Problems for Business with Iran
US interference has now been disclosed, due to German-Iranian business relations still not booming to the extent expected since the conclusion of the Nuclear Agreement with Teheran on July 14, 2015. This is particularly due to leading German banks continuing to refuse to finance trade and investments in Iran, which would automatically be admissible under the prevailing German and international legal norms, once sanctions were lifted. However, the United States is still maintaining bilateral sanctions. Companies operating within the USA must comply. If they violate US bilateral sanctions, they must expect penalties from Washington. In March 2015 for example, the Commerzbank was compelled to pay US $1.45 billion to US authorities in a settlement, because it had done business with Iran’s state-owned Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) between 2002 and 2007. Even though this business had been legal under German and EU laws, they were in violation of US regulations. With measures such as these, Washington actually transposes US domestic law onto foreign countries. German companies have usually grudgingly submit to this arrogance because business with the US promises lucrative profits.
Now, the concrete measures used by Washington have, for the first time, been exposed in detail in articles published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and in televised documentaries of the ARD-Panorama, even drawing upon pertinent examples. One of them involves a former board member of the German Forfait AG, which carries out the sometimes complicated payment processing with foreign clients on behalf of companies in Germany and other EU nations. That former board member was responsible for companies making transactions with Iran. His activities were monitored by the German Bundesbank and found to be completely legal. Nevertheless, the US Treasury Department put him on a black list of persons, suspected of financing terrorism or similar serious felonies. However, US authorities have not furnished evidence backing up these heavy incriminations, which have allegedly caused the German Forfait AG damages of 150 to 200 million Euros. The German company could resume operating unimpaired, only after it had fired its board member, who had been incriminated on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations. He is still being boycotted by German companies, which refuse him transport services – such as the Schenker AG – because he is on the US Treasury Department’s black list.
“With him? Rather not”
A second example shows striking similarities. It involves a former Commerzbank employee who had been in charge of the business transactions with the Iranian IRISL, mentioned above. His activities had also been classified as fully legal. Violations of the rights of the nations involved have never been proven. Nevertheless, in March 2015, he was fired, when the Commerzbank was obligated to pay US $1.45 billion to the authorities in Washington, because of the IRISL deal. He has sued the company and twice won his case. The judges had confirmed that he had been illegally fired “under pressure from a third party.” Currently the case is pending on appeal before Germany’s Federal Labor Court in Kassel. His professional career appears to be ruined: “Potential employers … fear that they could have problems with the Americans if my name appears,” says the former Commerzbank employee. They say, “‘With him? Rather not.'”
Serious interference in German businesses are not only related to Iran. Today, a decision on the Chinese Fujian Grand Chip Investment’s (FGC) bid to takeover Germany’s Aixtron chip equipment manufacturer is expected to be announced. The decision will not be made in Berlin, but rather in Washington. As was recently announced, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has raised objections to this transaction. The CFIUS has assumed responsibility, based on the fact that Germany’s Aixtron maintains a development site in the USA. CFIUS is constituted of US government officials, including national security advisors. US intelligence agencies are also represented in an advisory capacity. As CFIUS now contends, the takeover must be opposed because it constitutes a threat to the national security of the United States – Aixtron-produced equipment could also be used for military purposes. On Washington’s initiative, Germany’s Minister for Economic Affairs, Sigmar Gabriel, has rescinded the authorization for the takeover, which he had previously granted. Today, the US President is expected to announce whether he plans to maintain his de facto veto.
These recent reports of US intrusions are coming at a transitional period. Around eleven years ago, there were hardly any consequences, when the CIA’s global abductions and torture of suspects – and German state agencies’ participation – became known. Berlin covered for Washington, also to conceal its own actions. When the scandalous NSA eavesdropping methods came to light, a little over three years ago, Berlin sought to cover up German participation, while distancing itself, for the first time, from Washington (“eavesdropping on friends, that is intolerable!”) and proceeded to systematically enhance the capabilities of its own intelligence services – with the long-range objective of becoming independent of the United States. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.) The German government is currently in the midst of a campaign aimed at developing a powerful EU armed forces, which should achieve its “strategic autonomy” and thereby, for the first time, its genuine independence from the USA. US interference in the German economy, of course, runs diametrically counter to this independence. The German government has yet to state its position, concerning the media reports on the US interference with the German Forfait AG and the Commerzbank. In the course of becoming “superpower Europe” (Federica Mogherini), the thought that such intrusions would officially or, at least, through diplomatic channels not be tolerated, since they have now been made public, can be expected.