For the First Time in Over Six Decades, the Far Right Returns to German Politics

The national elections in Germany last Sunday unsurprisingly resulted in a victory for the current chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats. But there were also less expected results: both the center-right Christian Democrats and their major rival, the center-left Social Democrats, garnered many fewer votes than in previous elections, while the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) came in third, with 13 percent of the votes. This will be the first time since the 1950s that a hard-right party has sat in the Bundestag. James Kirchick comments:

The decline of the two [major political parties] has coincided with a movement toward the extremes, with voters flocking to the AfD and the post-Communist [and virulently anti-Israel] Left party. . . .

Initially founded by a group of conservative economists wanting to pull Germany out of the Eurozone, the AfD didn’t even clear the 5-percent threshold required to enter the Bundestag at the last federal election in 2013. Its appeal broadened, however, in the wake of the 2015-2016 refugee crisis, particularly after Merkel opened Germany’s borders to some one million mostly Muslim migrants. A series of highly-publicized crimes involving migrants, most notably a mass sexual assault in Cologne and a terrorist attack in Berlin last Christmas, led to a transformation of the AfD from a party mainly focused on bringing back the Deutschemark into [an] ethno-nationalist bloc. . . .

While the AfD’s main scapegoats are Muslims, Jews aren’t far behind. This being Germany, however, AfD leaders must couch their anti-Semitism in ways that skillfully skirt the country’s stringent hate-speech laws. Their anti-Semitism has thus taken the form of historical revisionism and attacks on Germany’s remembrance culture. The most fearsome example was a speech delivered by a regional party leader earlier this year. . . . “Until now, our mental state continues to be that of a totally defeated people. We Germans are the only people in the world that have planted a monument of shame in the heart of their capital,” he said, referring to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which occupies an entire city block in central Berlin.

Another AfD member set to enter parliament, Martin Hohmann, was expelled from the Christian Democrats in 2003 after delivering a speech wherein he disputed the notion that Germany is a “nation of perpetrators” by arguing that one could say the same about the Jews, who, after all, played a disproportionate role in the Bolshevik revolution. Earlier this month, [the] party leader Alexander Gauland . . . declared that “we have a right to be proud of the achievements of German soldiers in two world wars.” . . . . To top it off, the party is anti-American, anti-NATO, and pro-Putin.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Angela Merkel, Anti-Semitism, Germany, Politics & Current Affairs

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy