Challenges in Iran-West Relations

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Author: Dr. Seyyed Hossein Mousavian
Preface: Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani

Active ImageRelations with Germany have been constantly of high importance in history of Iran’s political relations with other countries. Since the time of Bismarck and Nasser-ed-Din Shah’s visit to Germany, up to the present time, friendly relations between Iran and Germany have continued almost without interruption. This has also been true about economic relations between the two countries and about 30 percent of Iran’s industries are founded on German technology.

During the World War II, friendly relations between Tehran and Berlin were of interest to the big powers and were opposed by the Allied as a result of which parts of Iran were occupied by the former Soviet Union and UK in 1941. The Allied remained in Iran up to 1945. It was following the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 that Iran could get rid of US domination. However, the country faced new problems during its war with Iraq from 1980 to 1988. In that juncture, Germany was the sole Western diplomatic mediator for Iran.

After the election of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as president and establishment of truce between Tehran and Baghdad in 1988, a new era started in Iran which was characterized by reconstructing the country and strengthening foreign relations. In 1990, the West and East Germany became united and that historical event enabled the new Germany to regain its independence through 4+2 negotiations through which the Allied accepted independence of Germany as a whole. At that time, relations between Iran and Germany were of utmost importance because after a few decades, both countries were able to establish a new kind of relationship. These developments in Iran and Germany paved the way for further promotion of relations. Diplomatic relations became so strong that between 1990 and 1996, more than 300 political, economic, cultural, judicial and parliamentary delegations were exchanged by the two countries which comprised about half of the Iranian and German ministers. Germany and Iran, for the first time after the Islamic Revolution, established joint economic, environmental, transportation, cultural and parliamentary commissions. The volume of bilateral trade reached the unprecedented figure of about 10 billion German marks. The Iranian Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian and his German counterpart reciprocated visits for the first time in 1992 and 1993 and this became a cornerstone for further intelligence cooperation between Tehran and Berlin.

Germany either rejected all anti-Iranian resolutions (which were proposed by the United Nations) in all summit meetings of big industrial countries or tried to tone them down. At a time that Iran was suffering from huge foreign debts, especially in 1994, when the country was grappling with its more serious economic crisis following the Islamic Revolution, Germany rescheduled repayment of billions of marks of Iran’s debts, thus, becoming a leading country among Western states in supporting Iran. From early 1990s and for the first time after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, the leaders of Iran and Germany regularly contacted each other to exchange views on important regional and international issues. Expansion of relations between Tehran and Bonn after 1990 was a focus of international media which described it a special relationship.

At the same time and despite unprecedented growth of bilateral relations from 1990 to 1996, certain developments challenged those relations. The relationship seriously suffered in 1996 and 1997. Pressures from UK, Israel and the United States, which tried to prevent further improvement of relations between Iran and Germany and such incidents as assassination of Kurdish leaders at Mykonos Restaurant in Berlin (which claimed the life of Sadeq Sharafkandi, the exiled secretary-general of the Kurdish Democratic Party, among others), assassination of Reza Mazlouman (a former deputy minister of education in Paris), apprehension and trial of German citizens in Iran, arrest of Faraj Sarkouhi on charges of espionage for Germany and finally, the verdict handed down by a Berlin court on Mykonos case were major factors which caused tension in bilateral relations.

The sudden breakout of various crises in 1996-97 and subsequent tension in Iran’s relations with Germany pose a key question: “What factors caused that crisis?” According to Berlin court’s verdict, the Iranian government was implied in assassinations in Berlin and some Iranian state officials were clearly named as accomplices in those assassinations. The main text of the verdict had leveled no charges against Iran, but the appendix which was published along with the main verdict incriminated high-ranking Iranian officials with having taken part in planning those assassinations. The Berlin court’s verdict dealt the deadliest blow to Iran-Germany relations and relations between Iran and Europe.

Leaders of European countries had met in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1992 and agreed to initiate the so-called critical talks with Iran. They decided that relations with Iran should be regulated within the framework of those talks. That policy was met with strong opposition of the United States and Israel, so that, from 1990 to 1997, Iran was a main dispute between the United States and Israel, on the one side, and European countries, on the other side. The policy reached a deadlock following the Mykonos incident after which the European Union decided to stop critical negotiations; a situation which had no precedence in Iran’s relations with Europe following the World War II.

The Berlin court verdict also undermined Iran’s policy of establishing relations with Western countries minus the United States. Following the victory of Mr. Mohammad Khatami in the presidential elections in 1997 which caused new hopes to bloom among Western countries about improvement of Iran’s relations with the United States and after Iran declared its new policies, relations between Tehran and the European Union entered a new phase. Of course, any improvement in relations was made conditional on the assessment of President Khatami’s performance by Western countries. NATO will never allow high-level security relations between one of its members and Iran unless misunderstandings between Iran and the West are resolved at international level.

Table of Contents

• Preface

• Introduction

• Chapter I: Theoretical fundaments of foreign policies of Germany and Iran

• Chapter II: History of relations between Iran and Germany before and after the Islamic Revolution

• Chapter III: Development of bilateral relations: 1990-1997

• Chapter IV: Limitations for foreign policies of Germany and Iran: Role of foreign players

• Chapter V: Differences between the two countries: Weapons of mass destruction and peace process

• Chapter VI: Disagreements between the two countries: Terrorism and security issues

• Chapter VII: Mykonos crisis and its aftermath

• Chapter VIII: Economic negotiations: European Union, Germany, and the United State

• Chapter IX: Decision-making in foreign policy and management of bilateral relations

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