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Germany’s Recent Parliamentary Elections: Outcomes for Berlin’s Policy in the Country, in MENA , and toward the Islamic Republic of Iran

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

 

Ramin Nadimi
Defense and Security Analyst

 

The year 2017 has been described as a year for fateful elections in Europe. Most experts on Europe believe that elections, which were held throughout this year, can greatly change the orientation of the European Union with regard to a host of issues and, as such, can affect the fate of each and every citizen of the European bloc. In view of the current role and position of Germany within the European Union, Iran Review has conducted an interview with experts on Europe in order to explore domestic and foreign aspects of these elections. The full text of the interview follows.

 

 

Behzad Ahmadi
Expert on Europe

Q: What has been the reason behind a string of victories by the Christian Democratic Union of Germany, which is led by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, in the country’s elections and, basically speaking, what agenda has helped this party win these victories?

A: In order to better understand the main reasons behind election wins of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany, which have kept Merkel in office as chancellor for 16 years, we must travel a little back in time. Before Merkel rose to power in 2005, Gerhard Schroeder, the then German chancellor, embarked on a series of economic reforms including in Germany’s labor market. Although those reforms seemed to be quite necessary, they were not in line with the main policies of his party, the Social Democratic Party of Germany, which advocated the rights of the working class. Of course, those reforms increased job opportunities in Germany and further cemented position of the country’s economy in the world, but the rights and benefits of Germany’s working glass were negatively affected. It was actually as a result of the dissatisfaction of the working class that Merkel managed to win elections in 2004 though with a small vote margin.

Therefore, Merkel inherited a powerful economy when her tenure started and the course of economic reforms continued under her rule within framework of Germany’s liberal, but disciplined economy, which is known as Ordoliberalism. In her time, the government in Berlin took a series of steps such as reducing costs, accumulation of income, focusing on exports within the eurozone, especially to countries in South and East Europe, and finding new markets, which helped usher in a new era of economic prosperity in Germany. This economic prosperity, in turn, led to reduction of unemployment rate in the country and some analysts even claimed that unemployment in Germany could even fall below three percent by 2025, which is alternatively known as full employment. So, we see that when it comes to economy and despite the financial crisis that swept Europe in 2008, Merkel’s government has done a very good job in this regard and has succeeded to maintain people’s purchasing power as well as Germany’s monetary and financial balance.

Merkel has also shown a positive performance in the field of foreign policy and with respect to managing various crises, including the asylum seekers crisis; the crisis arising from foreign liabilities of a number of European Union’s member states, especially the PIIGS group (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain); as well as the crisis on the Crimean Peninsula involving Russia and Ukraine. In addition, from an anthropological viewpoint, the German nation is known for its conservative spirit as a result of which, they are inclined to maintain a mechanism, which has been doing its job properly and has been able to maintain political and economic stability in the country. As a result, German people have not been willing to change that mechanism and this spirit has been the main reason that helped Merkel sweep to power for the fourth time through the latest general elections in the country.

Q: What impact can the results of Germany’s general elections have on important domestic issues of the country such as the public welfare and the issue of asylum seekers and refugees?

A: The issue of asylum seekers was somehow the Achilles’ heel of Merkel in the recent elections. As a result of this issue, part of the votes, which traditionally belonged to the Christian Democratic Union of Germany and the Christian Social Party were practically harvested by the far-right party, Alternative for Germany. It must be noted that during recent years, about one million asylum seekers have entered Germany and many German citizens feel that they have been marginalized, harmed, and lost their identity due to the process of globalization. As a result, they became inclined toward and voted for the Alternative for Germany party. Most of these people hailed from the labor class and there were few educated people and elites among them.

Believing that they have lost some job opportunities to asylum seekers, members of this group of the German society have developed some sort of cultural and social alienation toward asylum seekers. This feeling grows even stronger when they see the religious differences and the different outfit of asylum seekers as well as their customs, habits, and language, which prevents a large part of refugees to integrate into the Germany society and causes some sort of identity-based concern among German people. These conditions, in turn, pave the way for growth of xenophobia, opposition to refugees, and spread of Islamophobia in this European country. Of course, it must be noted that the government of Germany was not without a plan when accepting refugees and followed a good plan in this regard, because German officials believed that taking in refugees would fill part of the void that existed in the country for workforce. Therefore, out of roughly one million refugees arriving in Germany, even if 50 percent or 60 percent of them entered the country’s labor market, it would be greatly to the benefit of Germany from an economic viewpoint.

