By Benjamin Weinthal
November 16, 2017
German forum to promote business and banking in the Islamic Republic of Iran, featuring politicians and government bodies, slated to begin on Wednesday, faced sharp criticism from human rights experts and an NGO seeking to stop Iranian terrorism and its illicit nuclear activity.
Ulrike Becker, a spokeswoman for the NGO Stop the Bomb, said: “This banking forum is scandalous. German bankers and politicians in Frankfurt are rolling out the red carpet for a regime which is responsible for the flight of millions [of refugees] from Syria and Iraq.”
Becker said the 5th Banking and Business Forum Iran Europe, which runs from November 15-16 in Frankfurt, seeks to lift financial restrictions against business with Iran.
Ali Divandari, director of the Monetary and Research Institute in Iran, is slated to deliver the opening address. He is also listed as a representative of the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Omid Nouripour, the foreign policy spokesman of the German Green Party, and Tarek Al-Wazir, the Green Party economic minister for the state of Hesse, where the forum is taking place, are also scheduled to speak.
Nouripour helped navigate a pro-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) initiative targeting the Jewish state in 2013 in the Bundestag. Nouripour denies that he supports BDS.
Nasrin Amirsedghi, a leading Iranian dissident and public intellectual in Germany, told The Jerusalem Post that “Historically examined, the party, the Greens, have always since their founding in 1980 supported terrorists… It is obvious that they continue to go this way. They idolized Ruhollah Khomeini [the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran] and actively helped the mullahs sit firmly in the saddle today.”
Amirsedghi, a human-rights expert on Iran, said that Al-Wazir and Nouripour are “supporting terrorists” and “that is, for me, a scandal.”
Becker slammed federal German agencies involved in the Iran business forum: “The list of speakers shows that the initiative for boosting Iran’s business comes from the government. Institutions such as the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) and the Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control (BAFA) that are responsible for risk control of foreign trade, are involved in propaganda for trade with Iran.”
Sabine Reimer, a BaFin spokeswoman, told the Post that, “as a supervisory agency, we take a neutral position.”
Sarah Ott, a spokeswoman for BAFA, told the Post, “as the central agency responsible for permits, BAFA implements, in the framework of political guidelines, the security and foreign policy interests of the Federal Republic of Germany in the field of foreign trade. BAFA also regularly and neutrally informs, at a series of events from different institutions, about current legal developments and proceedings. BAFA contributes to sharpening, as much as possible, the awareness of existing regulations and restrictions in foreign trade law.”
Becker said that Iran’s involvement in terrorist finance prompted the international financial regulator Financial Action Task Force to label Iran a “high risk” country for business.
Julie Lenarz, a senior fellow for The Israel Project, based in Washington, told the Post that “Iran hasn’t stopped being a threat to international peace and security. It’s a pariah state, ruled by a fanatical mullah regime with malign nuclear ambitions, and should be isolated as the world’s largest exporter of terrorism.
“Key sectors of the Iranian economy are controlled by the IRGC [Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps], the country’s driving force behind Islamic extremism, war crimes in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and annihilationist threats against the state of Israel,” she said. “Rather than attending cushy meetings in the West, Iranian officials should be indicted for crimes against humanity.”
Lenarz added that, “If you do business with the IRGC, you sponsor Tehran’s aggression abroad and violence against their own people.” Large European banks have avoided business deals with Iran because of the volatility of Iran’s financial system. Oberbank, a mid-size Austrian bank, established business ties with Tehran in September. Michael Busser, a spokesman for the State of Hesse, did not immediately answer a Post press query. The German Green Party declined to comment.