BERLIN – The US Treasury Department last week banned the Hamburg-based
European-Iranian Bank (Europaeisch- Iranische Handelsbank) from operating in the
US because it finances companies that help Iran build weapons of mass
NGOs in Germany and the US slammed German Chancellor Angela
Merkel’s administration for refusing to shut down a leading finance center for
nuclear proliferation and Teheran’s missile program.
“EIH has acted as a
key financial lifeline for Iran. As one of Iran’s few remaining access points to
the European financial system, EIH has facilitated a tremendous volume of
transactions for Iranian banks previously designated for proliferation,” Stuart
Levey, US under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a
Treasury Department statement.
“As international sanctions tighten, Iran
will find it increasingly difficult to find banks like EIH that will cooperate
with it. Treasury will continue to target any bank, wherever located, that
supports Iran’s nuclear or missile programs,” said Levey, who oversees American
efforts to stop the financing of terrorism across the globe.
Treasury proffered a list of EIH’s proliferation activities. “In 2009, EIH and
Bank Mellat facilitated nearly $350,000 of business between a weapons exporter
and a subsidiary of WMD proliferator Iran Electronics Industries (IEI),” it
“In a six-month period beginning in late 2007, EIH and the Export
Development Bank of Iran enabled Iran’s missile programs to purchase more than
$3 million of material; also in 2007, almost $1m. in business involving an
Iranian WMD proliferator was facilitated by EIH and Bank Mellat.”
Dubowitz, executive director of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of
Democracies and an expert on sanctions targeting Iran’s energy infrastructure,
told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, “Germany, one of Iran’s most important trade
partners, has recently developed a fragile political consensus in favor of
tougher sanctions. German businessmen, however, remain wary of losing lucrative
deals and are testing the resolve of European and American
Michael Spaney, a spokesman for the German chapter of the Stop
the Bomb NGO, said in a statement last week, “We call on the German chancellor
to immediately ban EIH. Germany must at long last become active in the area of
Iran sanctions. It is up until now about empty phrases. The German government
contends it want to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran while continued intensive trade
is carried out with Iran.”
A Foreign Ministry spokesman in Berlin said
the US informed Germany in advance of its decision to ban the EIH from American
markets. The spokesman said a German bank regulatory agency is strictly
monitoring the EIH.
The veteran New York Times journalist John Vinocur
wrote in his August column that US President Barack Obama appealed to Merkel to
shut down the EIH, but he was snubbed by the chancellor.
The EIH said in
a statement that the EIH “at all times strictly fulfills and observes applicable
legal regulations and all sanctions and export guidelines.”
Europe’s largest Iranian trade partner, with annual trade volume around €4
billion, and the third largest global business partner of Iran after China and
the United Arab Emirates.
Despite the international community’s efforts
to isolate Iran, many German companies, particularly engineering firms have
defied sanctions. German exports to Iran increased by 14 percent during the
first half of 2010 compared to the same period a year earlier.
the Linde Group, a Munich-based industrial engineering specializing in gas
technology, confirmed in an e-mail to the Post on Friday that the company plans
to walk away from its Iran business. Uwe Wolfinger, a Linde spokesman, wrote
that the company had decided “to stop our activities in Iran and with Iran
According to Wolfinger, Linde conducted €39m. worth of trade
with Iran in 2009.
While Linde has pulled the plug on new deals with
Iran, ThyssenKrupp AG, an engineering and military conglomerate based in Essen,
plans to continue trading with the Islamic Republic.
Alexander Wilke, a
spokesman for ThyssenKrupp, wrote by e-mail to the Post on Friday that the
company will “adhere to the national and international export and embargo
regulations” but declined to answer questions about whether ThyssenKrupp would
stop doing business with Iran.
He said that “4.5% of the shares “of
ThyssenKrupp are owned by the Iranians and that its business with Iran amounted
to roughly “€40m. in business cycle 2008/2009.”
Dubowitz, from the
Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Post, “The Linde Group’s
decision to freeze any future deals with the Iranian regime is a positive signal
that some major German companies – Allianz, Munich Re, Hannover Re, Siemens, and
now Linde are examples – have decided that their European and US business
interests are more important than their Iranian ties.”
He added that “Any
sign, however, that Germany’s political leaders are wavering on sanctions – and
their refusal to shut down EIH’s and ThyssenKrupp’s activities is a worrying
development – could collapse the sanctions regime before it has time to
This could force the US and Israel to consider less peaceful
German supporters of Israel have criticized ThyssenKrupp
for failing to uphold Germany’s “special relationship” obligations to the
security of the Jewish state.
Thyssen and Krupp, which merged in 2000,
were major users of slave labor during World War II and deeply involved in
advancing the aims of the Holocaust.