Of course, before the elections were held in 2017, the government of Merkel had started a program to repatriate some refugees, especially those from Afghanistan and Iran, to their countries of origin. Germany has also entered into negotiations with governments of such North African countries as Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Libya to provide them with certain developmental assistance in cooperation with Italy, Spain and France, so that, countries in that region would be able to keep refugees on their soil. However, the turning point in the political performance of Germany was perhaps the country’s assistance in the management of conflicts in West Asia and the Levant region, especially in Syria and Iraq. In doing this, Germany managed to greatly reduce the wave of refugees, which originated in the Levant and ended in European countries.

Q: With regard to foreign policy, what effect do you think the outcome of Germany’s general elections will have on Berlin’s foreign policy orientation?

A: One can generally state that Germany’s foreign policy follows a unified approach. A review of issues brought up during election debates by various parties shows that issues related to foreign policy were of low importance in those debates. Instead, issues related to refugees, the financial crisis, unemployment and performance of the country’s education system, including whether it must be cost-free or not, were given higher significance, and this model had been also observed during two past elections in Germany. German’s foreign policy has certain foundations, which can be summarized as follows:

1.       Transatlantic relations and alignment with the United States, which is still of high importance to Germany. One, however, can claim that since the incumbent US President Donald Trump was elected, German leaders have reduced their country’s relations with Washington from strategic partnership to strategic friendship;

2.       European convergence: Due to various reasons, which include economic and security issues, the political future of the country, and fears about Germany losing some of its power, the country’s leaders attach high significance to this issue. I personally believe that following Britain’s planned exist from the European Union, which is known as Brexit, Germany and France, helped by Italy and Spain, will form an important front;

3.       The issue of looking to the east or Ostpolitik: This approach, which was brainchild of a former German chancellor, Willy Brandt, has now developed and in addition to Russia, includes China as well. Within framework of this policy, Germans have been expanding their relations with China and have been also making an effort to prevent tensions from further escalating in relations with Russia through correct management of those relations;

4.       Continuation of a new trend, which has been initiated in Germany’s foreign policy over the past few years and is known as “more power, more responsibility.” This trend will finally allow Germany to have a more active presence at international level.

From this viewpoint, the foundation of Germany’s foreign policy will not change. However, since various political parties in this country pursue different priorities, their victory in elections can cause their priorities to become more important and be given precedence over other priorities when the country’s foreign policy is implemented. For example, it seems unlikely that another major coalition for forming the government will take shape in Berlin. In the meantime, the Social Democratic Party of Germany will retain its position as official parliamentary opposition and Merkel will have to choose between forming a minority government or forming a coalition with such parties as the Green Party or the Liberal Democratic Party of Germany. Basically speaking, Merkel’s party has put a special focus on those institutions that are instrumental in the country’s foreign policy. It must be noted that the office of the German chancellor enjoys a high position in foreign and security policy of Germany, which will continue to remain under Merkel’s control. The most important characteristics of Merkel’s party in the field of foreign policy can be considered as the effort that it makes to maintain the country’s alignment with the United States, measures taken within framework of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), efforts to bolster European convergence, and maintaining special relations with Israel. It is noteworthy that foreign policy priorities of those parties, which are possible to form a coalition with Merkel’s party, are also of importance. For example, the Liberal Democratic Party of Germany usually represents the country’s trade sector and big economy. However, human rights issues are also of high importance to that party. On the other hand, despite the fact that the Green Party, which is also known as The Greens, has its own differences with the Christian Democratic Union and the Liberal Democratic Party, it follows general principles of Germany’s foreign policy. Therefore, its main focus will be on such issues as environmental issues, including the Paris Agreement, nonproliferation of the weapons of mass destruction, human rights issues and other similar issues. However, I personally believe that it is unlikely for us to witness major changes in foreign policy orientations of Germany under Merkel’s new coalition government.

Q: What outlook do the recent elections in Germany delineate for the country’s relations with the West Asia region?

