Believing that the ups-and-downs in Germany’s attitude towards Iran warrant sustained monitoring, we continue to spill ink on the subject – here, again. Berlin is just too important to the crisis with Tehran for the usual hit-and-run coverage.
So let’s start with some good news (well, it’s bad news – but at least there was a ‘good’ official response from Germany!) from the Berlinale film festival, which Iranian director Jafar Panahi was unable to attend being stuck in Tehran under house arrest.
“At the opening ceremony, German cultural minister Bernd Neumann called on Tehran to lift Panahi’s house arrest and allow him to travel to Berlin.”
Even Chancellor Merkel’s spokesman got involved when he
“Urged the Iranian government to allow Panahi to travel to Berlin to present “Closed Curtain,” saying that freedom for artists is a question of human rights.”
Likewise the German filmmakers honorably wrote letters and demonstrated at the event, disgusted by the actions of the Iranian regime. In the end, Panahi won an award for best script – which of course Tehran did not like.
Unfortunately, Germany’s diplomatic corps is not necessarily in sync with the spirit of its artists. Take, for example, Berlin’s ambassador to Iran – in his own words (according to Fars News Agency, to the best of our knowledge not publicly refuted):
“German Envoy to Tehran Bernd Erbel said his country should consolidate its all-out relations with Iran in a bid to avoid an undermining of its ties with Tehran by politically-tainted moves.
“As long as politics influences all dimensions of cooperation with Iran, we should increasingly strengthen ties with Iran in a bid to display our support for the Islamic Republic of Iran to everyone,” the German diplomat stated.
At the same time, in Berlin, senior German officials and lawmakers attended the Iranian embassy to celebrate the 1979 Islamic revolution – yes, the revolution that instilled one of the world’s most oppressive regimes.
This report in Die Zeit (for all my German speaking readers) delineates a host of Iran-related sanctions violations by German businesses, business people and engineers. These characters were dealing in satellite technology and large and sophisticated pieces of engineering equipment, which were then traded through bogus companies with the assistance of Iranian intelligence.
As if that weren’t enough, turns out German businesses are selling the Iranians drone motors, and opening up airlines which will fly weekly between Mashhad and Hamburg (also offering a connection to LA).
Meanwhile, Spiegel-online published (Feb 13) a report about Federal Customs Authority’s investigation against a former Iranian Financial Minister, who was stopped at Düsseldorf-Airport with 52 Million €-check. For some reason he thought the German authorities wouldn’t notice.
Going back a little in time: it was recently revealed that head of the German Green party – which claims to fight for human rights and related causes – high-fived Iranian Ambassador Ali Reza Sheikh Attar at the Munich Security Conference. Was it a ‘high-five’ for supporting Assad? A ‘high-five’ for hanging gays? Or a ‘high-five for arresting your opposition and suppressing democracy protests?
Ms. Roth… you tell me?
At least the German media responded in-kind:
“The newspaper Bild called Ms Roth “loser of the day” while a columnist for the high-brow Die Welt suggested the politician be cast into the “hall of shame” over the high-five incident.”
German ‘intellectuals’ have not been at the top of their game, either. Walter Posch from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, for instance, recently tried desperately to find some grey areas in what was Khamenei’s very black and white rejection of direct talks two weeks ago (see my post on the matter).
After a number of posts on Germany’s relationship with Iran (and a lot of interest and correspondence from German readers), we haven’t seen much change. At Iran Media Focus we would like to see Germany act towards Iran with more political and economic coherence – as well as moral consistency – and would also like the media to provide the public with more sustained coverage of related developments.