German trade props up ‘Iran’s dictator,’ expert says

Despite sanctions, German exports to Tehran have increased; Iran should free pastor on death row, prominent German bishop tells ‘Post.’

Iranian clerics missile_521 (photo credit: Reuters)
Iranian clerics missile_521
(photo credit: Reuters)
BERLIN – Germany, Tehran’s No.1 EU trade partner, continues to lend legitimacy to Iran’s government and to prop up its economic infrastructure, a leading German-Iranian academic told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday.
Bilateral trade “stabilizes the Iranian dictator,” said Dr. Wahied Wahdat-Hagh, an expert on German-Iranian relations and a senior Fellow at the Brussels-based European Foundation for Democracy.
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“Even if Germany transfers technology for improving the environmental problems of Iran, it strengthens the totalitarian dictatorship. It would be very cynical if a German ministry would argue that transferring the technology for combating pollution in Iran would help the protests of the democracy movement,” Wahdat-Hagh said.
He criticized a recent study favoring trade with Iran authored by Heike Walk, from the inter 3 Institute for Resource Management, which was commissioned by Germany’s environmental agency.
“Iran is undertaking great efforts to diversify its energy sector,” including “with help of atomic energy,” Walk said in a interview with Die Zeit last week.
Despite new EU sanctions, German exports to the Islamic Republic increased by 2.6 percent between 2009 and 2010, reaching a total of 3.8 billion euros, according to new trade data the Post obtained last week from the Federal Statistical Office in Wiesbaden.
German exports to Iran dropped from approximately 2.22b. euros in the first half of 2010 to 1.76b. euros in the first half of 2011, but German imports of Iranian goods increased from 382 million euros to 453m. euros in the same period. The Federal Republic’s consumption of Iranian gas and oil rose during the first six months of 2011 to 280m. euros, from 197m. euros in the first half of 2010.
German critics of trade relations with Tehran have long argued that Iran finances its nuclear program with revenue from its energy sector. Seventy percent of Iran’s governmental revenues derive from its petroleum business, including 80% of the country’s export activities.
The anti-Israel German Left Party, which has 76 of the 620 seats in the Bundestag, sent deputy Jan van Aken to visit Iran in September. He called for a “solar dialogue” with Tehran and a relaxation of the dual-use sanctions targeting Iran’s technological and energy infrastructure.
Iran’s government has frequently converted dual-use equipment, which can be used for both military and civilian purposes, into lethal technology.
An example was Iran’s purchase of advanced speedboats from Italy several years ago, which were transformed for military use on the high seas to detain vessels.
A query about the number of approved dual-use deals in 2010 and 2011 to the German Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA) was not immediately returned.
The EU remains Iran’s most important trade partner, with a reported total volume of more than 25b. euros worth of trade in 2010. Almost 90% of Europe’s imports from Iran are energy, making the Islamic Republic the sixth-largest energy provider to the EU.
Meanwhile, Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani still faces the death penalty for questioning Islam as the dominant form of religious instruction in Iran.
Archbishop Ludwig Schick, who heads the Catholic Archdiocese of Bamberg in Bavaria and is president of the German Bishops’ Conference’s Commission for International Church Affairs, told the Post on Friday, “We call for the immediate release of Mr. Youcef Nadarkhani.
Mr. Youcef Nadarkhani was sentenced on September 22, 2010, by a revolutionary court to death by hanging in the city of Rasht because of ‘rejection of Islam’ and the ‘spread of non-Islamic teachings.’ The sentence can be at any time applied. He was apparently, therefore, arrested and condemned because he merely exercised his right to religious freedom.”
Schick continued, “A condemnation because of the choice of a religious affiliation stands in clear contradiction to Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is clearly noted in the (General Comment) Nr. 22 of the UN Human Rights committee from July 20, 1993, that in Article 18 the right to change religions is included. The Islamic Republic of Iran ratified in year 1975 the international covenant and committed itself to meet the obligations of the covenant.”
The Pahlavi monarchy government, which was in power in 1975, signed the international covenant. After the 1979 Islamic Revolution established the Islamic Republic of Iran, the new Islamic-backed government did not withdraw Iran's signature from the covenant.
The US State Department's 2010  International Religious Freedom Report notes that 300,000 Christians live in Iran. According to the State Department report, “Christians, particularly evangelicals, continued to be subject to harassment and close surveillance. During the reporting period, the government enforced its prohibition on proselytizing by closely monitoring the activities of evangelical Christians, discouraging Muslims from entering church premises, closing churches, and arresting Christian converts.”