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Germany ‘not spending enough’ on defense, US ambassador says

Richard Grenell has accused Berlin of failing to meet its defense spending commitments under the alliance. While the German government has backed plans to gradually increase spending, some see it as a waste. US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell on Sunday criticized Germany's pledge to incrementally raise its defense spending to 1.5 percent until 2024 in an interview with German Sunday newspaperWelt am Sonntag. "Germany's NATO promise to raise defense spending to 1.5 percent is not enough," Grenell said. "Again, it is not US standards that have to be met here, but NATO commitments that Berlin has already agreed to. The US is simply reminding its great German ally that now is not the time to undercut or weaken NATO." Defense spending is a contentious subject that has strained relations between Washington and Berlinsince Donald Trump assumed the US presidency in 2016. Trump has repeatedly accused the German government of failing to meet its defense spending commitments. Read more: How does Germany contribute to NATO? Polarizing debate In 2014, NATO member states agreed to meet the alliance's defense spending target of 2 percent by 2024. The German government has pledged to follow through with its commitment. But some German politicians are increasingly against it in its current form, saying other factors should be added to the calculation, including humanitarian aid and stabilization programs in conflict zones. Others have suggested alternative routes for Germany. "I fully understand that the German public wants more domestic spending instead of increasing their military budget," Grenell said in the interview. "The US taxpayer would like to spend more domestically as well. But the US taxpayer is paying for 33,000 US troops in Germany. This debate of domestic spending versus defense is happening in the US too." Under Trump, the White House has warned NATO allies that it would "moderate" its commitment to the alliance if member states failed to spend more for defense. "The US is totally committed to NATO," Grenell said. "Donald Trump has made that clear, but he also seeks to improve it. And what is wrong about wanting to fix something that you believe in?

Richard Grenell has accused Berlin of failing to meet its defense spending commitments under the alliance. While the German government has backed plans to gradually increase spending, some see it as a waste. US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell on Sunday criticized Germany’s pledge to incrementally raise its defense spending to 1.5 percent until 2024 in an interview with German ... Read More »

Envoy says US convinced Germany to ban Iran’s Mahan Air

US Ambassador Richard Grenell says months of pressure from the United States led Germany to ban Iran's Mahan Air. But German officials say they've cut off the carrier as part of their own security policy.   US Ambassador Richard Grenell is claiming a diplomatic victory after German officials decided to ban the Iranian airline Mahan Air from operating within the country. Grenell, who has ruffled a few feathers since President Donald Trump picked him for the post last May, told The Wall Street Journal that the move had come after "months of pressing" from the United States. "I think it's a great step by the German government," Grenell told the DPA news agency. "It shows great leadership." He added: "No country where Mahan Air flies should feel safe." The German Foreign Ministry took a different stance on Monday, when it announced that Mahan Air's landing rights had been withdrawn because the carrier had transported equipment and troops into war zones in the Middle East, particularly in Syria. "We have always said that Iran's destabilizing activities in the region, just like their ballistic missile program, are not acceptable," German Foreign Ministry spokesman Christopher Burger said at Monday's regular government press conference. "That is why it is in Germany's foreign policy interests not to allow any air traffic to Germany from companies who support the war in Syria and contribute to the oppression of people in war zones." "On top of that, serious evidence has emerged about the work of Iranian secret services in European states," Burger said, referring to reports that an employee for the German military had been caught passing on information to Tehran. Read more: US policy spreads gloom in Iran 'Patience with Iran' Bijan Djir-Sarai, the foreign policy spokesman for the opposition Free Democrats (FDP), told DW that he had noticed for some time that "Europeans' patience with Iran is coming to an end," though he acknowledged it was likely that the US had applied "massive pressure." Djir-Sarai said he did not think the revelations about Mahan Air's activities were particularly surprising. "The fact that large companies in Iran have ever-closer connections with Revolutionary Guards is no surprise, because these have a huge economic power in Iran," he said. Earlier this month, EU authorities imposed punitive measures against Iran's Intelligence Ministry following a series of assassination attempts against opposition supporters in France, Denmark, the Netherlands and other member states. Not all of the pressure from the United States has occurred behind the scenes. Grenell, who shares his president's taste for Twitter, has been bringing Mahan Air up on social media more and more often, and he fired off several tweets on Monday and Tuesday celebrating the development, along with John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser. Pressure on Iran This pressure from the Trump administration also appears to have a larger target: the framework deal on Iran's nuclear program, agreed to in 2015 by Iran, the members of the UN Security Council and the European Union. Trump pulled the US out of the deal in 2018. Germany's position, reiterated recently by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and backed by the UK and France, is that the deal remains crucial — even if just to help the European Union remain in dialogue with Iran on other issues. But Djir-Sarai said this could risk alienating the United States while not making any noticeable progress with Iran. "The question does arise: How successful are these talks?" he said. Grenell's interventions have apparently irritated a few people in Berlin. Earlier this month, he sent letters to German companies working on Nord Stream 2, a new pipeline supplying Europe with Russian natural gas, warning them of "a significant risk of sanctions" if they did not pull out of the project. In a profile on the ambassador published earlier this month, Der Spiegel reported that Grenell was being shunned by political leaders in Berlin and his only allies were the further-right members of Angela Merkel's conservative alliance, such as Health Minister Jens Spahn, and politicians from the far-right opposition party Alternative for Germany (AfD). For his part, Grenell is no great friend of Der Spiegel's: In response to a recent scandal about a journalist's integrity at Germany's most prestigious newsmagazine, Grenell accused the publication of anti-American bias.

