Exclusive: German intelligence contradicts Merkel on Iran's nuclear drive

The domestic intelligence agencies in Germany are the functional equivalent of Israel’s Shin Bet.

Angela Merkel gestures during a cabinet meeting in Berlin (photo credit: HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/REUTERS)
Angela Merkel gestures during a cabinet meeting in Berlin
A German intelligence report from the city-state of Hamburg said Iran’s regime is continuing to seek weapons of mass destruction, delivering another intelligence agency blow to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s belief that the 2015 atomic deal with the Islamic Republic curbed Tehran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.
The Jerusalem Post reviewed the 211- page document that states “some of the crisis countries... are still making an effort to obtain products for the manufacture of atomic, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction (proliferation) and the corresponding missile carrier technology (rocket technology).”
The Hamburg report on Thursday added that “the current main focus points of countries in the area of relevant proliferation activities are: Iran, Syria, Pakistan and North Korea.”
Hamburg’s intelligence agency conclusions covering Iran’s alleged illicit conduct conform with the intelligence data from 2018 state agency reports in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse.
The domestic intelligence agencies in Germany are the functional equivalent of Israel’s Shin Bet (General Security Service).
The Hamburg intelligence official wrote that “Iran still constitutes, because of its previous nuclear relevant activities, the focus of Germany in the sector of counter-proliferation.”
The report said that “Iran continues to pursue unchanged an ambitious program to modernize its rocket technology with the goal of a continued increase of the reach of the missiles.”
Merkel said on July 9 that “[Germany] remains committed to the nuclear agreement. We think it was well-negotiated.”
Trump quits Iran nuclear deal, reimposes sanctions on Tehran (Reuters)
In May the US pulled out of the Iran deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive of Plan of Action (JCPOA), because of the agreement’s failure to prevent Tehran from building a nuclear weapon device. Merkel has not commented on the intelligence findings of state agencies that appear to significantly undermine her defense of the effectiveness of the atomic deal reached with world powers in July 2015.
Iran’s activities – ranging from espionage to support for Hezbollah and the spread of religious extremism – are cited 48 times in Hamburg’s intelligence report.
Last month Hesse’s state intelligence agency published a document on countering the spread of weapons of mass destruction, singling out the Islamic Republic of Iran as one of two states seeking to obtain the ultimate form of powerful weapons.
According to the document, “Weapons of mass destruction are a continued instrument of power politics that also, in regional and international crises situations, can shatter the entire stability of state structures. States like Iran and North Korea attempt, in the context of proliferation, to acquire and spread such weapons by, for example, disguising the transportation ways through third countries.”
The Post reported in June that the intelligence agency of Baden-Württemberg wrote in its report: “Iran continued to undertake, as did Pakistan and Syria, efforts to obtain goods and know-how to be used for the development of weapons of mass destruction and to optimize corresponding missile-delivery systems.”
Bavaria’s intelligence agency noted in its April report: “Iran, North Korea, Syria and Pakistan are making efforts to expand their conventional weapons arsenal through the production of weapons of mass destruction.” The Islamic Republic of Iran sought to obtain illicit goods for its missile program from Germany, the intelligence agency for Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, the Post reported in June.
The North Rhine-Westphalia intelligence agency wrote: “Because of the demand for relevant goods for its rocket program, Iran continues to represent proliferation defense in our work.”
German exports to Iran rose to 3.5 billion euros in 2017 from 2.6 billion euros in 2016.
The Federal Republic conducts dual use deals with the Islamic Republic, in which German technology and equipment can be used for military and civilian purposes. The Post reported in February that Iranian businessmen purchased industrial material from the Krempel company in Baden-Württemberg that was later found in chemical rockets used to gas Syrian civilians in January and February.
A total of 24 Syrians were severely injured in those poison gas attacks. Germany’s Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control told the Post that the Krempel material was not a dual-use item, and declined to stop trade between Krempel and the Islamic Republic.
Amir Taheri, a leading Iranian journalist, wrote on Thursday on his Twitter feed that the “Russian steel firm Sursthal ceases trading with Iran, citing threat of US sanctions. Its Iranian partner Fulad Mubarakah says it is in talks with German firms to fill the gap with Berlin government backing.”