Archive for the 'Iran-Germany Relations' Category

Weekly roundup

Articles and reports from the past week
“New reports of Saudi-Israeli military cooperation against Iran”

The Times reports that Saudi Arabia has agreed to allow Israel to use its airspace in an attack on Iran, conducting tests to disengage its air defenses against Israeli jets (Times). Israel and Saudi Arabia have both denied the reports (Asharq Alawsat, Haaretz).
Similar reports have surfaced before, including the summer of last year (Times, Huffington Post).

“Looking for next steps after UN sanctions”
Amid widespread criticism over the efficacy of sanctions, Matthew Levitt counters that the new UN sanctions were precisely targeted and pave the way for additional US and European sanctions (Foreign Policy). The US and the EU already imposed new sanctions this week (Reuters, AP).
However, the Wall Street Journal reports that Germany increased its exports to Iran in the first quarter, pointing out that enforcement remains a key challenge (Wall Street Journal). David Sanger writes that the US, facing expectations that the latest sanctions will fail to stop Iran’s nuclear program, is also implementing strategies involving military containment and the luring away of Iran’s nuclear experts (New York Times).

“Russia keeps options open on S-300 sale”
An unnamed Russian source claims Russia is freezing a contract to sell S-300 air defense missiles to Iran based on the stipulations of the latest UN sanctions (AFP). However, the Foreign Ministry and other officials have indicated that the sanctions will not affect the contract (RIA Novosti, RT). Oliver Bloom details how the sanctions would not specifically prohibit the sale of the S-300 and only call for “vigilance and restraint” over the transfer of arms (CSIS).
Russia’s failure to deliver the system since the contract was first disclosed in 2007 has been a point of friction with Iran (Reuters). Russia is now offering the S-300 system to Turkey as well (RIA Novosti).

“Vienna Group, Iran send cautious signals on fuel swap”
President Ahmadinejad indicated Tehran’s willingness to pursue nuclear negotiations with major powers but promised that conditions for such talks would be announced soon (AFP). US officials also stated that the nuclear fuel swap deal could be the basis for negotiations, and Laura Rozen points out that the Vienna Group’s list of concerns regarding the Tehran Declaration could be interpreted as a “position paper” for potential future talks (Politico).
Meanwhile, Iran’s parliament called on the government to continue enriching uranium to 20% in response to “the bullying countries” (AFP).

“Green Movement unable to truly challenge state”
The one-year anniversary of last year’s controversial reelection of President Ahmadinejad was marked by “sporadic but minor clashes” in Tehran after opposition leaders cancelled protests (Al Jazeera). With the government appearing to be stable after surviving its internal instability, Juan Cole analyzes the Green Movement’s limitations and argues that the US should engage with the current regime in direct negotiations (Informed Comment).
Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett accuse Western journalists of overestimating the Green Movement’s strength (Foreign Policy). However, Karim Sadjadpour argues that the government has been delegitimized and faces stark economic challenges, and the Green Movement represents a long-term effort toward civil rights (Carnegie Endowment).


Weekly roundup

Articles and reports from the past week
“Economic challenges, subsidy-cut legislation threaten more domestic unrest”
President Ahmadinejad suggested a referendum to pass subsidy cuts that have been blocked by parliament. The cuts are raising concern over increased inflation and domestic unrest (Daily Star).
Jahangir Amuzegar outlines Iran’s economic difficulties, arguing that worsening conditions will add stress to domestic political turmoil (Carnegie Endowment).
Related post: “Growing economic concerns add to Tehran’s troubles”

“Sanctions watered down in face of continued difficulties”
David E. Sanger outlines some of the challenges faced by the US in pushing for additional UN sanctions against Iran, concluding that each successive round of sanctions becomes more difficult to pursue (New York Times).
In light of expected Chinese and Russian opposition, US and European officials have reportedly softened their proposals, dropping an attempt to ban trade of refined petroleum products (Los Angeles Times). European officials are denying reports that the UK and Germany are urging the US to soften the potential UN resolution on Iran (Politico).
Persia House reports that Iran has been “hoarding” gasoline ahead of potential sanctions (Persia House).

“China and Russia pressed Iran to accept U.N. deal”
The New York Times reports that Russia and China unsuccessfully urged Iran to accept the proposed nuclear fuel swap deal earlier this month, indicating that the two UNSC permanent members may be feeling pressure as Western efforts toward additional sanctions continue (New York Times).
Despite its declared opposition to sanctions, China joined a conference call of senior foreign ministry officials from the P5+1 states to discuss the proposed UN resolution (Reuters).

“Defining a containment strategy for a nuclear-armed Iran”
Mark Heinrich writes that some Western analysts are looking toward defining a “Cold War-style” containment strategy to deal with a nuclear-armed Iran. Such a strategy would work to prevent Iran from starting a conventional war, transferring nuclear information or materials to others, and support militant attacks abroad (Reuters).
See also “After Iran Gets the Bomb” by James M. Lindsay and Ray Takeyh (Foreign Affairs).

“Israel faces increased criticism over recent foreign policy”
Juan Cole argues that Israel’s controversial decision to expand settlements in East Jerusalem is hindering US and Israeli efforts to push for strong sanctions against Iran (Informed Comment). Orly Halpern argues that Israel is undermining its own security and international standing with its recent actions, including its continued exaggeration of the Iranian threat (Middle East Channel).