A: Germany’s relations with the West Asia region, and in general with the Middle East and North Africa, have undergone certain changes during the past decade. The new pillar of Germany’s foreign policy, known as “more power, more responsibility” also holds water for the country’s policy toward West Asia and North Africa as well. One can say that when it comes to West Asia, German officials have traditionally stuck to a number of principles. The first principle is the special relationship that Germany has with Israel and we must not ignore the fact that Israel can affect decisions made by Berlin. For example, under pressure from Israel, Merkel has not accepted so far to meet with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani or Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif even after conclusion of Iran's nuclear deal with the P5+1 group of countries, which is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), to which Germany is also a signatory. Similarly, when Sigmar Gabriel, the foreign minister of Germany, visited Tehran, he had asserted that development of friendly relations between Iran and Germany depended on resolution of Iran's problem with Israel. Of course, it is possible that Merkel is using Israel as a pretext to hide her unwillingness to meet with the Iranian president. In general, it has been frequently noted in Germany’s political circles that Merkel does not like Iran very much.

The second principle is the issue of Germany’s economic and trade relations. As a totally globalized economy, three issues are of high importance in German economy: firstly, protecting security of German people and their property; secondly, ensuring flow of German goods, capital, imports and exports; and thirdly, maintaining the country’s liberal economic system. As a result of these issues, conflicts in this region are of very high importance to Germany, because conflicts in West Asia can affect all these issues.

The third principle is the impact that conflicts in West Asia and North Africa can have on Germany’s domestic and foreign policy as well as is security policy. The asylum seekers crisis resulting from the civil war in Syria is good evidence to this issue. One can emphasize that at the present time, geopolitics of West Asia and North Africa regions are directly interconnected with geopolitics of Europe. This issue is of high significance to Germans and for this reason, importance of West Asia and North Africa region has greatly increased for German officials in the past decade. And this is why Germany has played an important role in reducing the flow of asylum seekers from Syria. They have also helped Iraq in its fight against Daesh and, for example, provided Kurdish Peshmerga forces with arms and military training. Germany is also actively present in the region from a cultural viewpoint and tries to make the most of its soft power potential in an active manner.

As for Iran, due to the importance of the nuclear deal and the impact that the JCPOA can have on nonproliferation regimes and regional systems, German leaders have tried to play a prominent role in it. However, the reality, which must be taken into consideration, is that although Europeans, in general, and Germans, in particular, have interests in West Asia and North Africa regions, they are more faced with vital threats than vital interests and show reactions mostly under the influence of those vital threats. Therefore, if threats continue to rise in West Asia and North Africa region, Germans will play a greater role in this region as well. In other words, it is true that Germans have economic interests in the region, but in comparison to their economic interests in the United States or even in Russia and China, the volume of their economic interests in this region is not remarkable. At the present time, it is clear that the reaction that the German government shows to such issues as the influx of asylum seekers and those regional instabilities, which are of security importance to Germany, is more powerful than the reaction that it shows to other issues.

As for Iran, I believe that German leaders have not reached a final conclusion on Iran yet. In other words, in line with their agenda to separate political issues from economic ones, Germany’s leaders are trying to promote their economic interests through relations with Iran without paying a high political cost. Germany’s leaders are trying to take advantage of the economic opportunities created by the JCPOA to their own benefit. At any rate, the JCPOA has been one of the most important achievements of the common foreign policy of the European countries and Germans have played a great role in making it happen. The help that the JCPOA offers for maintaining international treaties and regimes is of very high significance to Germany. I believe that as long as Ms. Merkel remains chancellor of Germany and in charge of the country’s foreign policy apparatus, we should not expect much progress in political relations between Iran and Germany. Of course, in the absence of obstructionist efforts by the United States, economic relations between the two countries can continue to grow. In this case, however, we will not achieve the position of being a good friend for Germany let alone being a “strategic partner.”

At any rate, due to the positive approach that the administration of Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani has taken to relations between the Islamic Republic and Germany, and because of the positive role that Berlin can potentially play in this regard, Tehran can follow a critical discourse toward Germans and ask them to take into account the political costs of friendship with Iran. Unlike Britain and France, which have been present in this region from long ago and are totally familiar with it and have colonialist background in this region, Germans lack such a historical background of presence in this region and have no effective actor here, who would play the role of an entry gate for them to the region. This comes at a time that Iran can play the role of that gate for Germans. Therefore, through their presence in Iran, they can play a role in Caucasus, Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, as well as in major economic projects such as China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative and the project to develop Iran’s southeastern Chabahar port. In doing so, they will also get access to Indian Ocean and can taking advantage of its economic benefits.

