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Jan 21, 2016 0 Comments

Europe’s Iran Hypocrisy

On its surface, the Islamic Republic of Iran should be anathema to European progressives. After all, since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini led the Islamic Revolution (after promising Europeans he sought only social justice and democracy), the Iranian government has systematically stripped rights away from women, repressed religious minorities, and made homosexuality a capital offense. True, they are not the Islamic State tossing gays off of tall buildings; the Iranian regime prefers slow strangulation instead. Iranian hit squads have murdered dissidents across the European continent. Racism is engrained in Iranian society, and the Iranian leadership has been disdainful of environmental concerns. Generally speaking, the Islamic Republic’s positions are diametrically opposite everything for which European leaders and progressives say they stand.

And yet, here is the head of Germany’s Green Party high-fiving Iran’s ambassador to Germany, a man implicated in the massacre of Kurds. Of course, the German infatuation with the Islamic Republic is long. When Klaus Kinkel became German foreign minister on May 18, 1992, he trumpeted human rights as a top priority. Yet, at the same time, the Germany government sought to expand trade Iran. On October 8, 1992, the German newspaper Handelsblatt described the mood of German businesses at the Tehran trade fair as “euphoric.” Within months, the European Union endorsed Germany’s policy. European officials argued that increasing trade would strengthen pragmatists against more hard-line elements inside Iran. That theory didn’t prevent an Iranian cell from assassinating four Kurdish dissidents in Berlin. And, when Kinkel’s demarches on human rights antagonized Iranian officials, the German government simply dropped any pretense of lobbying for better human rights.  By 1995, Germany was Iran’s largest trading partner and, but the following year, economic and trade relations between the European Union and the Islamic Republic was worth $29 billion.

Bernd Schmidbauer, Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s top intelligence advisor and the coordinator for Bonn-Tehran intelligence ties, continued to engage Ali Fallahian, Iran’s intelligence minister, even after German investigators fingered Fallahian for ordering the assassination of the Kurds in Berlin. As Charles Lane, at the time a senior editor for The New Republic, described, “On October 17, 1993, the glass doors of the Kanzleramt, Kohl’s office complex in Bonn, opened to receive an unusual guest: Ali Fallahian, the chief of Iran’s foreign intelligence service… Fallahian was treated to several days of respectful meetings, including a tour of the German Federal Intelligence Agency headquarters outside Munich.” While Schmidbauer said that the engagement focused on humanitarian issues, both the Iranian ambassador and other German officials suggested otherwise. A German official speaking anonymously to Der Spiegel, ridiculed that claim, saying, “Whoever says that only humanitarian subjects were discussed is a brazen liar.” Der Spiegel subsequently reported that the German intelligence service had supplied four computers and photographic equipment to Iran and helped train Iranian intelligence agents.

Germany was not alone in its outreach with Iran. Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, propelled by the left and center-left to Italy’s leadership, repeatedly busted European Union consensus with regard to human rights and terrorism in order to cultivate business with Iran. In July 1997, for example, at a time when the European Union had suspended dialogue with Iran, Prodi sent a high profile trade delegation to Tehran with the promise of $3 billion credits.

The willingness of European leftists to embrace Iran, alas, now extends beyond trade. A scandal is brewing in Spain as authorities investigate allegations that Spain’s left-of-center Podemos Party accepted a five million Euro payment from Iran in exchange for economic and diplomatic consideration:

Spanish authorities are actively investigating rumors that Iran’s regime heavily financed the activities of the country’s Podemos political party, according to Spanish media sources. The Union of Economic and Fiscal Delinquency, La Unidad de Delincuencia Económica y Fiscal (UDEF), an investigative arm of the country’s National Police has launched a detailed probe in determining whether the party accepted €5m Euros from Iran in exchange for influence in the country’s political and economic arenas, El Confidencial, a Spanish newspaper said.

Podemos’ secretary general Pablo Iglesias continues to defend his party’s transparency. “We are glad that the UDEF is investigating this matter and are at their disposal,” Iglesias, whose party surprised all in a 21 percent win of the total Election vote in December, said. Iglesias founded the left-wing populist party in March 2014 in reaction to national protests against inequality and political corruption… Iglesias, 36, who worked as an advisor to his ‘hero’ President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, currently hosts a TV talk show on Hispan TV, a channel funded by the Iranian government. “Iran has had its tentacles in Spain for quite some time,” Joseph Humire, executive director of Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS) said. “Iran has been busy building its legitimacy through its dedicated, state-owned Spanish broadcast network Hispan TV, and Iglesias from Podemos was Iran’s mouthpiece for Spain through his show on that network,” Humire said.

Indeed, there are even rumors that Iran pays the bill for Iglesias’ personal cell phone.

In the United Kingdom, there’s Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, who has argued “the case for Iran” and sought the lifting of all sanctions even without a nuclear deal. European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, once an active Italian communist, has carried on a similar love affair with the Islamic Republic.

It’s time for some serious introspection within Europe and among progressives about the reasons for their decades-long embrace of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In Spain, Podemos’ dealings with Iran highlight a criminal willingness to allow the embrace with Tehran to corrupt the political process.

If the approach by the European left to Iran is indicative of anything, then it is to show the progressivism and liberal values espoused by European left are empty, a patina to appease the public while working to strike a quick deal and perhaps act upon the deep-seeded anti-Semitism which still prevails among the European intelligentsia. In many ways, the willingness by European Greens and leftists to sacrifice principle for a quick buck is reminiscent of the attitudes which prevailed at the time when Germany and Dutch businessmen provided Iraq with the materials that enabled Saddam Hussein to use chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds. Let us hope that the persistence of such greed and cynicism do not lead to a far worse outcome, all the more so given the Iranian regime’s repeated incitement to genocide.

Read the original article, by Michael Rubin, at Commentary.

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