German company involved in Syrian chemical attacks defies U.S. warnings

“The victims of the Assad regime are paying the price for this mistake,” says German politician Volker Beck.

Benjamin Weinthal
11th April 2018 - The Jerusalem Post

After a Syrian photographer found parts made by German company the Krempel Group in the remains of Iranian-produced chemical rockets that gassed Syrian civilians in January and February, the firm rejected on Wednesday new US warnings about the dangers of conducting business with the Islamic Republic.

“There continue to be ongoing risks with doing business there, because the Iranians have not reformed their system,” Sigal Mandelker, the US under secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said on Tuesday.

Mandelker, speaking in London, said Tehran was financing Hezbollah, Hamas and Syrian President Bashar Assad.

There is no transparency in the Iranian banking system, she said. “The onus of responsibility lies in Iran and we’re going to continue to highlight the risks of doing business there, because they haven’t taken the actions that they have promised they would take,” she said.

When asked whether it had ignored US warnings, Krempel told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday it has continued business deals with Iran, but “Krempel GmbH complies strictly with legal guidelines. In unclear situations, we seek legal advice and apply corresponding measures in order to remain in compliance.”

Krempel added that it now “delivers a different pressspan (also not a dual-use good) exclusively to a manufacturer (OEM) [Original Equipment Manufacturer] in Iran because we can know the end usage.”

A presspan is an insulating material with a cellulose base that can be used in motors. Dual-use goods can be used for both military and civilian purposes, and what items come under this rubric is subject to dispute.

Green Party politician Volker Beck told the Post that “Germany has apparently in the past allowed the delivery of dual-use goods to Iran. That is completely unacceptable. One cannot stress the ‘special relationship’ with Israel and at the same time deliver material for Iranian rockets that threaten Israel’s existence.

“The victims of the Assad regime are paying the price for this mistake,” Beck added.

The Krempel Group, located near the southern city of Stuttgart, sold electronic press boards to Iranian companies that were used in the production of Iranian rockets. The press boards are frequently inserted in motors.

Assad regime forces fired the Iranian missiles containing Krempel material, resulting in the severe gassing of 21 adults and children.

Krempel added in its statement to the Post that the company halted business relations with the two buyers in Tehran, who were involved in delivering the Krempel material for the chemical weapons attacks in Syria. The firm said it terminated business with the two men who operate companies in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar because it cannot influence the use of its products in that market.

The two former Krempel business partners are Reza Moghaddam Panah and Mahmood Hasan Darvish Commerce. Krempel had $184,000 in annual sales to the Iranian companies.

The German firm operates a distribution center called Krempel Insulation Technologies, LP, in Deerfield, Michigan.

KREMPEL’S DECISION to continue business with Iran prompted criticism from Julie Lenarz, a senior fellow at the Israel Project.

She told the Post that “on Saturday, harrowing footage of children foaming at the mouth, dying in agony from exposure to chemical weapons, flashed across our television screens again. If our politicians want to move beyond empty mantras of condemnation, they can start by punishing the protectors of the murderous Assad regime.

“Since the nuclear accord was signed with Iran in 2015, European countries and companies have flocked to Tehran for lucrative business deals. The consequences have been grim. Material sold by Krempel was caught in Iranian chemical rockets deployed against Syrians civilians. And yet the company refuses to stop trading with Iran, hiding behind smug legal truisms,” Lenarz said.

She added that “no company with a robust ethical code, nor any country with a moral compass intact, could possibly regard Iran as a legitimate business partner. The Islamic Republic is the No. 1 state sponsor of terror. The greatest threat to stability in the Middle East. A brutal occupier abroad, and a repressive theocracy at home.”

The Krempel Group describes itself on its website as “an independent manufacturer of high quality semi-finished products and a leading global system supplier of modern materials. Our electrical insulations, composites, solar and electronic materials, as well as special laminates, enjoy an excellent reputation worldwide and we are global market leaders in many of these sectors.”

When asked about Krempel and German companies conducting dual-use business with Iran, Christiane Fuckerer, a spokeswoman for Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control – BAFA, said she could not provide such information by press time.

Beate Baron, a spokeswoman for Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, which oversees BAFA, declined to answer a Post media query.

BAFA said in February that Krempel’s Presss pan PSP 3040, the material used in Iranian chemical rockets, is not classified as dual-use merchandise.

German exports to Iran increased in 2017 by 19%, with a total value of just under €2.4 billion. The Post reported in 2017 that numerous German intelligence agencies reported that Iran sought chemical and biological weapon technology in the Federal Republic.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “shocked’ about Saturday’s chemical attack in Syria and the repeated use of poison gas in the country.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Benjamin Weinthal reports on human rights in the Middle East and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal.

Follow the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Twitter @FDD. FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

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