Berlin still rejects military option against Iran

With Berlin leaning toward tougher sanctions, Israeli officials to travel to Germany to turn up heat on Merkel.

Guido Westerwelle (photo credit: Reuters)
Guido Westerwelle
(photo credit: Reuters)
BERLIN – Germany plans to turn the economic screws on trade with Tehran, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Economics Minister Phillip Rösler announced since the International Atomic Energy Agency report last week that detailed Iran’s drive to obtain nuclear weapons.
“Sanctions are unavoidable and harsh sanctions are unavoidable too if Iran continues refusing to work with the IAEA,” Westerwelle said on Monday at the EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.
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Rösler said he favors boycott measures against Iran, with the caveat that “the fulfillment of previously authorized contracts are not overly affected,” according to a report in this week’s Der Spiegel magazine.
“This month an Israeli delegation will travel to Berlin to make proposals on how the sanctions could be further tightened. The Israelis are expected to deliver a list of names that includes companies and individuals who they say help prop up the Iranian regime,” Der Spiegel reported.
Germany’s annual trade with the Islamic Republic hovers at around 4 billion euros, making it Iran’s No. 1 EU trade partner.
A top-level representative from Germany’s Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA) told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday by e-mail that the agency would soon issue new statistics on deliveries of dual-use goods to Iran. Merchandise tagged as dual-use can be used for both military and civilian purposes. Germany has provided high levels of dual-use goods to Iran over the years.
Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threatClick here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat
Westerwelle and Rösler are members of the Free Democratic Party, whose small- and medium-business constituency, including the party’s foreign policy spokesman Rainer Stinner, has strongly resisted crippling sanctions on Iranian trade. Many FDP supporters are involved in the German- Iranian business relationship.
Westerwelle is looking into travel bans for more Iranian officials and freezing bank accounts, Der Spiegel reported.
The foreign minister was engulfed in a scandal earlier this year because his ministry – apparently with his approval – green-lighted the transfer of 1.5b. euros in payments for crude oil to Iran’s regime via the European-Iranian Trade Bank and the Bundesbank.
Lax enforcement of US, UN and EU sanctions targeting Iran has sparked irritation from Washington and Jerusalem about Germany’s lack of political will to pressure Tehran to suspend its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
“The forced closure of the Hamburg-based European- Iranian Trade Bank (EIHB) last spring was also the result of dossiers that were made available to the German government by Israeli, American and British intelligence agencies,” Der Spiegel wrote.
Dr. Matthias Küntzel, a Hamburg-based expert on German-Iranian economic relations and a critic of the Merkel administration’s failure to crackdown on trade with the Islamic Republic, told the Post, “Germany should either openly admit that it has resigned itself to living with an Iranian bomb, or do what is necessary to prevent an atomic bomb in the hands of religious fanatics.”
Küntzel has argued for a potent embargo against Iran and the closure of the German- Iranian Chamber of Commerce. In a Wall Street Journal article, he wrote that Iran’s violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty warrants, according to Chapter VII, Article 41, of the UN Charter – the “complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.”
Germany has long been viewed as the weakest European link in the anti-Iranian regime sanctions chain. The Merkel administration has showed no appetite to sanction the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps or Iran’s Central Bank. Both entities are deeply immersed in Iran’s nuclear program and finance its foreign terror proxies – Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Anti-Iranian regime activists have protested against forums and meetings in Berlin over the past two months meant to promote trade with the Islamic Republic.
The rift between Germany and Israel over how to sanction Iran is also playing out on the military front. While the UK and Dutch foreign ministers at the Brussels meeting on Monday did not explicitly rule out military intervention against Iran, Westerwelle categorically rejected it. Germany is, however, the only EU country that purports to see Israel’s security interests as integral to its own.