Friday, July 17, 2015

German-Iran business ties complicate relations with Israel

Benjamin Weinthal writes @ Jerusalem Post:

A flourishing German-Iran business relationship complicates relations between Jerusalem and Berlin. After all, many of the new deals could involve dual-use goods, which can be used for both military and civilian purposes. Germany has a long history of selling chemical agents to Bashar Assad’s regime, as well as dual-use technology to Iran’s regime.

With the adoption of the Iran nuclear deal by world powers – including Germany – on Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel's administration issued a full-throated endorsement of the agreement that will also advance her country’s economic interests.  The deal has, however, exacerbated certain tensions in the German-Israel relationship.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told German broadcaster ARD, “This is a responsible deal and Israel should also take a closer look at it and not criticize the agreement in a very coarse way.

Israel’s embassy in Berlin told The Jerusalem Post, “Federal Foreign Minister Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier stated in the ARD interview that certain issues are not to be discussed in public, as it is common practice among amicable partners. Along the same line, what we have to convey to our German partners, we also express directly and not through the media.”

Steinmeier said, “I will certainly travel to Iran, but I don’t have concrete travel plans yet.”

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel plans to fly to Iran on Sunday to quickly tap the trading opportunities from the deal. [...]

Ulrike Becker, a spokeswoman for Stop the Bomb, told the Post Gabriel’s trip sums up the problem: “Even before the agreement is ratified, and sanctions lifted, Germany vice chancellor [Gabriel] paves the way for billion-dollar deals. And [it’s only] a few days after Iran’s regime on the occasion of the anti-Semitic al-Quds day documented its intention to destroy the Jewish state. It is significant that 70 years after the Shoah, the federal government stands in the first row when it concerns business with the anti-Semitic Iranian regime.”

Gabriel described the deal as a “historic breakthrough,” adding that it was now time to talk about a change in the relationship between Iran and Israel. It is unclear if he will confront Iran regarding its efforts to kill Israelis, including through terrorist attacks.

During his visit to Israel in 2012, Gabriel called Israel an “apartheid regime.”

Gabriel, chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, has not issued such public rebukes regarding Iran’s human rights record, including punishing gays by death, and unjustly imprisoning Baha’is, Kurds and Sunni Iranians.  [...]

The rift between Germany and Israel over the Iranian threat has been an ongoing point of conflict.

Writing on Sunday in the Berlin- based Tagesspiegel daily, former Israeli ambassador to Germany Shimon Stein and Hebrew University historian Moshe Zimmermann said there is an “asymmetry” in the views of Israel and Germany toward Iran’s nuclear program.

From Israel’s point of view, the Merkel administration has been playing down the Iranian threat.

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency – the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution – wrote in a report in June, “Germany anticipates that Iran will continue its intensive procurement efforts in Germany” in connection with illicit nuclear and missile technology.  The German government seem to be discounting the relevance of the intelligence data.  More.

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