The Corner

Why Is Switzerland Backing Ahmadinejad’s Iran?

Berlin — The European Union and the U.S. have passed tough sanctions targeting Iran’s energy sector, but Switzerland’s Social Democratic foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey is trying hard to undercut these effort to secure Middle East peace and Western security.

The Swiss daily NZZ reported on Sunday that Swiss government officials in the Economics Department believe Calmy-Rey is too “careful when dealing with the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.” They have also criticized her for snubbing American security interests. Calmy-Rey grounds her opposition to EU sanctions on Switzerland’s “neutrality and impartiality,” which she hopes will “open doors for us in Tehran and Washington” and help Switzerland economically. While Switzerland is not technically a member of the EU, Calmy-Rey is practicing a phony, obsolete notion of neutrality.

Her opposition to American security interests and her indifference to the rights of women in Iran are longstanding. In 2008, Calmy-Rey traveled to Tehran to help seal a massive €18 billion gas deal between the Swiss energy giant Elektrizitaets-Gesellschaft Laufenburg (EGL) and the state-owned National Iranian Gas Export Co. While euphorically embracing Ahmadinejad during the visit, Calmy-Rey donned a head-scarf.

EGL’s gas contract with the National Iranian Gas Export Company (NIGEC) would deliver 5.5 billion cubic meters of Iranian gas to Europe per year over a period of 25 years. The NIGEC is a subsidiary of the National Iranian Gas Company, which was placed on Britain’s Proliferation Concerns List in February 2009.

EGL — and its Foreign Ministry enabler — represent the overriding danger in continental Europe to American and European efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear arsenal and its financial sponsorship of the regime’s fanatical Islamic allies, Hamas and Hezbollah.

What can the United States do to rope in the renegade Swiss foreign minister? First, the Obama administration should cite EGL as the first violator of enhanced U.S-based Iran-sanctions legislation. Second, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should replace Switzerland as the diplomatic representative of American interests in the Islamic Republic with the Polish Embassy. The Poles are fighting in Afghanistan and helped liberate Iraq. It is time to reward allies such as Poland who fill the words freedom and democracy with meaning.

Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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