“Tensions high between trading partners Iran and Germany”

“Tensions high between trading partners Iran and Germany”
January 21-28, 2010
     Germany is denying Iranian claims that two German diplomats were detained for involvement in protests in December. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said sanctions would be “the next step” for resolving the nuclear issue, even without the support of China and Russia, and German engineering giant Siemens announced it would not seek new contracts with Iran, though existing contracts will be fulfilled (New York Times).
     The Wall Street Journal hopes Germany, Iran’s largest European export partner, is ready to “do its part” in isolating Iran, pointing to recent controversies over German technology that may have been used in the Iranian regime’s domestic crackdown. The Journal points out that Italy is also now supporting sanctions after a scathing report on Italy’s commercial ties with Iran (Wall Street Journal).
     Reuters reports that German exports to Iran declined but less steeply than to other countries, and other German firms are still pursuing trade with Iran, particularly in the gas sector (Reuters). Last week, Iranian newspapers reported that an unnamed German firm had entered a $1.44-billion deal for gas-related technologies and know-how, though Iranian energy officials later denied the report (Tehran Times, AFP).
New York Times | Wall Street Journal | Reuters | Tehran Times | AFP

Read more about Germany’s trade ties with Iran under “Iran-Germany Relations

“Israel calls for more attention to intercepted Iranian arms shipment”

“Israel calls for more attention to intercepted Iranian arms shipment”
November 5-7, 2009
     Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged world leaders to focus on Israel’s interception of a shipment reportedly carrying 36 containers of weapons from Iran headed to Hezbollah (see video here) (United Press International). The unprecedented seizure of 320 tons of arms on the Francop could be a “propaganda coup” for Israel as it faces pressure over the Goldstone report, which was endorsed by the UN General Assembly (Al Jazeera). Israel says that undisclosed cargo certificates had been stamped at an Iranian port of origin, but Syria, Iran and Hezbollah have denied the claims (BBC).
     Amos Harel argues that the “lukewarm” international response to the news of the seizure indicates that Israel’s security concerns are being sidelined by the US in favor of negotiations with Iran (Haaretz). Spiegel reports that there was “unease” among German officials as the Francop belongs to a German shipping company, although it is leased to a Cyprus-based firm. Another German-owned ship was recently intercepted with a smaller cache of arms [previously covered here] in an “embarrassing” affair for Germany (Spiegel).
United Press International | Al Jazeera | BBC | Haaretz | Spiegel

“German smuggler case highlights limits of intelligence assessments”

“German smuggler case highlights limits of intelligence assessments”
October 23, 2009
     David Albright and Christina Walrond outline the trials in Germany of Mohsen Vanaki for transferring dual-use equipment to Iran in 2007. One crucial element of the case involved discrepancies between US and German intelligence assessments of whether Iran had a nuclear weapons program at the time [previously covered here]. Vanaki was fined and given a suspended sentence on charges including the transfer of high-speed cameras typically used for military applications and the attempted export of radiation detectors.
     The authors point out that the term “moderate confidence” used in the 2007 US NIE [previously covered here] carries a significant level of uncertainty and conclude that that status of Iran’s nuclear weapons program should not be assessed based solely on the 2007 NIE.

“Germany ’embarrassed’ over Iranian arms shipments to Syria”

“Germany ’embarrassed’ over Iranian arms shipments to Syria”
October 12-14, 2009
     Spiegel reports that US soldiers discovered containers of ammunition on a German ship traveling from Iran to Syria in what one unnamed German diplomat calls an “embarrassing affair” for Berlin. The US claims the shipment violated UNSC Resolution 1747 forbidding all arms shipments into and out of Iran, and investigators reportedly believe the ammunition was headed to Hezbollah or the Syrian army. Spiegel describes the incident as “potentially damaging to trans-Atlantic relations” (Spiegel). Berlin has often been criticized for its strong trade ties with Tehran [previously covered here and here].
     Amos Harel quotes an unnamed senior Israeli military source who says weapons are being smuggled to Hezbollah on a weekly basis in a system in which “Iran pays, Syria smuggles and Hezbollah receives.” The source cites a lack of international pressure on Syria to break off ties with Iran or cease its smuggling activities. Harel writes that Hezbollah’s arms buildup is part of an ongoing “secret war” between the West, Egypt and Israel against Iran and its allies (Haarez).
Spiegel | Haaretz

“P5+1 accept Iran proposal; battle begins over agenda for October talks”

“P5+1 accept Iran proposal; battle begins over agenda for October talks”
September 10-14, 2009
     In its proposal for negotiations submitted to the P5+1 nations, Iran calls for talks on promoting the universality of the NPT and establishing an “equitable oversight function” for the IAEA to enable civilian uses of nuclear energy. While the proposal calls for “complete [nuclear] disarmament” and the prevention of nuclear proliferation, it does not refer directly to the Iranian nuclear issue. The proposal also mentions fostering peace and democracy in unstable regions, citing the “fundamental rights” of the Palestinians as a specific example, as well as reforming the UNSC and fighting terrorism and organized crime (ProPublica).
     In an interview, Samareh Hashemi, a close aide to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, compares the proposals to US President Barack Obama’s calls for complete nuclear disarmament and states that Iran hopes to establish a “new regime to prevent nuclear weapons worldwide.” Hashemi argues that the US position on the Iranian nuclear issue is being dictated by Israel and calls for the UNSC structure to be changed (Washington Post).
     The US said the proposal was “not really responsive” to concerns over Iran’s nuclear program, while Russia stated that the proposal deserved a unified response and repeated its opposition to sanctions (Agence France-Presse, Haaretz). The US accepted the offer for talks and insisted that the Iranian nuclear program would be on the agenda, and Iran has suggested the issue could be discussed if conditions are “ripe” (Al Jazeera). The talks are scheduled to start in October (Reuters).
ProPublica | Washington Post | Agence France-Presse | Haaretz | Al Jazeera | Reuters