New German ambassador catches flak over Iran tweet
The new U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, is facing backlash from some quarters of the German government over his comments about companies from that country doing business in Iran.
Grenell, a former Fox News commentator who served as a United Nations spokesman during the George W. Bush administration, came under criticism after tweeting Tuesday that “German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.”
The comment from Grenell, who officially took office this week, came as President Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal reached in 2015 between multiple nations, including Germany, and reimpose sanctions on Iran.
As @realDonaldTrump said, US sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy. German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) May 8, 2018
“It’s not my task to teach people about the fine art of diplomacy, especially not the U.S. ambassador. But he does appear to need some tutoring,” said Andrea Nahles, the leader of Germany’s Social Democratic party, according to The Washington Post.
German politician Omid Nouripour, the head of the foreign policy committee in Germany’s Parliament and a leader with the country’s Greens party who was born in Iran, also criticized the comments.
“Good cooperation means that you do not drive a highly aggressive, ruthless policy towards our security interests and before you even show up, you threaten the German economy,” Nouripour told the German public radio network Deutschlandfunk, according to NPR.
The pushback to Grenell’s comment, which illustrated the significant break between the U.S. and Germany over Tehran and whether companies from their respective countries should do business in Iran, also triggered a response from a former top German diplomat.
Wolfgang Ischinger, who served as Germany’s ambassador to the U.S. from 2001 to 2006, responded to Grenell by advising him to “explain your own country’s policies, and lobby the host country – but never tell the host country what to do, if you want to stay out of trouble.”
“Germans are eager to listen, but will resent instructions,” he added.
Ric: my advice, after a long ambassadorial career: explain your own country’s policies, and lobby the host country – but never tell the host country what to do, if you want to stay out of trouble. Germans are eager to listen, but they will resent instructions.
— Wolfgang Ischinger (@ischinger) May 9, 2018
Grenell defended his tweet on Wednesday, noting it used the “exact language sent out from the White House talking points & fact sheet.”
the exact language sent out from the White House talking points & fact sheet. https://t.co/vKYRny6Hkq
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) May 9, 2018
Germany had largely advocated for the U.S. to stay in the Iran deal, which lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for new limits on its nuclear program.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had joined various European leaders in urging Trump to stay in the agreement before he announced the U.S. withdrawal this week.
Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May said Tuesday that the agreement should still be honored, despite the United States’s exit.
Trump has long blasted the Obama-era accord, and called it a “horrible, one-sided deal” in announcing the U.S. exit.
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