Even before the current confrontation in the Gulf, Iraq was an extremely militarized country, preoccupied with internal and external “security threats. ” When I traveled to Iraq in early 1990, I was struck by the extent of militarization in parts of the country. The whole of Iraqi Kurdistan was covered by a net of military and paramilitary installations. It was difficult to drive or walk more than a few hundred yards without seeing or being seen by soldiers in an outpost, or in a military installation of considerable size. Traveling south of Basra, I found the Fao peninsula completely honeycombed with military camps. In the Umm Qasr area, security was so tight that I was not even allowed to get out of the car, much less to take pictures.
Ostensibly multilateral, NATO is often merely the framework for bilateral relations in which the United States is the commanding partner. Nowhere is this more the case than with Turkey, separated geographically from the other NATO allies by its main adversary, Greece, and heavily dependent on the US for military assistance. Yet Turkey has a second bilateral partner within NATO: the Federal Republic of Germany. The Bonn connection points to contradictory tendencies in Turkey’s NATO commitments.
The German Greens are having a hard time defining a Middle East policy. No wonder. Besides the usual difficulties of the whole European left, they are German.
How hard it could be was brought home with a thud by the six Greens who toured Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel and the occupied territories in December 1984. Trip leaders Jürgen Reents, of the Hamburg left wing of the party, and Gabriele Gottwald, the Greens’ most dedicated Third World solidarity militant, were startled and hurt when the Israeli press distorted their views and impugned their motives.
In July 1984, West German Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher visited Tehran, the highest-level Western official to do so in the five years since the Iranian revolution. Genscher reported that his hosts expressed strong interest in refurbishing Iran’s ties with Europe and Japan. Germany’s own trade links with the Islamic Republic are already considerable. In 1983, West German exports to Iran reached an all time high of 7.72 billion deutsch marks (DM 1.90 = $1). The pre-revolutionary high had been at DM 6.77 billion in 1978, only to drop to DM 2.35 billion in 1979, the year the Shah was deposed.