Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Germany, Russia and Hizballah

The Lebanon-Israel conflict is closely linked to the strategic interests of two powers - Germany and Russia.

In the secret negotiations that have been taking place for an exchange of hostages between Israel and Hizballah, Germany and Russia have divided the mediating functions between them, AIA reports,basing its analysis on information supplied by a senior embassy official in Tel Aviv.
On July 21 in an interview to the Israeli daily Ma’ariv Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Olmert announced the fact of participation of Russia in the negotiations on an exchange of the captured servicemen. Almost simultaneously, the information on the German-Russian intermediary mission was confirmed at once by some German media, in particular the daily Berliner Zeitung. On July 28 the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat wrote about an arrival in Beirut of the German mediators and the beginning of their contacts with the representatives of Hezbollah.
The report describes an ongoing process of interaction between Moscow and Berlin, both of which aim to settle the Israel-Lebanon crisis in tandem with each other. Moscow is primarily concerned with raising its prestige in the Middle East region, with the leading role in the tandem being taken by Berlin - Germany has a partial concurrence of interests with Russia concerning Iran, and ever since the early 1990s Germany has been Iran's main partner and supporter in the West. The AIA report points out that Berlin has also been one of the principal advocates of a "critical dialogue" of the EU with Tehran. During the past decade German-Iranian relations have often been conducted under the pretext of an intermediary mission on the issue of Israeli prisoners of war and abductees. Although more recently, with the accession of Angel Merkel as Chancellor, Germany has publicly altered its line to accommodate the concerns of Israel, the U.S. and Britain, the basic underlying tendency of German policy on Iran has not essentially changed. Now, however, the German intermediaries have landed in a situation of stalemate.
On the one hand, they would not like to ignore “the Iranian factor”, but on the other hand, they are compelled to reckon with the refusal of their own leadership to closely cooperate with the Islamic republic. In this connection it is convenient to Germany that the contacts with Iran on the Lebanese problems have been completely undertaken by Russia.

Beyond all question, Moscow does not agree with the present approach of Berlin to Tehran. Still on July 13 Sergey Lavrov expressed his doubts that the Islamic republic renders financial support to Hezbollah. In a week he criticized those who accuses «the third countries», meaning Iran, in unleashing the Lebanese-Israeli conflict. As follows from the Lavrov’s words, Russia, in its turn, has been aspiring to put pressure on Hezbollah by the means of the regime of the Ayatollahs. According to the European sources, Moscow is trying to convince Teheran that its participation in the Lebanese settlement would promote creation of a favorable atmosphere for the further discussion of the Iranian nuclear program in the United Nations Security Council
In addition, both Germany and Russia are working for an accommodation with Syria, and both are anxious to give Damascus an active role in settling the Israel-Lebanon conflict. However, while Germany would like an arrangement between Syria and Western Europe, Moscow is deeply suspicious of such a move, seeing it as a threat to Russian interests, especially in the military and economic sector. Therefore, Moscow will do all it can to try to prevent any normalization of relations between Syria and the West, while Berlin continues its attempt to steer a course between the line of the Kremlin and the line favoured by the nations of West,

For a history of Germany's struggle for influence in the Middle East, see the AIA article

German Intelligence between Israel and Hezbollah
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