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Iran: Germany's special friend

Analysis: For anyone wondering why Germany joined the Iran talks, there is in fact an answer.

In 2003, European foreign policy went through a relevance crisis because EU countries had split over the Iraq war, Posch said. When the U.S. began to ratchet up pressure to take tough action against Iran, Europe had to assert itself, making sure it was involved and speaking with one voice.

Europeans traditionally favor diplomacy over military action and this was a view Europe needed to put to the United States.

“If Europe had no role in this, there would be no European role in matters of importance ever again,” Posch said.

Germany’s then foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, took the initiative and, along with Britain and France, formed the “E3” group of countries to tackle the Iran problem — even though there was no clear legal or practical framework for them to act. Nevertheless, it positioned Germany in a central role in ratcheting the atmosphere back down again and pushing the international community towards negotiations.

“They had better contacts to Iran. They could convince the U.S. they were serious. It was a continuation of a good will-based policy of Germany’s, based on mutual acceptance — not power politics but politics of negotiation.

“The Germans are very well placed. It worked impressively. They couldn’t deliver a solution but they could transform the basic ideological and geostrategic confrontation between Iran and the U.S. into a framework of negotiations over the nuclear program.”

So has Germany’s special relationship paid dividends? Obviously there is still some way to go. The P5+1 powers were reportedly “disappointed” with progress at the Istanbul talks.

But the European tilt to the P5+1 group, which is sometimes tellingly referred to as the E3+3, was instrumental in creating a united front within the international community against Iran, Posch said.

“In a way it’s the P5 under E3 leadership,” Posch said. “The U.S. has increasingly appreciated that the E3 made a common position with the Chinese and the Russians possible.

“It shows the international community is in disagreement in Iran. At the same time, they are willing to find a negotiated solution. This is the basis for diplomacy to work.”

We’ve yet to see how it will play out but Posch said there was still good reason to be optimistic in the long run.

“I’m cautiously positive about the signs from the Iranians. They want to negotiate. They showed they are willing to de-escalate.”