German gov't blasted for Iran gas deal

Economic official from Chancellor Merkel's party accused of "lobbying on Iran's behalf" for deal.

Iran natural gas 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Iran natural gas 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
There is mounting political criticism being directed at German Economics Minister Michael Glos for his failure to clamp down on economic cronyism at his ministry involving trade with Iran, particularly a deal to supply Iran with €100 million of liquefied natural gas, first reported in The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. Free Democratic Party General-Secretary Dirk Niebel told the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel Saturday that Economics Ministry Undersecretary Hartmut Schauerte of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union had "carried out lobbying on Iran's behalf" to get the deal done and that Israel was "quite right to criticize" the deal. "What exactly does Mr. Glos say about this activity in his office?" asked Niebel. Glos's press spokesman refused to comment on the criticism. Glos is a member of the Christian Social Union, the sister party of Merkel's CDU. Merkel has been attacked by critics who say her tough rhetoric on isolating Iran politically and economically are empty gestures in view of the apparent support her government provided to Iran's energy and technology sectors. Some have even accused her of playing a "double game," supporting sanctions against Iran in public, while deals with Iran are made behind closed doors. "The chancellor shouldn't put on airs in crowd-pleasing speeches in front of the Knesset if she isn't going to take action at the crucial moment," said Green Party MP and head of the German-Israel parliamentary group in the Bundestag Jerzy Montag. "This smells of lobbying for one's own cause," said Montag. However, in an email to The Jerusalem Post, Schauerte said: "At no time and in no way did I exercise influence on the content of the decision. Because of the long application period that had already passed, I was only interested, in the interests of small business, in obtaining a decision, whether negative or positive." Schauerte, who led the efforts to seal the liquid gas deal with Iran, has become the focus for the criticism, which has also been stepped up in the German media. Critics are questioning whether the government will sack him for his alleged misconduct and pursue a parliamentary inquiry into the matter. "The report would barely have been noticed in Germany if the Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin, which is critical of Iran, hadn't immediately picked it up," wrote the large daily Suddeütsche Zeitung in a lengthy article examining "Trade with Iran" on Friday. A large number of other German news outlets, including national publications such as Die Zeit as well as regional papers have also reported on the gas deal. Merkel's spokesman, Ulrich Wilhelm, told the Post, however, that the gas deal is not in "her interests." "Apparently there are conflicts of interest within the German government regarding trade with Iran," said German journalist Alex Feuerherdt. "While the chancellor is 'not amused' about the deal with the Siegen firm SPG, the Foreign Office abandoned its reservations about the deal a while ago, and the Economics Ministry was in any case never well disposed towards sanctions against Iran. "Therefore, either Ms. Merkel does not have her government under control or she is playing a double game: solidarity with Israel is promised in pleasant words and the sanctions policy underscored, while, largely unnoticed by the public, trade with Iran not only continues, but is even actively supported by the federal government." German-Israeli relations have soured following last week's disclosure of the influence-peddling deal in the Post, just months after Merkel declared the existence of the Jewish state to be a national security priority for Germany. In response to a detailed written Post query seeking information about whether the deal violated the CDU's resolution to ostracize Iran politically and economically, CDU Foreign Policy Spokesman Eckart von Klaeden said: "As a member of Parliament, I cannot give any details on the transaction. I support in every respect the federal government's policy of reducing business with Iran as far as possible, as long as Iran, with its nuclear program, does not adhere to international law and threatens Israel."