Iran has played a major and positive role in helping management of the flow of Afghan asylum seekers toward Europe. The wave of asylum seekers could also start from Pakistan and Bangladesh. Today, Iran is considered as a major barrier against this flood. Iran is also at the forefront of fighting against drug trafficking and transit of narcotics to Europe, including Germany. In addition, from the viewpoint of vital threats in the region, Iran is currently playing a unique role in maintaining the nation-state structure in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Without a doubt, in the absence of Iran’s help, the wave of asylum seekers from Iraq and Syria toward Europe could be much bigger. In the meantime, unlike Turkey, Iran did not take advantage of the policy of “bazaar diplomacy” and did not try to take advantage of its leverage to get political and economic concessions. In my opinion and in view of the aforesaid facts, it would be better for German politicians to note that continuation of relations with Iran at the current level and differentiating between economic and political relations cannot meet their interests in the long run. The march of Germany toward turning into a big global power, leaves no place for any doubt in this regard that Iran is the most important trump card that will be available to Germany in the future security order in the West Asia region. Perhaps, German leaders think that they can continue their policy toward Iran through Track Two Diplomacy in silence and away from any unnecessary hype. However, the existing and dynamic conditions in the region will cause Germans to finally have to come up with an ultimate conclusion and a clear and, to a large extent, independent policy toward Iran. Until that time, the Islamic Republic of Iran will not be able to achieve its goals in relations with a country like Germany and, therefore, cannot count much on this country.

 

Mohammad Hassan Taheri
Germany and Europe Expert

Q: What has been the reason behind a string of victories by the Christian Democratic Union of Germany, which is led by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, in the country’s elections and, basically speaking, what agenda has helped this party win these victories?

A: In general, the Christian Democratic Union of Germany has its own special viewpoints on such issues as employment, defense and security, immigration, family and the European Union. As a result, it puts the highest emphasis on economic development, domestic security as well as protection and bolstering of the European Union.

With regard to job creation, the Christian Democratic Union of Germany aims to reduce the unemployment rate to below three percent by 2025. To achieve this goal, the number of unemployed people in Germany must be reduced to 2.5 million by that year. Reduction of taxes is also among proclaimed plans of the Christian Democratic Union, which comes in combination with more saving in all economic fields. Of course, positions taken by Merkel on the issue of asylum seekers and refugees had reduced her popularity among voters and traditional supporters of this party, but she has been able to modify her views and offer a plan for continued, but limited, admission of asylum seekers. The Christian Democratic Union has also put on its agenda a plan for categorically expelling those asylum seekers, whose applications have been turned down by legal authorities in Germany. Merkel is also planning to increase Germany’s defense budget to about two percent of the country’s gross domestic product by 2025. This plan is naturally in line with what the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United States expect from Germany. On the other hand, throughout its election campaign, the Christian Democratic Union had put more emphasize than before on the concept of patriotism. Examples of that emphasis were taking honor in Germany’s advances and making more use of the country’s national flag.

Generally speaking, Merkel has managed, on the strength of her powerful and influential personality, not only to come up with creative methods in election campaigns, but also to attract the Germany’s public opinion. For example, as said before, she managed to modify her past immigration policies, thus relatively thwarting the stratagem used by the far-right Alternative for Germany. Merkel is known as a personality, who seeks to bolster cooperation among member countries of the European Union and also supports further strengthening of the European Union’s common defense and security policy as well as the European Defense Action Plan. Of course, the far-right Alternative for Germany managed to own part of the Christian Democratic Union’s votes and make Merkel target of scathing criticism from her own party. However, the Christian Democratic Union succeeded under Merkel’s leadership to win elections for a fourth consecutive time, thus repeating the past record of former German chancellors, Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl. Merkel has been able to introduce herself as a personality with whom nobody can compete in elections. Most opinion polls suggest that major reasons behind her popularity include Markel’s powerful leadership, her high qualifications, the higher degree of trust that people put in her and the fact that her viewpoints are better than other politicians. Merkel’s popularity is higher than overall popularity of the Christian Democratic Union. This means that it is Merkel that gives credit to the Christian Democratic Union, not the opposite. Most polls show that she has been able to make about 60 percent of Germans optimistic about the future of their country and the European Union, and this is the highest rate of optimism among important European countries. Naturally, desirable economic growth of Germany in the past 12 years has been another reason for recent victory of the Christian Democratic Union. Even outside Germany’s borders, most viewpoints about Merkel are positive. Former U.S. president, Barack Obama, had noted that if he could vote in Germany, he would vote for Merkel.

