Reset of the Iran Deal: Critic by „United against Nuclear Iran“ and former BND chief Hanning
Often the critic against the Iran deal JCPOA is rejected as it comes from US neocons, so called Iran hawks, Trumpists and therefore it was not worth discussing the arguments. The mainstream politicans in Europe also support the Iran deal and want a reset. However, the JCPOA critics also include moderate US democrats and even some European critics. This can bee seen in the organization “United against Nuclear Iran”. Here a former Italian ambassador to Germany and former BND chief August Hanning make their arguments against the Iran deal.
As the EU and especially Germany is very soft on Iran, the Jerusalem Post and the Israelis dedicated the German outsider position an article and are quoting former German intel chief Hanning:
“Ex-German intel. chief: Return to JCPOA a mistake
Former German BND intelligence chief August Hanning said that he was highly suspicious of Iranian intentions in the nuclear sphere. He also spoke about his personal meetings with Nasrallah.
By Yonah Jeremy Bob
July 27, 2021 20:50
Former German BND intelligence chief August Hanning opposes a return to the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran, he has told The Jerusalem Post in an interview.
In his conversation, he affirmed his participation in the group United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI) saying, “a nuclear armed Iran is a threat for the whole region.”
If Iran would get a nuclear weapon this would “lead to an arms race for the whole Middle East” which he said would be very bad news for the region.
Hanning said he was “not in favor of the JCPOA. The present Iranian regime is not really in favor of carrying out the necessary steps” to limit itself from developing a nuclear weapon.
Next, he stated, “Iran’s role in the region is not very positive. We see this problem with its missile program. If you are carrying out such an ambitious missile program, and they have had some successes… very clearly you do not develop these missiles for protection, but for military purposes.”
The former intelligence chief said: “these long range missiles make sense only militarily if you are using nonconventional warheads,” which makes him highly suspicious of Iranian intentions in the nuclear sphere.
“So long as the Iranians are carrying out this very ambitious missile program, and there is a very suspicious Iranian background of trying to get access to a nuclear device and nonconventional warheads, I will be very skeptical of the present negotiations with Iran,” he said.
Hanning’s view is significant not only because of his former high-level position, but also because he is one of a small number of top European officials who is ready to unabashedly oppose the JCPOA and condemn Iran as untrustworthy and pushing toward a nuclear weapon.
Pivoting to his long-time cooperation with the Mossad and Israeli intelligence he told the Post about extensive meetings with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah in efforts to try to learn information about and get the remains of Ron Arad returned.
“I was responsible for different negotiations with Hezbollah in the Ron Arad case for Israel. It was a years-long, very difficult negotiation with Hezbollah, Iran and Israeli intelligence on the other side,” said Hanning.
Hanning noted during those years he developed, “very close working relationships, but even friendships,” with members of Israeli intelligence, including former Mossad chief Danny Yatom, with whom he recently started to work with as a consultant for Yatom’s cybersecurity company WHEN.
Yatom himself declined to discuss any national security issues, but in the past has told the Post that despite holes in the JCPOA, Israel should be careful not to undermine US policy and should work quietly to influence that policy behind-the-scenes.
Describing his many personal meetings with Nasrallah in Beirut, Hanning said, “he was an interesting person. I was always surprised about his knowledge of Israel. He closely followed Israel. Nasrallah had lost his son in a battle with Israeli military forces and this was a hard and fresh,” wound for him.
While many Israelis may simply dismiss Nasrallah as an unsophisticated terrorist, Hanning said, Nasrallah was very articulate about Israel, the situation in Iran and the broader power dynamics in the Middle East.
Through the negotiations and many discussions, Hanning said he learned, “a lot about relations between Hezbollah and Iran and Hezbollah and Syria… I learned Nasrallah has a lot of different balls [he is juggling and that] he was a politician… he was successful. I do not want to praise Hezbollah, but Nasrallah is of course a very impressive” to have to contend with from an analytical point of view.
At a personal level, dealing with someone like a Hezbollah chief, he said “it was not easy for me to negotiate with him. I had a lot of contact with him. If you negotiate, you have to regard the other person as a partner [of sorts] to get to solutions. If you [merely] regard the other side as the enemy, you cannot achieve anything.”
At the same time, Hanning said that the two could never cross certain relationship levels in light of their radically different interests and that it was mainly a business relationship.
Moving on to the German-Israeli intelligence relationships, he said the sides work in a, “very close relationship against terrorism – there are very severe terrorist threats.”
He said that the situation in the Middle East was constantly changing and that German intelligence benefited from cooperation with “the Mossad especially, but also with the Shin Bet, and I had very good relations with [former Shin Bet chief] Avi Dichter. For us, Israel was always a model because Israel was facing very serious terrorist threats.”
“We in Germany have problems, but not as severe as in Israel, but it is important to see what happens in Israel: What are the precautionary measures there,” which Germany might be able to adopt to stop terrorism.
Hanning added that “we have learned from our Israeli colleagues how to deal with this [terrorism] problem.”
Regarding the idea that Israel has helped Germany and other European countries defend themselves against ISIS in recent years, he responded, “I can confirm this. Israel has really good insight in the region. ISIS is still active in parts of Syria and Iraq.
Fortunately, it has suffered severe military problems,” which have limited its reach, but that Israel was “very helpful for us in Germany and in Europe.”
As Hanning starts working with Yatom and WHEN, he said he and Europeans would still be very cognizant of balancing between cybersecurity and privacy rights.
He said one advantage of a private sector company like WHEN was that their clients could give them permission to track and monitor potential cyber vulnerabilities far more than governments, which are limited from following their citizens’ activities without consent or a court approved warrant.
In some ways the Hanning-Yatom reunion at WHEN brings full circle a deep relationship dating back decades between two of their countries’ deans of intelligence.