June 21, 2018 | The Jerusalem Post
U.S. Ambassador asks Germany: Stop Iranian Airline from use of Airspace
The new US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, requested the German government to block Iran’s Mahan Air from flying within German airspace and deny it landing rights in the country because of the airline’s material support for terrorism.
In a meeting last week with a senior delegation from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Grenell said: “Here in Germany, I have asked the German government to support our efforts to stop an airline called Mahan Air from utilizing German airspace and airports. We know that Mahan Air has been used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] as a mode of transport for weapons, resources and fighters, so we’re asking our allies to help us put a stop to it.”
The Trump administration designated the IRGC a terrorist organization in October. Canada’s House of Commons called last week for the IRGC to be classified a terrorist entity. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration and the Bundestag have declined to take action against the IRGC.
“For 70 years, Israel has overcome every challenge it has faced,” Grenell said. “The miracle of Israel is an inspiration to the world. Jewish communities are defined not by their fears of the past, but by their hopes for the future.”
Grenell, who has also spearheaded efforts to stop the spread of antisemitism, is widely considered one of the most pro-Israel envoys in the US diplomatic corps. He has a long history of defending the security interests of the Jewish state.
In a June commentary in the New York Post, columnist Benny Avni wrote: “A Washington source tells me the US ambassador in Berlin, Richard Grenell, has advised the Germans against interfering in their neighbors’ deliberations over embassy location. Other US envoys should also advocate the move to Jerusalem.”
Avni noted that “Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila visited Israel’s capital recently and her government tentatively approved moving its embassy there. For that, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis called on Dancila to resign, accusing her of making ‘secret deals’ with the Jews.
“And Germany, once a top Israel booster, privately sided with Iohannis and against recognizing Israel’s capital. After Romania moves its embassy, Berlin fears, the Czechs, Bulgarians and others may also break ranks with the European Union.”
Grenell told the AIPAC delegation: “The alliance between America and Israel has never been stronger. Seventy years ago the United States became the first nation to recognize the State of Israel. Ever since, Jerusalem has been the seat of the modern Israeli government, including the parliament, the Supreme Court, the president, and the prime minister. The bipartisan 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act urging the move of the embassy to Jerusalem was reaffirmed by the US Senate unanimously in 2017.
“When President Trump fulfilled the long-standing US policy that our embassy would be moved to Jerusalem,” Grenell added, “he was recognizing the reality of Israel, and keeping his promise. Taking this long-overdue step of moving our embassy is not a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace deal. Rather, it is a necessary condition for it. Old challenges demand new approaches, and new ideas with new courage.”
Grenell said “the United States is fully committed to achieving a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and I know President Trump is personally focused on it.”
Grenell has laser-beam-like focus on combating the rise of modern antisemitism in Germany and across Europe. “The recently released International Religious Freedom Report highlights another growing concern we are working on: antisemitism,” he said. “Political leaders in Germany and other countries have reiterated their commitments to combating antisemitism, and we are committed to working with them to address these issues immediately. We must work together to fight for the universal human right of religious freedom.
“As a new friend of mine so aptly stated this week, ‘Antisemitism is not a Jewish problem – it’s a human problem,’” said Grenell.
He outlined the US policy toward Iran’s regime in his speech to the AIPAC delegation.
“We are also focused on the mounting menace posed by Iran. It has been laid bare for all to see. The Iranian drone that breached Israel’s borders in February was a brazen act of aggression. And as we all know, the regime in Iran continues to develop advanced ballistic missiles that can threaten Israeli soil and the lives of all her citizens. Last year alone, Iran spent more than $4 billion to achieve its ends. And at this very hour, it aids and abets terrorist groups that sit on Israel’s doorstep,” Grenell.
He added that “President Trump withdrew from the JCPOA, more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, because its fatal flaws put the world at risk. Now we are pursuing the president’s Iran strategy by working with allies to counter the regime’s destabilizing activities in the region, block the financing of terror, and address Iran’s proliferation of weapons systems that threaten peace and stability. And we know that these concerns are broadly shared by our European friends.”
Benjamin Weinthal reports on human rights in the Middle East and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal.
Follow the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Twitter @FDD. FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.