Just as the danger of homegrown political Islam is on display in the United States with the attempted Times Square bombing--the third attempted attack in six months--Germany seems to be recoiling to its pre-9/11 indifference toward growing radical Iranian Islam in its backyard. In late May, the pro-Ahmadinejad Imam Ali Mosque in Hamburg hosted an event with advocates of revolutionary Iranian Islam.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, appointed the director of the Islamic Center Hamburg, which is part of the Imam Ali Mosque. The mosque's imam, Ayatollah Reza Ramezani, used his platform to call for participation at the 2009 al Quds Day, an anti-West and anti-Israeli hate festival, whose goal is the “liberation of Jerusalem from the Zionist system,” a standard Iranian battle cry for wiping Israel off the map.
The radical German “Islamic Way” association, which understands its mission as a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), helped organize the so-called “Peace Congress” in Hamburg. While the European Union (with the exception of a proposed Holland Parliament resolution to ban the IRGC) refuses to place the IRGC on its EU terror list, the Bush administration classified the IRGC as a global terrorist organization as early as 2007. The IRGC was the key instrument in suppressing the the pro-Democracy movement last June, as well as advancing Iran's drive to go nuclear.
Hamburg, Germany was, of course, the 9/11 launch pad for the infamous Hamburg cell that spawned Mohamed Atta and his fellow travelers. Traditionally, Germany has had a terribly lax approach to domestic-based radical Islamic groups.
That helps to explain why the Hamburg cell could advance their organizational plans to murder Americans years before September 11, 2001. Has Germany really learned the lessons of their fluffy toleration of Islamofascism? A spokesman for the Hamburg Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungschutz), the domestic intelligence agency, wrote to me that there are “roughly 30 members of pro-Iranian Hezbollah” in Hamburg “who meet in the Islamic Center Hamburg.”
National security alarm bells should be ringing in Germany, especially considering Hezbollah is a legal political organization. Germany's interior ministry has steadfastly refused to ban Hezbollah, and there is scarcely any media and public outrage about the group's activities. According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, there are approximately 900 active Hezbollah members in Germany. By way of background, the United States has outlawed Hezbollah as a terrorist entity. Critics argue that Germany refuses to ban the Iranian proxy Hezbollah because German industry—and its political supporters—seek to maintain its flourishing trade partnership with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Import and export trade between the two countries reached record levels in the first quarter of 2010, including the export of dual-use goods in 2009, which can be used for military and civilian purposes. According to the pro-Teheran German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce in Hamburg, there was a significant increase in German exports to Iran, to €385 million in March 2010 from €261 million in March 2009. During the period from January to March of this year, German exports to Iran increased by 15 percent, compared to the same period in 2009. Iranian exports to Germany climbed 94 percent during the first quarter of 2010, compared to the same period a year ago.
While Germany boasts about Israel's security interests being integral to Germany's national security, Hezbollah is rapidly amassing surface-to-surface missiles to target Israeli cities. Chancellor Merkel told the U.S. Congress in 2009 that “whoever threatens Israel also threatens us!”
Yet she used her recent visit to Lebanon, where Hezbollah plays a decisive role in shaping Lebanon's policies in the Middle East, to blast Israel for building apartments in an east Jerusalem neighborhood. “Why is Merkel suddenly criticizing Israel so harshly?” asked a Bild newspaper headline during Chancellor Merkel's visit to Lebanon last March.
Chancellor Merkel did little to reassure Israel of their so-called “special relationship.” In fact, she might very well have contributed to ratcheting up the jingoism of Hezbollah in the region, which already triggered a war against Israel in the Summer of 2006.
Will Germany clamp down on its homegrown political Islamists and ban Hezbollah, or choose to lay the groundwork, following the 9/11 lead of Mohamed Atta and his Hamburg cell, for new terror attacks against the West and Israel?
Benjamin Weinthal is a journalist based in Berlin and currently a fellow at the Iran Energy Project at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.