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New US ambassador to Germany irks his hosts with veiled threats

The new US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell offended his hosts on the day he arrived in Berlin by issuing firm instructions on how to advance against Iran.

Published: May 11, 2018, 8:31 am

    Berlin

    The US Embassy declined to comment on Grenell’s arrogance but responded on Twitter saying that the new ambassador used “the exact language sent out from the White House talking points’ fact sheet”.

    After US President Trump announced his unilateral decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, negotiated with European powers together with Russia and China, Germany as well as other signatories criticized the American move undermining peace in the region. Neither Israel nor the US face any existential threat from Iran.

    Grenell’s tweet therefore met with a flood of indignant responses, including from former and current German government officials. His message to Germany was retweeted almost 6 000 times – and counting. Close to 1500 comments were from angry Germans telling the ambassador to butt out.

    Wolfgang Ischinger, German ambassador to the US from 2001 to 2006, responded by tweeting: “Germans are eager to listen, but they will resent instructions.” Ischinger said it was never a good idea to “tell the host country what to do, if you want to stay out of trouble”.

    Germany had waited nearly 16 months for the Trump administration to send the new ambassador Grenell, 51, a former Fox News commentator to Berlin.

    US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, US Gov.

    The outspoken anchorman had served as spokesman of the US mission to the United Nations under George W Bush. Germans mocked him by calling him a “harter Hund,” a colloquialism that means someone playing “tough guy”.

    Andrea Nahles, who heads the Social Democrats in the Bundestag, told state broadcaster Deutsche Welle: “It’s not up to me to teach the US ambassador how to be diplomatic, but he does seem to need a bit of tutoring.”

    Lawmaker Omid Nouripour, who heads the foreign policy committee in parliament for the Green party, told public radio network Deutschlandfunk, that threatening the German economy was “just not a tone of cooperation”.

    According to the business daily Handelsblatt, German companies did an estimated $3.5 billion worth of business in Iran last year. They have been preparing for US threats for months a German business leader said, effectively cutting the US out of any Iran-related business.

    Michael Tockuss, head of the German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce, based in Hamburg, explained: “We’re not shocked. For some time now, companies doing business in Iran have been trying to find substitutes for any US-related aspects of their supply chains.”

    European companies in Iran do not work with dollars at all, they prefer euros or perhaps dirhams, he said. “Any US staff members are excluded from Iran-related business,” Tockuss added.

    But Public TV ZDF commentator Wulf Schmiese said the US ambassador’s threat will certainly scare German companies: “Their [German business] dealings with the US are too valuable to them [German companies].”

    The international focus is now on Airbus. The Franco-German manufacturer, rival to US planemaker Boeiing, face perhaps the biggest challenge as 10 percent of its parts are imported from the US from suppliers such as United Technologies, Rockwell Collins and General Electric, Reuters reported.

    Sanctions would put the delivery of 95 Airbus planes in jeopardy.

    The US withdrawal is not only a severe betrayal of trust, but also a breach of treaty obligations, if not under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, certainly under the United Nations Charter, delivered to the US Senate by President Harry Truman and duly ratified by that body on July 28, 1945 by a vote of 89-2.

    Under Article 25 of the UN Charter, “members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council”.

    On July 20, 2015, the Security Council unanimously endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in UN Security Council Resolution 2231. Samantha Power, US ambassador to the UN at the time, voted for the resolution.

    The resolution itself contains text “[u]nderscoring that Member States are obligated under Article 25 of the Charter of the United Nations to accept and carry out the Security Council’s decisions”.

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