Q: What impact can the results of recent elections in Germany have on domestic priorities of this country, including such issues as public welfare, admitting asylum seekers and cultural issues?

A: A glance at programs followed by the Christian Democratic Union of Germany as well as economic achievements of Merkel’s government during her past three terms in office show that it is not very likely that a major change will take place in domestic priorities of Merkel’s government in her new term as chancellor. Policies related to job creation, admission of asylum seekers and the likes of them were included in Merkel’s proclaimed programs during election campaigns. Most probably, the Christian Democratic Union will form a coalition with the Green Party and the Liberal Democratic Party of Germany, which are known as the Jamaica coalition. If this happens, the difference among their viewpoints can somehow affect the implementation of the Christian Democratic Union’s programs, though it has won the election. However, due to her superior position and dominance of the Christian Democratic Union, Merkel will not probably face a serious problem for striking a balance among conflicting views of coalition parties (including the Green Party and the Liberal Democratic Party) with regard to such issues as asylum seekers and economic matters. Therefore, continuation of the current policies of the ruling party of Germany with the least amount of change is more probable.

A major priority for the ruling Christian Democratic Union in the future government will be to pay special attention to the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany party. A consensus has been forged among all political parties in Germany on the need to weaken this party. The political system in Germany cannot tolerate introduction of this nascent party as an opposition, because from the viewpoint of the ruling system in Germany, opposition should arise from inside the system. However, despite the fact that the Alternative for Germany has managed to end as the third German party in winning parliamentary seats at the Bundestag through democratic mechanisms, it is excluded from the ruling system. This is why the Christian Democratic Union does not want to continue its coalition with the Social Democratic Party and is trying to form a new coalition with two smaller parties, because it wants the Social Democratic Party to play the role of the opposition, so that, the Alternative for Germany will not be able to attract the opposition sector of the German society. All German parties are allowed to form coalitions under different conditions. However, due to the aforesaid reason, none of those parties will be willing to form a coalition with the Alternative for Germany. The concept of opposition has changed as a result of two terms of coalition between the Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic Party and has solidified opposition views against the Alternative for Germany. The future government of Merkel will take into account the possible abuse of its domestic approaches and priorities by rightist parties.

Q: With regard to foreign policy, what effect do you think the outcome of Germany’s general elections will have on Berlin’s foreign policy orientation?

A: The general outlook of Germany’s foreign policy under the new Merkel government is continuation of the bigger responsibility approach, which means playing a more prominent role in international developments while putting a major focus on the European Union and transatlantic relations.

Merkel’s new government is faced with certain concerns and problems, the most important of which include overcoming challenges posed by the election of Donald Trump as the new president of the United States, regulation of relations with Turkey away from tensions, Brexit, relations with Russia, and playing an effective role in international crises such as the ongoing crisis on the Korean Peninsula and developments in the West Asia region, especially in Iraq and Syria. In order to address these concerns, Germany is dependent on a multilateral system in the world in order to play its role in the most effective manner. Germany is still ready to play a role in finding a diplomatic solution to the Korea crisis on behalf of Europe. Germany is among few countries that have an embassy in North Korea and is trying to play a role to promote dialogue with Pyongyang. This interest will be met with the United States’ green light. Another priority in Germany’s foreign policy is relations with Turkey, which have turned into one of the most important issues facing Berlin during the past two years. A coalition between the Christian Democratic Union and the Green Party will dampen hopes for resolution of differences and normalization of relations with Turkey, because the current government in Turkey is not optimistic about the Green Party and its Turkish co-chair, Cem Özdemir. On the one hand, Germany is making an effort to get the European Union in line for mounting pressure on Turkey, though this is not an easy task to pull off, while on the other hand, it is magnifying the close relations that exist between Turkey and Russia in the eyes of Ankara’s Western allies. Germany is also sure to take advantage of Turkey’s need to Germany and the rest of Europe to mend fences with Ankara. Relations between Germany and Poland are not very good. Germany failed to encourage the rightist party ruling Poland to cooperate with regard to admission of asylum seekers. On the one hand, Poland’s rightist Law and Justice Party is pessimistic about Germany’s role in Europe while Germany, on the other hand, is critical of domestic conditions in Poland. The main approach that Germany has taken to Poland is to bank on its economic position to lead Europe and reduce Poland’s troublesome role in this regard.

