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While Iran is dependent on German and European imports, the level of dependence of German industry on Iran is negligible: Iran absorbs 0.5% of Germany’s exports, making it the 43rd largest export market in 2010. These proportions are reflected at European level. In 2010 almost a quarter of Iranian imports came from the EU, with only 1% of EU imports going the other way.

To date the watchword of Berlin’s Iranian policy has been: as few sanctions as possible, in order to protect German industrial interests; as many sanctions as necessary, in order to avoid negative headlines. It has been easy to advocate “a united approach” and hide behind the obstruction of Moscow and Beijing.

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But those days are gone now. A turning-point has been reached that challenges the reigning paradigm of German-Iranian relations. Is the German government going to consider 0.5% of Germany’s exports more important than solidarity with the West and the special relationship with Israel? Or will it throw Germany’s special relationship with Iran into the scales to prevent it from getting nuclear weapons?

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Küntzel is an external research associate at the Vidal Sassoon International Centre for the Study of Antisemitism (SICSA) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a member of the Board of Directors of the German chapter of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME). Matthias holds a tenured part-time position as a teacher of political science at a technical college in Hamburg, Germany.
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