As the prospect of war in Iran looms large, will Germany support the Grand Alliance or waver to China?


Abeeda Mahboob

September 2007



          ?The United Nations Security Council has not called for military intervention in Iran, but the United States has not ruled out its own military action and I do not doubt that it will enjoy the support of leading members of the European Union, specifically Germany, as discussed in The Grand Alliance.??/span>

          ?Germany has joined the five permanent U.N.?Security Council member countries - the United States, Russia, France, China and England, all nuclear powers - in talks to discuss strategy for a new sanctions resolution against Iran.?When the council convened in March, Russia and China, both whom have considerable commercial ties to Iran, opposed any harsh response.?At that time, Germany, too, was hesitant and expressed concerns about any such action.?However, Germany's business ties with Iran are far less consequential than those of Russia and China and since then, Sean McCormack, a spokesman for the U.S.?State Department, said, "Germany once again reiterated the fact that it is fully supportive of a new resolution" (New sanctions against Iran being discussed).

And, “the German government has repeatedly made clear that it will point to human rights shortcomings, no matter any governmental ties" (Analysis: German-Chinese diplomatic crisis).?Just last month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit with the Dalai Lama created another rift in German-Chinese diplomatic relations.? China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, said the German chancellor's meeting with the exiled spiritual leader "grossly interfered" with China's internal affairs and "severely hurt the feelings of the Chinese people" and "seriously undermined" relations between the two countries (Analysis: German-Chinese diplomatic crisis).?Since the meeting, Beijing has called off talks between Chinese and German officials and canceled a traditional breakfast between its foreign minister and his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.?While the ramifications from this incident may not be severe or enduring, Eberhard Sandschneider, head of the China Program at the German Council on Foreign Relations, a Berlin-based think tank, said, "The Chinese have a long memory, and they have in the past followed up their irritation with economic repercussions" (Analysis: German-Chinese diplomatic crisis).

          ?To add insult to injury, President George W. Bush will follow Merkel’s example later this month when he is also scheduled to meet the Dalai Lama and award him the Congressional Gold Medal, the country's highest civilian honor, in front of the Capital in Washington D.C.?In fact, the British news publication, the Daily Telegraph, has reported that the Bush Administration no longer views Britain as its most loyal ally in Europe since the election of Gordon Brown and is instead turning more towards Merkel and?Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President.?When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad countered that "the United States and France are not the world" and thus, should not speak for the world, Merkel was quick to provide additional support for the alliance.?She warned Iran if it didn't give in, then "Germany will resolutely lobby for further, harsher sanctions." Merkel continued, "It is not the world which must prove that Iran is building an atomic bomb.?Iran must convince the world that it does not want the atomic bomb" (Analysis: EU to support Iran sanctions?)

          ?U.S.?Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner have both implored for more pressure to get Iran to terminate its nuclear ambitions. ?/span>Earlier last month, Mr.?Kouchner told the French media that "a nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran would be a danger for the whole world" and that "we have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war" (France: War may be called for in Iran).?Kouchner has spoken of "a three-pronged diplomatic approach through the United Nations, by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamad ElBaradei, and in the European Union, where he said EU member countries can exert more economic leverage against Tehran" (US, France Support Iran Sanctions).?Kouchner said that the government has asked French private companies to discontinue business with Iran and he also discussed the possibility of European Union sanctions with the German government, both parties key to the Grand Alliance.

It is entirely possible Merkel is more willing to support EU sanctions than some of her fellow countrymen.?For instance, German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has accused "U.S. companies of continuing to do business with Iran despite the 1979 boycott with the help of bogus letterbox companies in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates" (Analysis: EU to support Iran sanctions?).?Other German officials have raised similar concerns over American and French companies that continue to trade with Iran even while both countries urge other nations to desist.?And in August, diplomats from Germany, France, and the United Kingdom lobbied against a proposed legislation that would mandate sanctions on energy companies investing more than $20 million in Iran.?The good news for Merkel, however, is that these concerns have not fallen on deaf ears.? The Bush administration, aware of the sensitivity and unwilling to jeopardize a European alliance, is opposed to the legislation too.

Also, the Angus Reid Global Monitor reported last week that conservatives maintain a strong lead over all other political parties in Germany.?A poll, taken by Infratest-Dimap, found that "39 per cent of respondents would back the Christian-Democratic Union (CDU) or the Bavarian Christian-Social Party (CSU) in the next election to the Federal Diet" (Angus Reid Global Monitor).? This news is favorable for the Bush Administration and concerning for Democrats.

It is true that in the past, the United States has had trouble trusting European allies to be effective. For example, “Europeans have participated in the NATO mission in Afghanistan, given a clear legitimizing mandate by the United Nations. Germany demanded rules of nonaggressive engagement?(Pelanda 124). However, if history is any indicator of the future, Germany should be wary of dissenting against the United States.?The last time Germany openly opposed an U.S. intervention in the Middle East, ?st1:country-region w:st="on">Italy, the United Kingdom and Spain, as well as the new entrants to the Union in eastern Europe, isolated [it].?This stance [was] probably fostered and nurtured by the United States?(Pelanda 53).?

          ?Ultimately, I do not think that Germany can be persuaded to align itself with China and Russia. As we have discussed in class, previous efforts at an Eurasian axis, led by Russia, were unsubstantial because Germany and France were isolated within Europe and because a strong alliance with Russia did not have any future. It should also be noted that “even during periods of most serious divergence from the United States, and in the period of Eurasian temptation, Germany did not want to break off relations with Washington? (Pelanda 61).

          ?Germany has been quick to distance itself from its sordid past. Today “special relations are pursued with the United States…in an attempt to overcome its guilty image in the eyes of the world and specifically of the Europeans, Germany always stood firmly against war, taking up a cooperative and nominally pro-European Community position?(Pelanda 58). This past could help France and the United States provoke Germany into taking a firmer stance against Iran and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his belligerent rhetoric against Israel and the Holocaust. Germany has also cemented its lationship with the European community by finally closing the "German question". By agreeing to the idea of a single European currency, it solidified its commitment to the European Union and minimized its risk of isolation. The Euro is "the stabilizing response to the risk of European disorder since the common participation in a monetary system is a very strong tie. Divorce is unthinkable" (Pelanda 149-150).

          ?Germany is also facing stiff competition from China economically and I would not understand why they would want to be party to any resolution that would be favorable to China’s economy. This past February, Gerd Herx, director of Germany's federal agency for external trade announced that China will probably overtake Germany as the world's largest exporter in 2008 and will overtake the United States as the world's second largest exporter later this year.?Currently, China leads the United States and South Korea as the world's largest exporter of electronic goods, with exports topping $300 billion.

          ?I am a believer in the Grand Alliance and I have no fear that Germany will not play a critical role in its development and maintenance.





















Works Cited


“Conservatives Remain Ahead in Germany.?Angus Reid Global Monitor. 2 Oct. 2007. ?/span>



?st1:country-region w:st="on">France: War may be called for in Iran.? United Press International. 1 Oct. 2007.



“New sanctions against Iran being discussed.?United Press International. 1 Oct. 2007.



Nicola, Stefan. “Analysis: EU to support Iran sanctions??United Press International. 1

Oct. 2007. <>


Nicola, Stefan.?“Analysis: German-Chinese diplomatic crisis.? United PressInternational. 1 Oct. 2007. <>


“US, France Support Iran Sanctions.?Eagle World News. 1 Oct. 2007.