In the ever-changing world of foreign relations nothing can surprise you. The international call for sanctions against Iran is a perfect example. The usual terrorist suck up, France is gung-ho for more sanctions. The usually level headed Germany is a drag on the western world’s wish to use sanctions to avoid war. Why? Because its all about money. France fought the Iraqi sanctions because Iraq is a big trading partner. That is also why Germany is fighting sanctions against it commerce buddy, Iran.
In fighting the sanctions Germany is pushing the rest of the world to feel that thy have no other alternative—-War.
BY YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI
JERUSALEM–Business opportunities in Iran were the theme of a German government-sponsored conference last week in Darmstadt, Germany. “Iran is accustomed to crises,” the conference invitation delicately noted, “but somehow always keeps going forward.” In fact, Iran’s resilience is made possible in no small measure by Germany itself, which remains one of Iran’s largest trading partners. Now Berlin is balking at international attempts to intensify economic sanctions against the Tehran regime for its nuclear program. Just how discordant Germany’s Iranian policy is even within the European Union was made clear to me last spring, when I participated in a “roving seminar” on Iran and nuclear weapons that visited Paris, Brussels and Berlin. As the sole Israeli participant in the seminar–jointly sponsored by the German Marshall Fund and the American Enterprise Institute–I assumed that my role was to play the heavy, reminding naïve and self-righteous Europeans of the unpleasant truths of the Middle East. Instead, I encountered sobriety about the Iranian threat, loathing for the Ahmadinejad regime and sympathy for Israel’s fears. The Europeans I met were keenly aware of the danger of a nuclear arms race in the Arab world triggered by fear of a Shiite bomb. In Paris, a senior French diplomat said that, while he opposes a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, he well understands why Israelis see matters differently. In Brussels, a senior EU official went further, telling me how necessary it was for the U.S. and Israel to maintain the threat of a military option, which only strengthens European efforts at a negotiated solution. Everywhere our panel appeared, we met opinion makers who understood that the greatest threat to world peace was a nuclear Iran. Everywhere, that is, but Berlin. There, government officials spoke of giving the Iranians one more chance to prove their peaceful intentions. When I raised the possibility that at least part of the Iranian leadership holds apocalyptic religious beliefs that could encourage a nuclear strike against Israel–former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani declared in 2001 that “even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything”–I was dismissed as an alarmist. One senior German politician declared that a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities would be the worst of all scenarios–worse, even, than nuclear weapons in the hands of a regime that denies the Holocaust and threatens to launch another holocaust against Israel. This politician did, however, manage some outrage–over Israel’s settlements policy. In Berlin, it seemed to me that afternoon, the decision had already been made to learn to live with the Iranian bomb. Inevitably, Germans and Israelis approach the use of force with very different sensibilities. World War II taught us opposite lessons: for Germans, to suspect power as immoral; for Jews, to regard powerlessness as untenable. Still, I expected greater understanding among Germans of their responsibility in helping to resist the Iranian threat, especially toward Israel. Germany, after all, is Israel’s most reliable friend in Western Europe. Since the early 1990s, for example, Germany has on several occasions upgraded Israel’s submarine fleet, offering it second-strike nuclear capability to counterbalance threats from Iraq and Iran. When the Iranian government sponsored its notorious conference on Holocaust denial last December, the German government sponsored a simultaneous conference on Holocaust remembrance. Why, then, the German obstructionism on efforts to contain a nuclear Iran? Business interests, of course, offer one explanation. Last year, German exports to Iran totaled about $5 billion. Though German trade with Iran has reportedly dropped this year by 20%, some 5,000 German companies–including major corporations like BASF, Siemens, Mercedes and Volkswagen–continue to do business in Tehran. As Michael Tockuss, former president of the German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce in Tehran, boasted last year, “Some two-thirds of Iranian industry relies on German engineering products.” Still, however substantial, business interests alone can’t explain Germany’s refusal to seriously confront the Iranian threat. The men and women I met in Berlin are obviously concerned about the stability of the Middle East and the safety of the Jewish state, and recognize that a nuclear-armed and expansionist Shiite regime is a danger, ultimately, to Europe as well. Perhaps another reason for German blindness on Iran is a misplaced sense of contrition. In insisting on engagement rather than confrontation with Tehran, Germans seem to believe they are keeping faith with the lessons of their history. All problems should be peacefully resolved; no aggressor is irredeemable. That was the message offered last week by German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger, who, even as he insisted that Germany was ready “if necessary” to confront Iran, quickly added that Berlin was prepared to give the Ahmadinejad regime “a chance to recover the international community’s lost confidence in its nuclear program. If Iran is ready to do this . then I think we can spare ourselves future sanctions debates.” The message Germany is inadvertently sending the Ahmadinejad regime is: Continue to hold out because the West is divided and ultimately will abandon not only the military option but the economic one, too. Germany’s Iran policy undermines its own lofty goals. By weakening the sanctions effort, Germany is sabotaging the only real alternative–as French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has described sanctions–to war with Iran. By strengthening the Iranian regime, Germany endangers Israel, to whose well-being it is committed. And perhaps most ironic of all, by appeasing evil rather than resisting it, Germany compromises its profound efforts to break with its past.