By Benjamin Weinthal
March 23, 2019
Germany’s government has refused to disclose the number of attempts by the Iranian regime to obtain illicit nuclear weapons and rocket technology, Fox News has learned. The failure to reveal the information comes amid the Islamic Republic supreme leader’s Thursday announcement promising to boost the country’s ballistic missile program in defiance of U.S warnings.
“A statistic in the field of foreign trade is not kept at the [German] customs criminal office,” in connection with the Iranian regime’s efforts to secure the technology, a German Foreign Ministry letter obtained by Fox News stated.
Niels Annen, a minister of state in the ministry, who celebrated the Islamic Republic of Iran’s revolution in February at Tehran’s Berlin embassy, wrote the March 18 letter.
The German Left Party had sent a parliamentary query in late February to the federal government, asking for the number of cases, investigations, and the nature of the results covering Iran’s violations of sanctions conducted by Germany’s customs criminal office between 2015 and 2018.
In a March 19 German-language t-online report, the journalist Jonas Mueller-Töwe wrote that the German government‘s failure to disclose information about Iran’s possible violations of sanctions contradicts the country’s past practice. He wrote that Annen’s claim that the disclosure practice has not changed “is not correct.”
According to the t-online article, “until 2004, the federal government had the data of the Customs Criminal Office still country-specific and detailed in their arms export reports” covering merchandise involved, the investigations launched and their results.
“We have nothing to add to the reply of Minister of State Annen,” a spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said in a statement to Fox News.
Merkel’s government is deeply wedded to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Her government’s latest lockdown of potentially damaging sanctions violations material by Tehran could be viewed as an effort to preserve the JCPOA and maintain its flourishing trade relationship with Iran.
“For German authorities, the primary goal is commercial benefit,” Michael Rubin, the American Enterprise Institute expert on Iran, wrote in an article for The Washington Examiner earlier this month.
President Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in 2015 because the agreement, he argued, failed to stop Iran’s alleged drive to build a nuclear weapons device and energetically expand its missile program.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashed out at the U.S. on Thursday, declaring live on state television: “We need to take Iran to a point that enemy understand that they cannot threaten Iran. … America’s sanctions will make Iran self-sufficient.”
Germany has long been a stronghold market for Iran’s illegal proliferation activities.
Fox News previously reviewed a German intelligence report in 2018 which stated that “Iran continued to undertake, as did Pakistan and Syria, efforts to obtain goods and know-how to be used for the development of weapons of mass destruction and to optimize corresponding missile delivery systems.” The report was based on Iranian regime activity in Germany.
According to the document, “Iran has continued unchanged the pursuit of its ambitious program to acquire technology for its rocket and missile delivery program.”
Fox News reported in 2017 that Iran’s efforts to develop its nuclear and missile programs resulted in “32 procurement attempts … that definitely or with high likelihood were undertaken for the benefit of proliferation programs,” in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The German Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.