Germany’s relations with Russia have been always marked with complications. This comes despite the fact that transatlantic relations and security of Europe have been always tied to the issue of Germany’s relations with Russia. On the one hand, Merkel’s government is dealing with Russia's actions in Ukraine, while on the other hand, German companies are working with Russia's oil and gas firms and are active in Nord Stream 2 project. Therefore, continuation of the existing tensions will harm economic interests of the two countries. Most probably, the approach adopted by the new German government will be a balanced game, so that, it will try not to put more pressure on Europe while seeking more friendly ties with Russia within a European framework. Therefore, in general, it seems that the Christian Democratic Union of Germany is more inclined toward Europeanization of its foreign policy.

Q: What will be the most important message of Germany’s recent elections for the European Union and also for transatlantic relations?

The most important message of Germany’s general elections for the European Union is the need to further bolster the bloc. Everybody in Europe considers the Germany’s Christian Democratic Union and its leader, Angela Markel, as the most important parties and personalities affecting strengthening of the European Union. After election of Emmanuel Macron as French president, the public opinion in Europe was at ease about continued solidarity of the European Union and that ease of mind was further augmented among supporters of the European Union following election win of Merkel in Germany’s general elections. Most analysts and a large portion of the European public opinion consider Germany as the main engine of the bloc and argue that without Germany, the European Union cannot be expected to play a very prominent role. On the other hand, the European Union plays a great role in amplifying the power of Germany. Of course, due to focusing on elections, attention to some European issues had reduced in Germany, but the new government of Merkel is sure to concentrate on Europe in order to reduce the impact of the victory of some rightist parties in a number of European countries. At the present time, the European Union is awaiting Germany’s cooperation with France to enforce economic, defense and other structural reforms. Germany sways influence on important European institutions, but due to the existing sensitivities, Merkel is not willing to highlight Germany’s leadership role within the European Union. Germany’s past performance shows that relations between Berlin and Paris will be cordial and Germany is willing to pursue its European policies more than any time before in cooperation with France, because Macron has been the best option for cooperation with Germany out of other French presidential candidates. In Germany’s foreign policy, special attention is paid to good transatlantic relations and the strategic alliance between Germany and the United States. The Christian Democratic Union of Germany is known as the closest German party to Republican Party in the United States. However, this does not mean that in her future government, Merkel will face no problem in her country’s relations with the United States. The rise of Donald Trump as president of the United States has caused problems in the two countries’ relations. Therefore, such issues as trade relations, climate change and increasing Germany’s military budget were hot topics in the country’s election campaigns.

Generally speaking, the United States is an unavoidable partner for the Christian Democratic Union due to the persistent impact it has had on Germany’s foreign policy. The ruling party in Germany accepts the United States leadership of its Western allies within a multilateral framework and considers Washington as the most important guarantor of security in Europe following World War II. Quite recently, however, Merkel made sharp remarks about transatlantic relations and her reduced trust in the United States. Since Trump’s popularity among German’s public opinion is very low, one of the main goals that Merkel pursued through such remarks was to appear in line with the dominant trend in the German society. However, her more important goal was to make an effect on the United States’ decision and her remarks should not be considered as a sign that Germany is drifting away from its large-scale approach to relations with the United States.

Therefore, a message of Germany’s general elections can be that victory of Merkel and her party in the recent elections can be a good opportunity for the United States, because her party is closer to the government of the United States than any other German party. However, in order to maintain its position in transatlantic relations with the European Union, Washington must prevent further promotion of Berlin’s position, or at least convince Merkel to get back to the model of traditional relations with Christian parties. The elections also send this message that further strengthening of Germany’s leadership role in Europe will reduce the United States’ latitude to sway influence on Europe. This comes at a time that France is getting gradually closer to the United States.

Q: How do you see the outlook of relations between Merkel’s new government and the West Asia region following recent general elections in Germany?