US Ambassador Richard Grenell says months of pressure from the United States led Germany to ban Iran’s Mahan Air. But German officials say they’ve cut off the carrier as part of their own security policy.   US Ambassador Richard Grenell is claiming a diplomatic victory after German officials decided to ban the Iranian airline Mahan Air from operating within the ... Read More »

US welcomes German firms’ compliance on Iran sanctions

US Ambassador to Germany Grenell has welcomed German companies' decision to comply with US sanctions and stop business with Iran. Washington warned firms that do business with Iran that they could face repercussions. The US ambassador to Berlin on Thursday said he was pleased with the actions of German companies that had stopped trading with Iran after fresh US sanctions were imposed on the country. "We are very pleased that German businesses have decided to abide by the US sanctions," Grenell told the German news agency DPA in an interview. "German business leaders have told us unequivocally that they will stop doing business with Iran and will abide by the US sanctions," he said. "So we are very pleased that the actions of the German business community have been very clear." The US reimposed sanctions on Iranian oil this month after US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international agreement on Iran's nuclear program. Trump claimed the deal was flawed because it did not include restrictions on the development of ballistic missiles or Iran's support for militant groups in countries such as Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. Officials from the European Union and Iran have worked to create a new legal framework to protect companies that conduct business with Iran from US sanctions. While praising some German firms in his DPA interview, Grenell accused those still doing business in Iran of helping to fund terrorist activities. "If you are doing business with Iran, you are giving money to the Iranian regime, which spends massive amounts of money on terrorist activities," Grenell said. Firms running a risk Two rounds of US sanctions, the first in August and a subsequent one this month — targeting a broad range of industries and individuals — have been introduced, posing a dilemma for German and other European firms. Businesses that breach the US sanctions risk being hit by secondary sanctions, including being barred from access to the US financial system. Europe, China and Russia have criticized the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), to which they are also parties. The JCPOA was signed by Iran, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, the EU and the United States in October 2015.

US Ambassador to Germany Grenell has welcomed German companies’ decision to comply with US sanctions and stop business with Iran. Washington warned firms that do business with Iran that they could face repercussions. The US ambassador to Berlin on Thursday said he was pleased with the actions of German companies that had stopped trading with Iran after fresh US sanctions ... Read More »

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