAZ article.
GÃ¼nter Bannas, the FAZ journalist whose report appeared Wednesday under the headline "Shamefaced announcement," confirmed Oppermann's inclusion of Iran and noted that he referred to "state" cooperation with Iran on "intelligence, police, and BKA (Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office)."
In response to Bannas's comment, Oppermann said his mention of Iran was a "mistake" and the discussion dealt with "official police contact" between Germany and countries with unsavory human rights records.
Iran is a sensitive foreign policy matter for German-Israeli relations because Germany remains the leading exporter to Iran and supplies sophisticated technology for Iran's energy sector. Israeli critics have demanded that Germany sever its over 3.2 billion-Euro trade relationship with Iran.
An Interior Ministry spokesman told the Post that he found Oppermann's statement in FAZ "very strange." He added that the comments of the SPD spokesman were "speculations in the foreign policy area."
While the Interior Ministry spokesman said "security cooperation" existed between Iran and Germany on border police activity in Afghanistan, he was not aware of any private German security firms in Iran. "Private firms are not required to register their activities" with the Interior Ministry, said the spokesman.
According to the Interior Ministry, German security forces work with Iranian officials to combat the narcotics trade along the Afghanistan-Iranian border.
Germany has troops stationed in Northern Afghanistan as part of the NATO mission to rebuild the Afghani infrastructure and prevent Taliban-based terror.
There are "no regulations for security firms" who provide services to countries like Libya or Iran and they are "permit-free" when cutting deals with pariah countries, said Hermann Runte, director of the department responsible for sanctioned countries at Germany's Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA).
"You have to look at the individual case, what is concretely being done," said Runte. The BAFA, according to Runte, does not have a "comprehensive picture" of the activity of private security firms in foreign countries, and could not confirm if security companies are present in Iran.
"Iran is an absolute dictator, an inhumane regime and there should be no cooperation," said Oppermann. The parliamentary control panel has not addressed Iran, according to Oppermann, who has served as chairman since January. However, he said that the panel had dealt with the findings of the US National Intelligence Estimate report covering Iran's nuclear weapons program.
The suspected involvement of current and former German military soldiers in the training of Libyan police, as well as alleged security work for the Libyan Embassy in Germany, has led to a disciplinary investigation against a a German military policeman. In an e-mail to the Post, Dietmar Birkeneder, a spokesman for the German Defense Ministry, wrote, "The Federal Ministry of Defense does not collect or keep on file any information on the civilian activities of former members of the Federal armed forces." Birkeneder stated that the Defense Ministry had no knowledge regarding former armed forced members working for private security enterprises.
Bruno Schirra, a prominent German journalist and author of the book Iran - Explosive for Europe argues that the contact between the German and Iranian intelligence agencies is "too close."
He noted that the relationship has existed since 1982 and that German intelligence service (BND) provided computer monitoring equipment to the Iranian secret service in 1992. Schirra is slated to deliver a talk on the German-Iranian intelligence relationship at an upcoming conference on May 2 and 3 in Berlin entitled "Business as usual? The Iranian Regime, the Holy War against Israel and the West and the German reaction."