(photo credit: Associated Press)
BERLIN – Booming trade between Germany and Iran in the first quarter of 2010 prompted the Stop the Bomb NGO to slam Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration on Wednesday for protecting its tight economic relationship with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government.
“Every continued form of support on the economic and political level represents direct complicity with the terror of the Ahmadinejad clique,” Stop the Bomb spokesman Andreas Benl, based in Hamburg, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
According to the pro-Teheran German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce in Hamburg, there was a significant increase in German exports to Iran, to €385 million in March 2010 from €261m. in March 2009. During the period January to March of this year, German exports to Iran increased by 15% from the same period in 2009. Iranian exports to Germany climbed 94% during the first quarter of 2010, compared to the same period a year ago.
“The Iran lobby’s rejoicing shows that nothing has changed in the support by German industry that is crucial to the regime’s existence, and that there is no sign of a ‘discouragement strategy’ by the federal government. Germany continues to be Iran’s most important trading partner,” Benl said.
When asked about the spike in trade and whether the flourishing commerce is endangering the “special relationship” between Israel and Germany, a spokesman for the Merkel administration wrote in an e-mail to the Post: “How representative the data from which you quoted quarterly numbers are as a snapshot – and with a view of the remaining entire-year comparison – I have to refer you to the appropriate agency, the Federal Economics Ministry.”
The German government spokesman reiterated Merkel’s comments at her appearance with President Shimon Peres in Berlin in January. “It is, for us, a part of our national security interests to advocate for the security and future of Israel.”
The German chapter of Stop the Bomb seeks crippling German-based sanctions against the Iranian government, to force a suspension of its illegal nuclear enrichment program, and advocates support for the pro-democracy movement in Iran.
After a series of reports in the Post exposed the Merkel administration’s decision in 2008 to facilitate a €100m. deal to build three liquefied natural gas plants in Iran, the German Economics Ministry implemented a nonbinding “discouragement strategy” to curb trade with Iran. In the event, the nonenforceable trade regulation to limit trade with Iran resulted in increased business with Teheran during 2009.
Benl, from Stop the Bomb, said that in view of the proposed fourth round of UN Security Council sanctions, “The way in which the sanctions decisions are implemented by the federal government will show whether Germany intends for the first time to withdraw its protective hand from the Islamists in Teheran and impose harsh sanctions, or whether the federal government’s criticism of the Iranian nuclear program, its anti-Semitism, and the Islamic Republic’s terror toward the opposition is just a cover behind which business continues to flourish.”
Merkel has sent out contradictory foreign policy messages regarding her government’s willingness to clamp down on the German-Iranian trade relationship. In January, she said that her government had “clearly” reduced the trade volume with Iran. Yet the federal government’s statistics show that while overall foreign trade has dropped 18.4%, trade to Teheran was only reduced by 5.3%.
In 2009, Germany engaged in €3.71 billion worth of commerce with Iran.
That helps to explain why the large liberal daily Süddeutsche Zeitung
cast doubt in February, in an article titled “Iran Sanctions: Industry
vigorously collects the proceeds,” on Merkel’s assurance that her
administration has cracked down on the trade.
While Israeli diplomats have complained for two years in the Israeli
and German press about Berlin’s failure to turn the screws on its
economic relations with Iran, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy
declined to comment on the new increased trade levels with Teheran.
Michael Tockuss, the director of the German-Iranian Chamber of
Commerce, did not immediately reply to a Post e-mail query and
telephone calls. The chamber has faced criticism over the years for its
energetic support of trade with Iran. According to the chamber’s Web
site, it promoted the visit of Iranian Ambassador Ali Reza Sheikh Attar
to Magdeburg in March. Iranian Kurds and human rights groups say Attar
sanctioned a massacre of Iranian Kurds during his tenure (1980-1985) as
governor of the Kurdistan and West Azarbaijan provinces.