Merkel can make things happen

As our own James Forsyth predicted last week, Germany is quickly stepping into the leadership role in the ongoing Iran fracas. Angela Merkel is now in Washington to discuss the issue with Bush, following a trip to Russia last week, where she leaned on a reluctant Vladimir Putin to take a stronger stand against Iran’s nuclear ...

As our own James Forsyth predicted last week, Germany is quickly stepping into the leadership role in the ongoing Iran fracas. Angela Merkel is now in Washington to discuss the issue with Bush, following a trip to Russia last week, where she leaned on a reluctant Vladimir Putin to take a stronger stand against Iran’s nuclear proliferation.  Merkel has argued for economic sanctions only if continued diplomatic pressure and further political action fails.  More moderate than the U.S. demands, this position offers a better prospect of garnering support from China and Russia, whose veto power in the Security Council have made them the deal breakers.

As our own James Forsyth predicted last week, Germany is quickly stepping into the leadership role in the ongoing Iran fracas. Angela Merkel is now in Washington to discuss the issue with Bush, following a trip to Russia last week, where she leaned on a reluctant Vladimir Putin to take a stronger stand against Iran’s nuclear proliferation.  Merkel has argued for economic sanctions only if continued diplomatic pressure and further political action fails.  More moderate than the U.S. demands, this position offers a better prospect of garnering support from China and Russia, whose veto power in the Security Council have made them the deal breakers.

Germany has a lot of leverage in this process. Since Merkel took office, Germany has made strengthening ties with the U.S. a priority, and it has earned the trust of the current administration on the issue of Iran.  As a part of the EU-3 pressure against Iran nuclear proliferation and a strong opponent of the Iraq war, Germany has credibility as a firm negotiator on Iran without being tainted by too close an association with the United States. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it enjoys some of the closest economic ties with Iran, and support for punitive measures lets Iran know that economics won’t trump security concerns.  As the BBC reports:

Germany is one of Iran's most important trading partners, and a clear word from Berlin suggesting that economic sanctions are on the agenda would be a strong signal to Tehran.

The Iranians are getting the message too. The German daily, Der Spiegel noted that positive statements on Merkel’s role as negotiator are trickling out of Tehran:

The head of the foreign relations committee in the Iranian parliament on Tuesday even suggested that Germany take on the role as intermediary between Iran and the international community.

Look for a possible public statement on the issue Thursday evening, when she makes a speech at the 100th anniversary of the American-Jewish Committee.

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