Tabnak – Two days ago, on Sunday February 13, the German Bundesrat (Federal Council) elected Frank-Walter Steinmeier as the new President of Germany. Although the president is basically a symbolic post in the country, the challenging situation facing Germany and EU has caused his election to be of a greater importance than the usual. Now, the question is that will Steinmeier’s election bring about any opportunities for Iran?
Steinmeier starts his work as the German President at a time that the European countries, including Germany have recently faced with a number of important challenges, among which the refugees crisis, Brexit and the possibility of a change in the US-EU relationship under Donald Trump’s administration are of greater significance.
As the former German Foreign Minister, Steinmeier was present during the most part of Iran – P5+1 nuclear talks, representing Germany as a country with a modest approach toward Iran among the six great powers. This has caused Steinmeier to be known in Iran, both among the political elites and the public.
Soon after Steinmeier’s election, the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sent him a message, congratulating his election as the new German President and named him as "a distinguished politician and a supporter of global peace and dialogue”. Zarif also expressed his hope that in the coming era, the relations between Iran and Germany "will continue to grow and develop”.
In a separate message, Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani referred to Steinmeier as "a distinguished and influential person in global affairs”, hoping that the relations between the two countries will be further consolidated and deepened.
In fact, what highlights Steinmeier as a politician experienced in the international affairs and could also be considered as an opportunity for Iran, is his special approach toward a range of international issues, from the Syrian crisis and the situation in the Middle East to the future of European integration and also his viewpoints on Donald Trump’s presidency in the US.
Less than a month ago, in an interview with the German newspaper zud deutsche zeitung, Steinmeier criticized Western policy toward Syria, expressing that the Western countries are also to blame for the Syrian crisis. "I wasn’t really in favor of Bashar Assad, but I believed that we should show the ways to cooperate with the West to this young president”, he said in part of that interview, adding that "however, this position faced the fierce objection of Washington and Paris”. Steinmeier also stressed that "a little realism” could have prevented the failure of previous peace talks of Syria.
Regarding the election of Trump as the new US president, Steinmeier wrote in an article in Bild newspaper that "by the rise of trump, the old world of the 20th century has definitely come to an end”. In the article he pointed that he anticipates an unstable era in the relations between Germany and the US. He also underlined that the free trade, an open world, solidarity in the fight against terrorism and the US-EU cooperation are among the issues with the highest degree of priority for Germany.
Moreover, it should be noted that in line with most of the Socialist-minded German politicians, Steinmeier wants the EU to survive after Brexit and emphasizes the need to preserve the role of the EU in various international affairs. Currently, some analysts believe that after Brexit, Germany will double its efforts to take the lead in the EU, keeping it from a total failure and collapse.
At a time that from his first days in office, Donald Trump has chosen a policy of increasing the pressure on Iran, the existence of moderate politicians in the highest ranks of the German government could come as an opportunity for Iran to develop its relations with the country and also with the EU.
Such an opportunity could enable Iran to build upon the gaps between the Western powers and increase the level of its strategic immunity in case that the new US administration wants to take a harder line against Tehran. Moreover, Steinmeier’s direct and immediate knowledge of Iran could create an impetus in the German government to develop its ties with Iran.