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Trump's Iran Debacle: What Will Germany and Russia Do?

By       Message Daniel Lazare       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   30 comments

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From youtube.com: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin {MID-292177}
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin
(Image by YouTube, Channel: Wall Street Journal)
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In the wake of Donald Trump's thoroughly unsurprising decision to scuttle the Iran nuclear accord, two countries that may be most in the hot seat are Germany and Russia. The big question now is whether their mutual discomfort leads them to find common cause.

Angela Merkel's plight is especially painful. Not only are Germany's extensive business links with Iran at risk thanks to Trump's decision to re-apply sanctions, but the German chancellor's political fortunes have taken a beating thanks to years of American incompetence in the Middle East.

In Libya, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton devoted two weeks during the 2011 Arab Spring to persuading Qatar to join the anti-Gaddafi coalition, only to stand by and watch as the oil-rich emirate seized the opportunity to distribute some $400 million to murderous Salafist rebels spreading anarchy from one end of the country to the other. The result was a failed state that soon turned into a jumping-off point for hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees making their way to Germany and other parts of the European Union.

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Remarkably, Clinton did the same thing a few months later in Syria by teaming up with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other Arab gulf states to fund what would soon become a full-scale Islamist invasion. The upshot: more murder and mayhem, more refugees, and more terrorism when ISIS -- funded by the Saudis and Qataris according to no less an authority than Clinton herself -- decided to extend its jihad to Paris, Brussels, Nice, Manchester, Barcelona, and Berlin starting in November 2015. As if that weren't enough, Washington irritated its German partners by opposing the Nord Stream II natural gas pipeline, a Russo-German project headed by ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, and then, under Trump, by pulling out of the Paris climate accords last June.

Untutored Ambassador

A bruised and battered Merkel thus saw her share of the vote shrink by more than 20 percent in last September's German federal election while the anti-immigrant Alternative fur Deutschland saw its portion more than double. Now, Trump's decision to dump the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the Iran nuclear agreement is formally known, is making matters much, much worse. First, Israel took advantage of the move to launch its biggest attack on Syria since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, raising prospects that Middle East chaos may be poised for yet another upsurge. Then US Ambassador Richard Grenell showed what America really thinks of its German partners by tweeting: "As @realDonaldTrump said, US sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran's economy. German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately."

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From commons.wikimedia.org: Richard Grenell Needs tutoring. {MID-292182}
Richard Grenell Needs tutoring.
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Grenell, a former Fox News commentator, sounded like an all-too-typical American boss barking an order at an unpaid intern. Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn described the tweet as an "impertinence" while Andrea Nahles, leader of the center-left German Social Democrats, said: "It's not my task to teach people about the fine art of diplomacy, especially not the US ambassador. But he does appear to need some tutoring."

Quite right. But Germany is not the only one feeling the pain -- Russia is too. It is allied with Iran in support of Syria's embattled president Bashar al-Assad, yet has somehow managed to maintain good relations with Israel. This is why Putin invited Benjamin Netanyahu to be his personal guest at this week's May 9 Victory Day celebrations in Moscow where the Israeli prime minister joined Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in laying a wreath on the Soviet Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. When Putin paid tribute to the Soviet troops "who saved Europe and the world from slavery, from the horrors of the Holocaust," by defeating Nazi Germany (quote begins at 2:00), there was no doubt as to whom he was addressing.

But the celebration also featured a traditional Red Square military parade featuring not only unmanned robo-tanks and Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighters, but mobile batteries of anti-aircraft missiles. Less than 12 hours later, Netanyahu showed his thanks by destroying at least five Russian-made anti-aircraft batteries as part of the assault on Syria. According to the Israeli military, Israel notified Russia of the impending attack via "deconfliction" procedures in place since September 2015 -- which means that Russia more or less assented to the destruction of its own defense systems.

It's Up to Germany

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This can't go on, especially with Israel intervening ever more heavily on the side of pro-Al Qaeda rebels whom Russia, Iran, and Syria are trying to repel. The more the battle intensifies, the more impossible Putin's position will become.

The man needs back-up, but from where? The answer lies in the other signatories to the JCPOA -- China, the UK, France, and Germany. But the first is preoccupied with events in the Far East, the second is in political disarray, while the third is a joke thanks to the preening and arrogant Emmanuel Macron. That leaves Germany. If it provided Russia with even a modicum of support, the upshot could be a major shift in the way the deadly game of Middle East politics is played.

Germany has real clout with regard to the Jewish state. It is Israel's biggest trading partner in Europe and, after the US, its second largest trading partner overall. It is an important cultural and scientific partner, while Berlin, in one of history's more delectable ironies, is now home to one of Israel's largest expatriate communities, some 15,000 Jews and Arabs who find life in the German capital freer and more vibrant than back home and, as a consequence, have peppered it with Hebrew-language kindergartens, a Hebrew library, a Hebrew literary magazine, a Hanukkah market, and Iranian-Israeli techno parties.

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Freelance journalist and author of three books: The Frozen Republic (Harcourt, 1996); The Velvet Coup (Verso, 2001) and America's Undeclared War (Harcourt 2001).


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