Good job, Grenell

Grenell told The Washington Examiner earlier this year that he is focused on Iran because “it is a matter of life and death for many.”

March 31, 2019 22:04
3 minute read.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel receives the ambassador of U.S. to Germany, Richard Grenell

German Chancellor Angela Merkel receives the ambassador of U.S. to Germany, Richard Grenell, in Meseberg, Germany July 6, 2018. (photo credit: AXEL SCHMIDT/REUTERS)


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German exports to Iran dropped 9% last year, Benjamin Weinthal reported in Sunday’s Jerusalem Post.

Large German banks like Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank stopped doing business with Iran. German engineering companies have stopped exporting engineering equipment to Tehran. Well-known companies like Volkswagen, BMW, Siemens and Daimler are withdrawing from Iran’s volatile market.

The reason? US sanctions on Iran – and the unyielding efforts of America’s Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell.

In fact, in the German state of Lower Saxony, Weinthal reported, trade with Iran rose in the first half of 2018, but then dropped drastically in the second half of the year, due to US sanctions on Iran and Grenell’s arrival in May.

Grenell has made sure that the American position is amply clear. On his first day on the job, he tweeted: “US sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy. German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.”

The ambassador stopped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government from trying to evade American sanctions by sending $400 million in cash to Iran and convinced Germany’s government to ban terrorists’ favorite airline, Mahan Air, which helped the Iran-backed Syrian regime attack civilians.

Grenell told The Washington Examiner earlier this year that he is focused on Iran because “it is a matter of life and death for many.”

“We know [Iran] destabilized Syria; we know they have an aggressive strategy to use terror to destabilize the entire region. Their operation is growing in Europe,” he said, pointing to recent examples of involvement by Iranian diplomats in terrorist plots on the continent.

Grenell has strongly advocated for Germany to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, which it has continually failed to do, leaning on a false division between its political and military wings. There are 950 active Hezbollah members in Germany, according to intelligence reports.

Yet last month, after the UK took the important and necessary step of designating all of Hezbollah as terrorist, a spokesman for the German Interior Ministry said the government maintained that Hezbollah’s political arm is legitimate, even though he admitted to Weinthal that Hezbollah “fights the right of existence of the State of Israel with terrorist means” and that “such an objective is antisemitic in nature.”

As for the trade between Germany and Iran, not only is Berlin not trying to slow things down, it is actively attempting to increase business with Tehran and circumvent US sanctions.

Together with France and the UK, the German government is creating a financial mechanism called Instex to get around sanctions. Germany’s Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control (Bafa) defended sales of equipment to Iran that was used in chemical attacks on Syrian civilians in 2018, arguing that the material was not designated as dual-use merchandise that can be applied for military and civilian purposes.

Chambers of commerce across Germany have held seminars on how to do more business with Iran and get around the sanctions. Companies that are not doing business with Iran are not doing so mainly because they cannot process payments in banks that are complying with sanctions, an expert explained to Weinthal.

There is something deeply wrong with Germany’s treatment of the Iranian issue. This is not just a matter of Berlin’s responsibility toward Israel and the Jewish people to stop an antisemitic, genocidal regime while we are still within living memory of the Holocaust. Iran’s agenda of destabilization and terror puts the whole world in danger: from Caracas to Buenos Aires to Burgas, Bulgaria to Aleppo and beyond.

As the largest economy in the EU, German cooperation with sanctions would go a long way in hindering Iran’s ability to spread its death and destruction across the globe.

Grenell should be commended for working overtime toward that goal. And Germany should reverse its course.

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