Written by P. David Hornik
There’s no evidence they had any success; Austrian-Iranian ties appear to be too lucrative for such persuasion to work.
In April 2007 the Austrian oil company OMV signed a major deal with Iran for a joint natural gas project. As Simone Dinah Hartmann of STOPTHEBOMB noted Monday in an informative op-ed,
The total investment amounts to 22 billion euros over the next 25 years. Experts believe that these revenues will be used to finance the Iranian nuclear weapons program and undermine present international sanctions.
Austria’s Social Democratic chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer has said his government will not interfere in business transactions. But this is at best a bad joke: the state of Austria holds 31.5% of OMV’s shares. The company’s CEO, Wolfgang Ruttensdorfer, is a former official of the Social Democratic party, which has always been tight with OMV.
Indeed, as Hartmann further points out,
this deal [with Iran] is backed by all parties represented in the Austrian parliament. Social Democrats, Conservatives, Greens and the far right have closed ranks against demands to cancel the negotiations with Iran.
This wall-to-wall unity is in the service of a venerable tradition: OMV, a firm with a good nose for carrion, was selling gas to the Soviet Union just after it crushed the Prague Spring in 1968, to Libya in the 1980s, and to Sudan from the late 1990s till 2003 when it was the last international corporation to leave the country. State-backed OMV is always looking for a new venture in tyranny, terror, and mass murder to fuel, and these days what better client is there than the mullahs?
And OMV is only the cutting edge of the relationship; Austria’s total exports to Iran have doubled since 2002. Still, the OMV deal could catapult this trade from millions to billions, and it’s no surprise that the president of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, Ali Naghi Khamoushi, said in November 2006 that “Austria is the gate to the European Union for us.”
The OMV deal has drawn criticism in the West, including from German chancellor Angela Merkel.
But as a recent Jerusalem Post editorial noted, “this is close to the pot calling the kettle black.”
Germany, too, treats Teheran as a market it can’t do without: “Germany is Iran’s largest European trading partner and has been the most resistant to tightening sanctions among the pivotal EU-3—the UK, France and Germany.”
Another of the Post’s recent important articles on Europe and Iran gives more of the details:
In 2007, Germany sold €3.5 billion of goods to Iran, including €1.5 billion worth of engineering products and high tech equipment. Security and terrorism experts argue that Germany is uniquely positioned to tighten the economic screws on Iran.
…The growing infrastructure of the Iranian economy is heavily dependent on German technological know-how. Michael Tockuss, the former president of the German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce in Teheran, said, “Some two-thirds of Iranian industry relies on German engineering products.”
…Critics assert that sophisticated engineering technology lends itself to “dual-usage,” and can be rapidly converted for nuclear military purposes.
…Siemens . . . whose economic deals total over half a billion dollars in Iran, conceded in late January that it spent €19 million to bribe Iranian officials to do business with it….
Although German exports to Iran shrank by 15% percent last year [a claim that has been placed in doubt], a dramatic 50% increase of Iranian exports to Germany, totaling €580 million, took place in 2007.
It’s not that Germany and Austria are Iran’s only partners in Europe. Just in the past year Dutch, Spanish, and Norwegian firms have been dealing and talking with Teheran on natural gas projects. Total, France’s oil company, continues to invest millions per year in the mullahcracy. And while 40% of Iran’s trade is with Europe, only 1% of Europe’s trade is with Iran—yet even this Europe is loath to give up.
Still, for Israel the leading roles of Germany and Austria have a special resonance. For these two countries—which in March will be marking seventy years since their Anschluss—the first Holocaust was largely a matter of ideology. The second, if it transpires, will be a matter of heaps of shiny euros.
P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Tel Aviv. He blogs HERE