Following President Donald Trump’s decision to no longer abide by the Iran nuclear deal, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, has urged the German businesses to stop trading with the Islamic Republic of Iran. “US sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy. German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately,” Grenell tweeted on Tuesday.

Besides Iranian regime, European countries like Germany and France have been the biggest beneficiaries of the economic windfall generated from the 2015 nuclear deal. Carmakers Daimler and Peugeot have joined forces with Iranian partners to set up manufacturing plants in the country. Siemens landed a huge contract to upgrade Iran’s railway network. Aircraft maker Airbus, in which both Germany and France hold stakes, signed a $27 billion deal to supply airliners to Tehran.

According to the Hamburg-based weekly Der Spiegel, German companies urged the Merkel government to protect their business interests in the wake of the U.S. decision. “Worried about Iran Trade, German Businesses Seek Government Support,” the headline in Der Spiegel said.

The German business sector responded with shock to the U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement to pull out of the Iran deal.

“The companies are worried that their trade with Iran could lead to loss of business in the United States.” The Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) said. “European firms face the threat of sanctions–eventually–if their Iranian business partners end up on the U.S. sanctions lists.

The U.S. sanctions will hit German firms even if the EU unilaterally abstains from imposing sanctions against Iran, according to the association. It is unclear if the U.S. will allow the old contracts to stand. “The German government and the EU need to act now to protect Europe’s Iran trade and restore the lost confidence.” demanded the DIHK. [Translation by author]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already declared her opposition to the U.S. President’s move. “We remain committed to the Iran deal,” the German newspaper Die Welt reported, quoting Chancellor Merkel.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass assured that nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic was still in place. “The agreement is not dead,” Mass told the German broadcaster ARD. “We will try to keep this important agreement alive–an agreement that ensures security in the Near and the Middle East and thereby in the entire world.”

Similar efforts are underway in France as well. “We will obviously do everything, in conjunction with our businesses, to protect their interests,” a French source told the Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post.

“Europeans want to save the nuclear agreement,” wrote the German newspaper Die Welt. The newspaper highlighted the diplomatic efforts underway in Europe following the US withdrawal:

Foreign ministers from Germany, France and the UK are deliberating if and how they can salvage the Vienna agreement of 2015 [Iran deal] without the United States. Iran wants to stick to the deal for the meanwhile, but has made it conditional to the promised economical benefits. [Translation by author]

The German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung was more belligerent in its reporting. “Trump’s Act of Destruction,” read the headline of the editorial penned by the newspaper’s DC correspondent. “The European companies, engaged in trading with Iran, will suffer the consequences, too,” the editorial added.

As the media coverage and statements from Berlin indicate, Germany’s political and business establishments are determined to salvage the Iran deal, or at least the lucrative financial gains made in Iran in the wake of the 2015 agreement.

If the U.S. sanctions were to snap back into place following President Trump’s decision, German businesses could try to sabotage the measures. European corporations and banking sectors have a history of colluding with Iranian businesses. In 2014, Germany’s Commerzbank was fined $1.45 billion by the U.S. authorities for violating the Iran sanctions. Following year, France’s Paribas paid $9 billion in legal settlements for committing similar violations.

With leading German and French companies entangled in Iranian trade, it is unlikely for Chancellor Merkel or President Macron to follow America’s example and abandon the deal anytime soon. Despite German Chancellor pledging her ‘commitment’ and country’s Foreign Minister vowing to keep the agreement ‘alive,’ President Trump’s decisive action has killed the deal. The sooner the European political and business elite realize it, the better.

Video: Ambassador Grenell discusses Germany and the Iran deal [May 5, 2018]


[Cover image via YouTube]