Germany's special relationship - with Iran

If Berlin continues its irresponsible business, it's clear who will suffer.

Merkel 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Merkel 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
For the last three weeks the German government has been inundated with criticism for doing business with the world champion of anti-Semitism, approving as "no cause for concern" the delivery to Iran of three gas liquefaction units manufactured by Steiner-Prematechnik- Gastec (SPG), based in Siegen. Hartmut Schauerte, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's government and MP for her Christian Democratic Union, played a vital role in pushing through the 100 million euro deal, for which he never heard a word of criticism from her. What cannot be overlooked, however, is this blatant contradiction of Merkel's deeming Israel part of Germany's national security interests during her Knesset speech last March. Although Merkel stated then that Israel's security is "non-negotiable," her government is facilitating a deal that strengthens Israel's number one enemy. Iran, on its way to becoming a nuclear power, continually threatens the Jewish state with annihilation, while supporting anti-Semitic terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hizbullah - not to mention brutal disregarding basic freedoms and rights for its own people. The deal with SPG has made it clear that commitment and a sense of responsibility are lacking in regards to Germany's declared national objective of preserving the existence of the Jewish state. Existing sanctions and export restrictions have proved completely insufficient. Sanctions that are limited to "dangerous" dual-use goods are naïve in the context of a regime that uses construction cranes for gallows. Sanctions alone can no longer stop Iran's nuclear buildup. Its recent rocket test launches and the ongoing enrichment of uranium demonstrate there is no reason to believe that Teheran lacks the resources to go nuclear. THE ONE remaining alternative to military scenarios has not been genuinely attempted: targeting the regime with the most painful economic and political sanctions possible. It is not going to be possible to enforce sanctions quickly enough or hard enough through the United Nations. But that can't serve as an excuse, especially not for Germany. Germany is Iran's most important trade partner in the West and an irreplaceable supplier of its technology. In fact, 2008 could be a record year. Export volume grew by 13.6 percent in the first quarter; 1,926 business deals with Iran were reported to the relevant authorities by the end of July, 63 percent more than in 2007. Gas liquefaction units for fuel production are one example of how German exports directly support the regime. Despite its wealth of raw materials, Iran has to import 40% of its fuel. Its infrastructure for the extraction and production of oil and gas needs to be modernized and expanded. Gas rationing was the cause of social unrest, including riots, that broke out in Iran last summer. If Germany does not have the legal grounds to stop these exports, such measures must be passed as quickly as possible. For now, the only thing we hear from the Chancellor's Office is that it will be "talking" with SPG, and that there are "moral" and "ethical" obligations. In short, German business should be more "sensitive" regarding Iranian deals - i.e., simply not publicize its commercial activity with Iran. Deputy Iranian Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari told Financial Times Deutschland that German-Iranian business should be conducted outside of the public spotlight, noting that German companies "can make a commercial deal without publicity." This certainly does not sound like the beginning of a determined and responsible Iran policy. And it looks to get worse: There are signs that the German energy company RWE will join Austrian OMV and Swiss' EGL to sign a gas deal with Iran. Gas could be supplied through the Nabucco-pipeline beginning in 2013, a project that RWE joined in February. The German goal is to decrease energy-dependence on Russia by becoming more dependent on Iran. A nuclear Iran that is one of Germany's - and Europe's - main energy suppliers would raise appeasement policy to a new level. There is still time to prevent such a scenario. But if Germany continues its irresponsible business as usual, it is clear who will pay the price: the Iranian people, who suffer under a brutal regime, and, of course, Israel. The writer is a co-founder of the Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin, an NGO with German and exile-Iranian members (