This past week Iran’s foreign minister entered Germany with a swagger and left with his tail between his legs. We’ve decided to provide our readers with a full picture of media coverage for those who may not read both German and English.
I’ve already written a number of posts about the healthy nature of German-Iranian trade and FM Westerwelle’s hypocrisy when it comes to human rights in Iran.
Maybe my posts are having an effect – this from Reuters:
“I have good news – I heard yesterday that the P5+1 or EU3+3 will be meeting in Kazakhstan on Feb. 25,” he said at the Munich Security Conference. He did not make clear whether Iran had agreed to the meeting. He said he took with “positive consideration” comments by U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday in which he held out the possibility of direct talks with Iran.”
The German Foreign Minister responded with polite indifference.
Ruprecht Polenz, Head of the Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee, was rather more outspoken. His response to the flippant Salehi is worth a read and presented here at length:
“When Salehi was asked about the goals of Iran’s nuclear program, he launched into a long account of Iran’s rich history, its long civilization, and its outstanding scientific tradition. And then he said Iran would not be dictated to by any power. “We will be nobody’s lackey,” he insisted.
During this 115-minute panel discussion, besides shirking the answer about his country’s nuclear ambitions, Salehi blamed the international community for singling out Iran and not curbing the nuclear programs of other countries. He didn’t mention the case of Israel, but he certainly implied it. The international community, he said, was not interested in truth.
Ruprecht Polenz, an experienced foreign affairs specialist in Germany’s governing Christian Democratic Union party, was not prepared to remain silent over Salehi’s digressions.
In a rare show of outspokenness, he said that if Salehi cared so much about his country’s rich tradition, he should be worried about how the sanctions imposed by Europe and the United States were damaging his own people and even the fabric of society.
Moreover, added Polenz, if Salehi had nothing to hide about Iran’s nuclear program, why didn’t he spell out what Iran wanted to do with its nuclear power?
“Here in Germany, we have accidents on the motorway. One driver goes in the opposite direction of the traffic flow. When he is questioned, he blames the other drivers. It is they who were driving in the wrong direction,” Polenz said. “Iran is like a ghost driver. Always blaming others.”
Polenz, too, criticized Iran’s human rights record and how it was supporting the Assad regime in Syria.
When participants asked Salehi why Iran was supporting Assad by supplying it with weapons and fighters, Salehi simply replied: “The truth will decide.”
Clemens Wergin, in Die Welt, writes about this exchange and notes the irony that – of all countries – it was a representative of Germany, considered one of the weaker contributors to the sanctions regime, who came out so strongly against Iran.
And so with no luck in Munich… Salehi made his way to Berlin.
First of all, he was met by about a hundreddemonstrators protesting Iran’s abhorrent human rights record and opaque nuclear program. As he went on stage at a think tank he was called a murderer by a member of the German Green Party. He was then inundated with tricky questions which he struggled to answer (for my German readers). He was even challenged about the mythological fatwa (see my previous posts here and here on the matter).
Poor Salehi was also heavily criticized by much of the international media on the continued open support Iran provides Assad’s murderous military machine in Syria.
In fact, the Reuters piece rubs salt in the wounds noting the Iranian Foreign Minister’s pathetic responses:
“Iran was only sending economic assistance, food and fuel, said the minister, adding that the Damascus government and opposition should sit down, agree a ceasefire and call free elections in which he said Assad should be free to take part.”
And where would an Iranian official visit be without a question on Holocaust denial…
Salehi was asked by an Israeli newspaper correspondent if he would visit the Holocaust monument in Berlin to 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis, and what he thought of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s repeated denials that the Holocaust took place.
“Any holocaust is a human tragedy,” Salehi replied, refusing to be drawn deeper on the subject.
Overall: not a very successful trip for Mr. Salehi. Cudos to the media following him around for getting it right.