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Monday, February 15, 2010

Siemens is a drop in the bucket

Last month, I reported that Siemens, the German telecommunications giant, had agreed to stop selling to Iran once its current orders were filled. At the time, the move was hailed for finally bringing about the process of winding down German business with Iran. But that's turned out to be false. In fact, Siemens' business in Iran is a drop in the bucket compared with the amount of business being done in Iran by other German companies.
But, as the Hamburg-based political scientist Matthias Küntzel has put it in a German-language analysis recently distributed by “Stop the Bomb,” “a single sparrow does not yet make for spring.” The analysis refers to a brochure that was published in 2009 by the Tehran-based German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and that bears the title “Branch Offices, Representations and Agencies of German Companies in Iran.”

On Küntzel’s count, the brochure identifies no less than two hundred German companies doing business in Iran. Of these, some forty-five have permanent branch or representative offices in the country. The latter include such well-known German industrial heavyweights as BASF, Bayer, Bosch, Daimler, Lufthansa, Henkel, Siemens, and ThyssenKrupp. Several of these firms, as well as numerous smaller, lesser-known German engineering firms, specialize in activities that could readily be of relevance for the Iranian nuclear program. Küntzel has compiled a list of nearly eighty firms whose products, he suggests, could potentially have “military applications.”

While officially recorded German exports to Iran have fallen off from a high of nearly €4.5 billion in 2005, they rose by nearly 9% to just under €4 billion in 2008. Last year, they declined again by some 8%. But, as Küntzel points out, in light of the global financial crisis, this was a relatively good result. Overall, German exports fell by over 18% in 2009.

Moreover, it has long been an open secret that some German suppliers avoid unwelcome notice — and the official statistics — by shipping to Iran via the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The New York Times appears only now to be catching on. Thus the Times report cites an unnamed German business executive who knowingly observes that “Dubai is Iran’s biggest trading partner, yet Dubai produces nothing.” Dubai is one of the emirates composing the UAE. After “confessing” that German companies do business with Iran via Dubai, the anonymous source then cattily and irrelevantly adds that “the Americans” do the same — and even “the Israelis” something similar!
Read the whole thing.


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