Portrait Dr. Remko Leemhuis
/ Comment

Desire and Reality

This commentary first appeared in the Jüdischen Allgemeinen.

In a recent interview, CDU politician Norbert Röttgen responded to the question of why tougher sanctions had not already been imposed against Moscow after the Russian attack on Georgia and after the annexation of Crimea with the remarkable sentence: "We blocked out the events, because we had a wishful vision of the world against which reality could not compete."

This observation is more than accurate and, at the same time, could easily be applied to dealing with other dictatorships and totalitarian states. It is, however, most apt in the case of Iran. After all, the regime in Tehran has also been systematically destabilizing its neighboring states for years and has set itself the goal of destroying another state.

Im Fall des Putin-Regimes hat der Überfall auf die Ukraine jeden Zweifel ausgeräumt, dass es ihm ernst damit ist, wenn es der Ukraine die Existenzberechtigung abspricht. Was den Iran angeht, muss daraus zwangsläufig die Erkenntnis folgen, dass der offen artikulierte Vernichtungsantisemitismus keine politische Folklore ist.

In this context, it becomes evident what the core of German "wishful thinking" has been thus far: namely, the refusal to recognize that, in some cases, rational considerations play a subordinate role at best on the other side of the negotiating table.

Therefore, the future actions towards Iran will be decisive in determining whether the proclaimed "turning point" will actually result in a fundamental change in German foreign and security policy. Because if February 24th refreshed a historical lesson, it is that totalitarian regimes mean what they say.

In the case of the Putin regime, the invasion of Ukraine has removed any doubt that it is serious when it denies Ukraine the right to exist. As far as Iran is concerned, the inevitable conclusion must be that its openly articulated annihilationist antisemitism is not political folklore.

The fact that in Germany, of all countries, the threat to murder millions of Jews hardly resonates in the public and political debate about dealings with Iran never ceases to amaze.

Dr. Remko Leemhuis is Director of the American Jewish Committee Berlin.