BERLIN – German Vice Chancellor and Economic Minister Sigmar Gabriel’s three-day business trip to Iran over the weekend sparked a wave of intense criticism from members of his social democratic party and NGOs.
In an interview with RadioEins, Kevin Kühnert, the head of the Berlin youth organization for the Social Democrats, Juso, questioned Gabriel’s visit to conclude business deals with Iran.
“Did Germany do enough in the negotiations to eliminate the possibility of an Iranian atomic program or were economic interests so large that they have priority?”
Kühnert added, “Under Rouhani more people were executed than under [former president Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad. I don’t want to see pictures in which people are hanged from German cranes. Under these premises, I do not want to restart trade with this land.”
Reinhold Robbe, the head of German-Israel friendship society and a member of the Social Democratic party, sent The Jerusalem Post a statement from the daily Tagesspiegel, in which he was quoted as saying: “The trip is an absolute false signal.”
Green Party MP Volker Beck, who is the head of the German-Israel parliamentary group, warned in the same paper against “unprincipled courting of economic contracts in Iran.”
Deidre Berger, the head of the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee, told the Post on Tuesday, “Although the ink has hardly dried on the agreement, German Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel rushed to Iran with a business delegation. Iranian leaders were clearly unimpressed with Minister Gabriel’s admonition to improve their relations with Israel, particularly as he pledged to resume Germany’s friendship with Iran.”
She added, “For those who have observed repeated Iranian violations of international agreements, as well as followed anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, it was no surprise that he announced during Minister Gabriel’s visit that Israel and the US remain Iranian enemies.”
“This trip is likely to cause significant damage to German-Israeli relations — and that during the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic relationship. It adds insult to injury after Germany’s leading role in the negotiations, assuring Israel that this agreement would improve the country’s security.”
The trip also paves the way for other European leaders to travel to Iran and resume business as usual. Instead of trade expansion, the negotiating countries should focus at the moment on implementation of the agreement and Iran’s further activities, including state-sponsored terrorism and regional destabilization.”
Julia Lenarz, the director of the London-based Human Security Center, tweeted on Tuesday,” #Germany: We cannot accept Iran threatening #Israel. #Iran: We don’t care!! Germany: OK, we give you millions in trade anyway. Disgusting.”
Gabriel met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and parliament speaker Ali Larijani, who denied the Holocaust at the 2009 Munich security conference. He was accompanied by representatives from the engineering giants Siemens and Linde, as well as automobile manufactures Volkswagen and Mercedes.
In a stinging editorial in Germany’s largest paper, Bild, titled, “The Vice Chancellor in Tehran: Gabriel’s False Friends!,” Julian Reichelt lambasted Gabriel for courting Iran’s terrorist regime. He wrote, “The regime in Tehran is not ‘friendly’ with Germany as Gabriel formulated it.” He added,”These ‘friends’ are the world’s leading financier of global terrorism. Hezbollah is directed by Iran to preferably target Israeli sites, Shiite militias in Iraq are organized from Iran for years to explode American Humvees, including soldiers in the air.”
Reichelt concluded his editorial: “The Iranian regime carries out torture and terrorism as its policies. NO, those are not the friends of Germany!”
Regional papers like the Anzeiger für Harlingerland in Esens in northern Germany also took Gabriel to task for his visit. In an editorial for the paper titled, “Iran: Everything Deception,” Alexander Will said the tirades of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei should “ring in the ears” of Gabriel and German industry bosses. “Death to the USA” and “Death to Israel” were the slogans voiced by Khamenei’s choir, wrote Will. He said the lifting of sanctions on Iran will improve “support for an entire army from terrorist organizations.”