Now that the two German journalists from the popular daily Bild are back in Germany, it is clear that the victor in the exchange between Iran and Germany was the former. To secure the release of the journalists, Germany had to dispatch its Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to Iran to collect them personally and in the process have a meeting with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Germany could protest that the meeting was a brief one and the Foreign Minister had used it to bring up human rights issues in Iran, but the picture of the German Foreign Minister in talks with the Iranian president says it all.
The journalists were arrested 4 months ago after interviewing the son of an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.
Iranian exile groups in the West denounced the visit as a disgrace, particularly after the brutal suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations in Iran and claimed that this was another attempt to revive “the bankrupt and utterly failed policy and submitting to mullahs’ blackmail.”
The Iranians and their official media mention nothing about human rights, presenting the meeting as an event where the Iranian president lectured the German Foreign Minister on the inequity of the UN Security Council system (Germany is a member and seeks to become a permanent one) where the veto power of the permanent members “is clearly a disrespect for nations, so such a system cannot administer the world and even cannot continue its work.” The visit was seen as a vindication of Iran’s stated policy of conducting dialogue with governments and nations in a cooperative spirit and mutual respect.
Iranian Foreign Ministry official, Hassan Qashqavi, went further, saying that Mr. Westerwelle’s visit “proved the failure of E.U. policy on Iran.” Under that policy, EU foreign ministers are advised not to visit Iran except for very limited reasons. “The current visit puts an end to such a decision,” Mr. Qashqavi said.
Finally, the release was portrayed as an act of “Islamic clemency” because the Germans had been sentenced to 20 year prison terms “but it became clear that they were abused”.
Faced with the criticism, the Germans tried to put the best face on it. Chancellor Anglo Merkel claimed she was pleased by the results of the visit, although she had not been informed previously by her Foreign Minister and coalition partner that there would be a meeting with the Iranian president. The German Foreign Ministry claimed that the sole purpose of the trip was humanitarian and that Germany had to do whatever was necessary to get its two citizens back to Germany after they had been imprisoned for four months.
Source material can be found at this site.