A: There is a dominant idea among Germany’s elites that the West Asia region is a hotbed for threats and insecurity that directly aim at Europe and, naturally, Germany. Therefore, and according to Germany’s large-scale strategy to accept more responsibility for the resolution of regional crises, the country cannot remain indifferent to developments in West Asia. This approach is being pursued with the goal of dispelling threats and demonstrating the effective and positive role of Germany. Therefore, the approach that needs Germany to pay more attention to West Asia will continue under the new German government, which will be led by Merkel. On the other hand, establishment of order and desirable stability in this region will help Germany’s economic approaches as well. Germany will take some actions in the region by banking on potentialities of its partners in the European Union while taking other actions through the Western coalition led by the United States. It will also take some more actions through bilateral interactions with regional countries. Among the most important issues in relations between Germany and the West Asia region one can mention the future outlook for Syria, relations with the Zionist regime of Israel, developments in Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, terrorism, the issue of asylum seekers, nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iran’s regional role, relations with Saudi Arabia, and the mission of German forces in Afghanistan.

In Syria, Germany has taken a negative approach by urging the fall of the incumbent Syrian government and separating Syria from the resistance front. It also wants to eradicate Daesh in future Syria, curb the influx of asylum seekers to Germany and the rest of Europe, and stop transfer of terrorists to Europe. Merkel’s new government is sure to seek realization of the aforesaid goals in cooperation with its Western partners. In view of developments on the ground in Syria during the past few months, Germany, like its allies, will focus on bolstering those groups in Syria that are predominantly pro-West, especially the country’s Kurdish population.

In line with its other Western allies, especially the United States, Germany rejects Iran’s regional role in West Asia and the new government will continue to question Iran’s activities in regional developments more than before while trying to strike a balance between Iran and Arab nations. Iran’s role in Iraq and its influence on the Iraqi government are sure to grow in strength in future. With regard to the crisis regarding the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, Germany believes that partition of Iraq is possible in the long run. Therefore, it has appeared patient in this regard and has been assisting the Iraqi Kurds since three years ago by sending arms and military equipment and providing them with military training. On the one hand, Germany rejects any haste in secession of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region because of the possibility of the failure of its independence experience, while on the other hand, Berlin believes that hasty referendum on Kurdistan’s independence under the present conditions will increase Iran’s clout in Iraq. Berlin also believes that widespread opposition to the independence of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region across the region will cast serious doubts on legitimacy of its independence vote. Therefore, there are doubts about continued support of Germany for the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.

In the West Asia region, Germany considers Saudi Arabia as a difficult partner, which nonetheless, is its main partner. This viewpoint is mostly related to Germany’s views on the regional role of Iran. Of course, under the previous German government, which was formed through a coalition with the Social Democratic Party and the Green Party, Germany passed stricter regulations on exports of weapons and paid more attention to violations of human rights and regional conflicts. However, during past years, Germany has exported a massive amount of weapons to the region and has become one of the main exporters of important military equipment to Saudi Arabia. It is true that Germany’s cooperation with Saudi Arabia has been under fire in the country’s public opinion due to Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations, its promotion of extremist ideas and its war on Yemen. However, the government of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany introduces Saudi Arabia as one of the countries fighting against Daesh and one of its regional allies, and defends further expansion of military cooperation with Saudi Arabia. Therefore, the future outlook of Germany’s relations with Saudi Arabia is not expected to undergo much of a change.

Germany continues to support Iran’s nuclear deal with the P5+1 group of countries for a variety of reasons. Germany defends its part in the conclusion of this agreement as an example of its successful experiences in taking advantage of diplomacy and soft power. Therefore, the German government takes pride in its role in one of the most important dossiers related to nuclear disarmament. After election of Trump as the president of the United States, differences broke out between Berlin and Washington. Of course, the US administration believes that the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has been relatively able to stop further growth of Iran’s nuclear program. However, Washington also expects to be able to mount pressure on the Islamic Republic and wants JCPOA to put a halt to Iran’s missile program and regional activities as well. In the meantime, the government of Germany also believes that the nuclear deal has been able to contain Iran and bring its nuclear program under control. At the same time, Germany maintains that there is still room for exerting more pressure on Iran without doing harm to the JCPOA, and this is why it believes that withdrawing from the JCPOA will not be beneficial to the United States, in particular, and the West, in general. Germany has so far made great efforts to convince the politicians and those elites who are close to the US government in this regard and these efforts are sure to continue. Since preventing further growth of Iran’s missile capability and curbing its effective role in developments that take place in the West Asia region are common goals pursued by both Germany and the United States, Berlin will try to focus more on these issues while remaining committed to the JCPOA.

 

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