How to Become a World Power

BERLIN/TEHRAN/WASHINGTON (Own report) - Berlin is seeking to use Washington's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal to increase its pressure on Tehran. In their joint statement published Wednesday, the governments of Germany, France and the United Kingdom declared their continued commitment to the agreement, while demanding that the Iranian government limit its ballistic missile program and its efforts to obtain influence in the region. The reintroduction of US sanctions offers Berlin a chance to disguise its continued pressure on Tehran as a war preventive measure. At the same time, US sanctions against Iran continue to fuel the power struggle between the EU and the USA. The Airbus Company alone could lose €16 billion in commercial deals due to the sanctions imposed by the US government. Commentators recommend resistance: "You don't become a world power in a conference room." At the same time, Israel is exacerbating the escalating tensions with its aggressions against Syria.

Aggression against Syria

The Israeli military launched air strikes on more than 50 targets in Syria during the night from Wednesday to Thursday, after having already attacked Syria approx. 100 times since 2011. The recent incursions were preceded by an attack on Tuesday and - according to the Israelis - by a counterattack from a multiple rocket launcher allegedly located 30 to 40 kilometers from Damascus. The Tel Aviv government claims that the rocket launcher was Iranian and that its air strikes were aimed at Iranian militia positions. According to reports, Israeli forces also hit Syrian air defense and radar systems and coordinated their attack with Moscow.[1]

"U.S. Freedom of Action"

Regardless of how the Israeli aggression against Syria will continue, Washington's policy could provoke a war against Iran in the near future. By breaching the nuclear agreement and Resolution 2231 of the UN Security Council supporting the agreement, the Trump administration is running the risk that Teheran will, in turn, no longer respect an agreement that has become obsolete and resume its nuclear program. According to observers, the USA could then launch an attack on Iran as several hawks in the US administration - such as security advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo - have been threatening to do for years. US military expert Matthew Kroenig, who served as Special Advisor on Iran Policy in the Office of the US Secretary of Defense from July 2010 to July 2011, explained the background. An Iranian nuclear bomb would "immediately limit U.S. freedom of action in the Middle East," Kroenig wrote. Washington would have to "think twice before acting in the region."[2] This would be unacceptable and must be prevented, if necessary with a war.

Negotiate under Pressure

Berlin is trying to use the aggression against Iran to compel Tehran to make concessions. In their joint statement, published Wednesday, the governments of Germany, France and the United Kingdom emphasize their "continuing commitment" to the nuclear agreement. At the same time Berlin, Paris and London are demanding, "Iran must continue to meet its own obligations under the deal," and bow to further demands from the West. Tehran should not only accept "a long-term framework for Iran’s nuclear program after some of the agreement's provisions expire," but "concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program and its destabilizing regional activities, especially in Syria, Iraq and Yemen must also be addressed."[3] Berlin is hoping that - under the pressure of US American and Israeli aggressions - Tehran can be blackmailed into making the desired concessions.


Iran's "regional activities" that Berlin, Paris and London complain about in their joint statement, are all in reference to the results of western aggressions and those of their regional allies. The 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq paved the way for the country's Shiite majority to take power, allowing Iran significant influence in Baghdad. The war in Syria, spurred on by NATO countries and their regional allies, induced the government in Damascus to call also on Iran for military assistance. This resulted in an Iranian military presence in Syria. Teheran's initially weak influence on the Houthi militias in Yemen, only became stronger over the past few years, when the Saudi's US-supported war of aggression, was launched against that country, driving the Houthis into Iran's embrace. Now, the western powers are using scaled aggressions against their homemade reinforcement of Iran.

Billions in Losses

With the beginning of the new aggression against Iran, Berlin is confronting awkward decisions in relationship to Washington. With the threat of punitive tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, the Trump administration has already put the German government under heavy pressure.[4] The US' most recent sanctions, single-handedly imposed on Russia, are also threatening to cause serious damage to German companies. ( reported.[5]) The unilaterally announced withdrawal from the nuclear agreement and the reintroduction of US sanctions on trade with Iran are costing the German industry additional billions in losses. It is already clear that the European aeronautics company's 100 Airbus planes - catalogue price of €16 billion - agreed in December 2016 to be delivered to Iran, must be cancelled. The Trump administration has annulled export permits for the US-produced plane parts. Airbus has declared that it intends to abide by the sanctions.[6] Other German companies are expecting serious losses. Recently, trade between Germany and Iran had again reached an annual €3.4 billion. Many German companies have their hands tied. Their business activity in the USA is many times greater than that with Iran and cannot be jeopardized.

A Second Front

However, these new sanctions are also an element in the power struggle between Germany and the USA. Recently, Berlin had repeatedly reiterated that it intends to rise in global politics and operate "on equal terms" with Washington.[7] Trump is countering this, among other things, with an aggressive trade policy and currently also against Germany's trade with Iran. Tuesday, Richard Grenell, on his first day in office, as the new US ambassador in Berlin, issued - by twitter - an ultimatum to the companies in Germany "to phase out immediately" their business relations in Iran.[8] There was outrage in the German capital at the "military cadence-like tone" used by the US diplomat to issue orders to the host country's businesses. In German media, reference was made to a "second front" in the USA-Germany trade wars.[9] The German government finds itself in an awkward position. It faces the alternative of subordinating itself to the United States or risking serious losses on its most important sales market and its, by far, most important investment location - the USA. An influential commentator insists that Berlin must learn how to "be listened to and respected" in Washington, "and to impose its own interests." "World power is not achieved in a conference room, with complacent speeches or by feeling offended."[10]

Transatlantic Priorities

However, in the government-financed think tanks, proposals calling for avoiding the conflict by going along with the US aggression against Iran are beginning to surface. For example a Middle East expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) explained that should Iran actually restart its nuclear program, "Germany and Europe will be forced to take a position." "They will have to conclude that it is more important to prevent Iran's nuclear arming than to stop a war."[11] This would restore transatlantic cohesion.


[1] Benjamin Bidder: Darum kämpfen Israel und Iran in Syrien. 10.05.2018.

[2] Matthew Kroenig: Time to Attack Iran. Foreign Affairs January/February 2012. See also Die Handlungsfreiheit des Westens.

[3] Gemeinsame Erklärung Deutschlands, Frankreichs und Großbritanniens zum Rückzug der Vereinigten Staaten aus dem Nuklearabkommen mit Iran.

[4] See also Export World Champion under Pressure.

[5] See also Streit um die Russlandpolitik.

[6] US-Regierung widerruft Exportlizenzen - Airbus hat ein Iran-Problem. 09.05.2018.

[7] See also Auf Augenhöhe and On a Par (II).

[8] Scharfe Kritik an neuem US-Botschafter in Berlin. 09.05.2018.

[9] Markus Becker: Trump eröffnet zweite Front gegen Europa. 09.05.2018.

[10] Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger: Zeitenwende. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 11.05.2018.

[11] Guido Steinberg: Umgang mit dem Iran. In: Internationale Politik Mai/Juni 2018. S. 64-69.