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German Greens and the Iranian Connection

German Greens and the Iranian Connection

By David N. Neumann
January 25, 2012

Earlier this month, the Chair of German Parliament’s Human Rights Committee paid a fruitless trip to Iran. According to Iranian state media Thomas Koenigs, a German Green MP was even harshly criticized by Tehran for West’s “double standard policies” on human rights.

Mr Koenigs’ feeble position towards the brutal policies of Iran’s Islamic Republic is neither a personal nor a singled out approach when it comes to the history of the policy of “rapprochement” by the German Green Party towards Iran.

Fischer era

When Joschka Fischer became Foreign Minister in 1998, he developed an excellent relationship with Iranian leaders and businessmen who were tasked to attract western investments on behalf of Tehran. He frequently visited Iran and became a staunch advocate of the policy of rapprochement.

In 2005, when Fischer was nearing his 60s, the 29-year-old Iranian Minu Barati became his fifth wife. The couple’s villa in Berlin’s affluent Grunewald area is worth several million Euros.

Fischer now runs a lobby firm in Berlin advocating for the “Nabucco” project - tunnelling gas pipelines from Asia and Middle East to Europe - which requires close contacts with Iran.

In Brussels, the Iranian lobby worked hard during the presidency of “moderate” Mohammad Khatami in early 2000, to establish a formal delegation for relations with the European Parliament. Ironically enough, when Khatami left office in 2005 leaving place to the “hard-line” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the “rapprochement” only intensified. The parliament’s “Iran Delegation”, established when Ahmadinejad took office, has always been in the hands of the Greens with its first two chairs, German MEPs Angelika Beer and Barbara Lochbihler.

Camp Ashraf

A German foreign adviser of the Greens Group in the European Parliament, Sabine Meyer, the “de facto leader” of the Iran Delegation, has reportedly worked close with Iranian embassy staff in Brussels to organise parliament trips to Tehran, while inviting “defectors” from Camp Ashraf - Iranian opposition refugee camp of MEK in Iraq - to the parliament almost with an obsession to attack this group.

Under pressures from Tehran, Camp Ashraf was later brutally attacked by the Iraqi army in 2009 and 2010, leaving dozens of defenceless refugees killed and hundreds badly wounded.

Last year, Mr Fischer’s close friend and former head of cabinet, Martin Kobler, was appointed as UN Secretary General’s Special Representative and the head of UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).

A critical mission in Ambassador Kobler’s term has been to find a solution for Camp Ashraf. Kobler has however held lengthy meetings with Hassan Danaifar, Iran’s Ambassador in Baghdad, while maintaining his good relations with his colleagues in the German Green Party.

On 25 December 2011, Kobler signed an agreement with Baghdad without the approval of Ashraf’s inhabitants, as opposed to Ban Ki-moon’s guidelines “to support and facilitate the implementation of any arrangement that is acceptable to the Government of Iraq and the camp residents.” This action could seriously damage UN’s credibility as an interlocutor in the negotiations as Kobler is seen more inclined to satisfy Iraqis rather than getting assurances for the safety of Ashraf refugees.

On 22 January, Kobler was quoted by Danaifar in Iranian media calling the refugees in Ashraf “a terrorist grouplet” that the UN “would never support”. A claim that could reflect Kobler’s personal position, as MEK was never registered on UN’s terrorism list and was removed from the EU list in 2009 following European court rulings. The Federal Office for the Protection of the German Constitution (BfV) also removed MEK from its black list in June 2010.

Iran’s operative

A familiar name for Iran pundits in Berlin is Ali Mahdjoubi, head of the Bundestag-office of Claudia Roth, joint Leader of the German Green Party. Sources with contacts within Iran’s hierarchy confirm that Mahdjoubi maintains close links with Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and has a mission to improve relations between Tehran and Berlin. When a delegation from Bundestag paid a visit to Tehran in October 2010, the arrangement was made by Mr Mahdjoubi. He did the same for Thomas Koenig’s visit to Tehran in January this year.

In 2008, when a group of cross-party German MPs took the initiative to invite the leader of the exiled Iranian opposition to the Bundestag, Mr Mahjoubi drafted a harsh press release that was issued by Ms Roth to condemn the visit. The statement was warmly received by Iranian state run Press TV, now banned by the UK.

German Greens were the only major political party in Europe to officially denounce sanctions on Iran’s nuclear ambitions as “illegal”. On Monday 23 January, EU Foreign Ministers imposed new unprecedented sanctions on Iranian oil industry.

“Iranian leaders couldn’t feel more relieved having their operative well-placed in the office of the leader of the German Greens,” says Berlin-based analyst Nemat Tavanai, who escaped Iran following the 2009 sham presidential elections.

“This helps Iran to easily influence key positions held by the Greens such as the Human Rights Committee in Bundestag as well as the Human Rights subcommittee and the Iran Delegation in European Parliament. UNAMI’s twisted remarks on Ashraf could be seen in the same context.”

*************

Political Writer David N. Neumann got his MA in political science in United States in 2004. Now back to Berlin, he writes freely on a variety of topics on domestic and global issues.

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