Germany stalls Iran talks over labeling Hezbollah as terrorists

Trump said in January that the European states have until May 12 to work with the US and improve the Iran deal, or the US will withdraw from the agreement.

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March 22, 2018 02:13
3 minute read.
US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron at t

US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron at the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, 2017. (photo credit: POOL)

 
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Germany’s government tossed a wrench into the ongoing Iran nuclear talks with the United States, rejecting a US demand to designate the entire Hezbollah organization as terrorist and blaming the Trump administration for its pro-Israel policies.

Two sources familiar with the US negotiations with Germany, France and the United Kingdom over correcting flaws in the Iran nuclear deal told The Jerusalem Post of Berlin’s position and said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration is the “least cooperative” of the three European powers.

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When asked about Germany’s position, a US State Department representative restated President Donald Trump’s demands from January, telling the Post on Monday: “They should designate Hezbollah – in its entirety – as a terrorist organization.”

The representative added that “we are working closely with our European partners to address our shared concerns with the JCPOA [the nuclear deal] and Iran’s malign behavior.”

According to the sources, Germany rejected the demand from the US negotiating team – and President Trump’s position – to outlaw all of Hezbollah, because the Lebanese militia “is linked to Israel-Palestinian peace talks.” The sources also said Germany considers the Trump administration as too pro-Israel.

One source said Britain and France are amenable to sanctioning Hezbollah. There are, however, differences between the French and British positions over what punitive measures to take.

Trump said in January that the European states have until May 12 to work with the US and improve the Iran deal, or the US will withdraw from the agreement.



Both the German Foreign Ministry and Merkel’s office declined to answer detailed Post questions about its position during the Iran atomic talks and its injection of Israel into the nuclear discussions.

Germany does not want to ban all of Hezbollah, specifically its so-called political wing, within the Federal Republic. According to a 2017 German intelligence report, 950 Hezbollah members fund-raise and recruit members in Germany.

After a Hezbollah-organized terrorist attack in Bulgaria in 2012, in which five Israelis and a Bulgarian were killed, the EU only banned Hezbollah’s “military wing.”

Hezbollah is a proxy of Iran.

THE STATE DEPARTMENT official said that the US “discussed the six non-nuclear/regional issues that the president also identified, and called for stronger steps from our European allies.”

In addition to banning Hezbollah’s full organization in Europe, the official said Trump wants the Europeans to “cut off funding to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, its militant proxies, and anyone else who contributes to Iran’s support for terrorism.”

Trump declared the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization in October.

The State Department official said US allies should “join us in constraining Iran’s missile development and stopping its proliferation of missiles, especially to Yemen.”

European countries “should join us in countering Iran’s cyber threats,” and “should help us deter Iran’s aggression against international shipping,” the official added.

European powers “should pressure the Iranian regime to stop violating its citizens’ rights. And they should not do business with groups that enrich Iran’s dictatorship or fund the Revolutionary Guard and its terrorist proxies.”

An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman declined on Wednesday to comment on Germany’s alleged opposition to remedying the Iran nuclear deal.

Powerful economic interests may be influencing Germany’s role in the nuclear talks. German exports to the Islamic Republic climbed to €3.5 billion in 2017 from €2.6b. in 2016.

The US official said: The “US continues to have productive talks with our European partners. We have discussed the areas the president identified in January where we wants to see improvements – including ensuring Iran never comes close to a nuclear weapon and addressing our concerns with the sunset dates, taking strong action if Iran refuses IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspections, and preventing Iran from developing or testing a long-range ballistic missile.”

The official added that “the deal’s greatest flaw is that its restrictions sunset over time, leaving Iran free in the future to pursue industrial-scale nuclear fuel enrichment, an important step in achieving a rapid nuclear weapons breakout capability."

“This is a last chance. In the absence of a commitment from our European allies to work with us to fix the deal’s flaws, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time the president judges that agreement is not within reach, the United States will withdraw from the deal immediately,” the State Department representative said.

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