US Senators, German Jews slam politicians' Iran trip

German deputies are set to meet with a Holocaust denier and business group in their upcoming trip to Iran.

US Capitol building 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Bourg)
US Capitol building 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Bourg)
BERLIN - Two democratic US Senators and the head of the Germany’s 105,000 member Jewish community urged German deputies, from the Bundestag’s German-Iranian parliamentary group, to pull the plug on their slated trip to the Islamic Republic on October 27.
"At this particularly sensitive juncture in diplomatic relations, the international community needs to continue to send a clear, unified message to Tehran as we pressure the regime to come to the negotiating table. A formal visit at this time - no matter how well-intentioned - is counterproductive and undermines our joint efforts to put an end to Iran's nuclear ambitions," wrote Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) in an email to the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
Dieter Graumann, from Germany’s Jewish community, blasted the group of deputies. He said the trip to Iran is "horribly false“ and added that trip "is a brazen piece of being on the wrong political and moral way, that of all things to visit a regime that continues to build its nuclear program and threatens the destruction of Israel and continues to deny the Holocaust."
Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) wrote the Post on Tuesday that he believes “that the decision to go ahead is unfortunate” and “that sending a delegation to Iran sends the wrong message."
The head of the delegation, Bijan Djir-Sarai, from the pro-business Free Democratic party, told the Post the deputies will meet with the German-Iranian chamber of commerce and Mohammad Javad Larijani, the head of the Iranian human-rights council. Asked if he was aware that Larijani denied the Holocaust and called for Israel's destruction during a 2008, German Foreign Ministry-sponsored event close to Berlin's Holocaust memorial , he said no. He stressed that the group will “point out the disgusting human rights violations” in Iran.
Critics of the trip such as Dr. Wahied Wahdat-Hagh see the human rights argument as a mere cover for the German deputies to advance economic interests. Germany is Iran’s largest trade partner, with bilateral trade hovering around 4 billion euros each year, and the members of the FDP have strong business ties with Iranian companies.
Wahdat-Hagh, a leading expert on German-Iranian relations, told the Post, "While the German-Iranian FDP politician speaks about human rights intentions, there are reports of Iran's state news agency that clearly articulate economic objectives."
Wahdat-Hagh first uncovered the report in the state-controlled news outlet The Young Journalists Club, which said that German deputies would meet with the chamber of commerce and Iran’s auto industry. Djir-Sarai denied a planned meeting with the auto industry, but confirmed the chamber of commerce event.
Wahdat-Hagh added: “Knowing that normally it is the role of such parliamentary groups to open the doors for the German entrepreneurs to invest in Iranian markets, it is clear that visiting the Iranian Chamber of Commerce has not the goal to discuss human rights abuses, or the problem of state anti-Semitism in Iran.”
The two other members of the German-Iranian group are Thomas Feist from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party and Angelika Graf of the Social Democrats. The trip is slated to take place between October 27 and November 2. Feist told the Post that he seeks to "maintain communication channels" with Iran. He added that the delegation plans to visit the Jewish community in Iran. He stressed that “human rights violations” will be the central point of the trip.
Additional, wrote Graumann, the regime in Tehran "brutally represses and murders opposition" in Iran and supports the butcher regime in Damascus, as well as functioning as the main financier of international terrorism.
"The parties in the Bundestag should set the deputies straight," noted Grauman, adding that it is "sad and incomprehensible that is even necessary."
A spokesman for the German foreign ministry wrote the Post: "The deputies of the Bundestag decide for themselves about their trip. The Iran policy of the Federal Government toward Iran’s nuclear program remains well-known and unchanged.“
Tina Wender, a spokeswoman for the FDP fraction in the Bundestag, declined to comment on the role of Djir-Sarai in Iran and whether the party supports his trip.