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October 18, 1979

Note regarding the Meeting between Minister of State Wischnewski with the Deputy Iranian Minister and Government Spokesman Dr. Sadegh Tabatabai on 19 October 1979 from 12:50 to 14:20 Hours in the Federal Chancellery

This document was made possible with support from Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY)

[Federal Chancellery]

Section 213

VLR Franke (2216)

Bonn, 22 October 1979




Regarding the Meeting between Minister of State Wischnewski[1] with the

Deputy Iranian Minister and Government Spokesman Dr. Sadegh Tabatabai[2]

on 19 October 1979 from 12:50 to 14:20 Hours in the Federal Chancellery


The meeting, in which also Charge d’Affairs Navab and an Embassy Attache participated, lasted for about one and a half hours and had essentially the following content:

Minister of State expressed his pleasure about the visit, in witch the Federal Chancellor[3] is interested as well. This will become evident by the fact that he will briefly join in later.

Tabatabai expressed at the beginning the regret of his government concerning the murderous attack on the German Merck[4] Administrative Director Leib[5] in Tehran. He was executed by a terror group hostile to the government that wants to sabotage the goals of the Revolution and to make the foreigners in Iran, especially the Germans, feel unsafe. In case of their capture, the perpetrators will have to expect the maximum penalty. We probably would not have objections here in that case.

Minister of State remarked here that he does very welcome Khomeini’s[6] decision to no longer issue the death penalty. As far as the case of Leib is concerned: It is positive when the Germans in Iran are visibly enjoying the protection of the Iranian government.

Tabatabai explained to questions from the Minister of State the objectives of the terror group (directed against leading individuals of the Revolution, comprised of former Savak[7] people who exercise counter-revolutionary acts of revenge on order of foreign powers, especially from Israel and Shah circles in London and Paris. The group has no ideological-political goals and does not have broad appeal; however, it does cooperate with ultra-religious and ultra-revolutionary forces).

Tabatabai mentioned a resolution by “the European Council” disparaging Iran regarding the violation of human rights and death sentences in Iran - what is straining the relationship (allegedly printed in the newspaper “Süddeutsche Zeitung” on 12 October 1979).

Minister of State clarified that it can only be a resolution by the Council of Europe respectively the European Parliament; not by the European Council, which is an institution comprised of governments. He promised he will see to get the text of the resolution he is completely unaware of. Although the parliamentarians are independent, after having read the text he will talk with political friends in the European Parliament about the resolution.

Tabatabai then added extensive remarks pertaining to the Revolution. It does not take rights away from women at all but actually has attributed to them a special role. Christians, Jews, and Parsis[8] enjoy freedom of religion, Iran is open for everyone. The negative Iran image is a victory of Zionist propaganda.

After Minister of State again welcomed Khomeini’s order to no longer issue death sentences, the Federal Chancellor was joining the meeting. Tabatabai forwarded to him greetings from the Iranian Prime Minister.

Tabatabai was answering to the question by the Federal Chancellor regarding the economic developments in Iran: While certain problems are continuing, the situation is better than before and stabilized. The victorious Revolution has found a very damaged economy; contributed to that had in part the illegal cash transfers of 40 billion Dollar, in part also the six-month-strike which nonetheless had also been necessary for the victory of the Revolution. From 2.5 million in the beginning, the number of unemployed has been lowered to under 1 million; one does hope to eliminate unemployment after one year. The capacity utilization of the Iranian industry stands currently at only about 50 percent. One wants to further develop the Iranian industry, including the heavy industry. Here one is counting on the reliable and safe German technology, even when it is more expensive; especially one is also counting on - with our support - on agriculture and livestock breeding.

After a question by the Federal Chancellor regarding the figure for the inflation rate (T.: it is high, about 60 percent for food) and whether the Central Bank has full control (T.: yes, no transfer problems), Tabatabai is addressing the issues which apparently for him are at the center of the meeting: credit and guarantee facilities for German exports in Iran and the cancellation of the agreement for the Nuclear Power Plant Bushehr.

Tabatabai on the first point: Before his departure, German companies have told the Iranian Foreign Ministry that, according to a circular letter they received, in the future exports to Iran should only be made for cash. If this is correct, it would be a blow to German-Iranian economic relations and the good position of the Federal Republic of Germany in Iran due to the preference of the Iranian ruling elite for German technology. More than 50 percent of the Iranian ruling elite have been educated in Germany.[9] Thus in Iran one is looking at us and does expect us that we will make Iran’s path easier.

The Federal Chancellor responded that, notwithstanding its form of government, Iran is for the Federal Government an important foreign economic partner and an important factor of the global economy. For economic exchange the business atmosphere is of high importance, which is determined by how legal deals and agreements are handled.

The Federal Chancellor and the Minister of State stated they do not know anything about a circular letter to German companies to export to Iran for cash only. (Federal Chancellor: Maybe it is a circular letter of a single bank only? It would be plausible if banks should, for instance, first expect the payoff of old credits). The Federal Chancellor promised to review the issue and suggested that Tabatabai might also hold talks in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs. Federal Minister Graf Lambsdorff[10], however, is currently on a visit to Asia.

Tabatabai requested to inform the “experts in the Trade Ministry”; thus the Federal Chancellor asked the Minister of State to address the issue with State Secretary Schlecht[11].

On the Nuclear Power Plant BushehrTabatabai stated: The contract between the KWU[12] and the Iranian Government with a financial volume of 16 billion Deutsche Mark does not correspond to the long-term interests of Iran. Thus the agreement has to be canceled. However, the contract partners are not able to solve the problem without help from the government. He is therefore asking the Federal Government to intervene. The Federal Chancellor replied (after he had received to his question, whether it would not be the most reasonable thing to go to court, the answer that a dragged out court procedure would not be helpful in this case): He can only listen, not voice an opinion. He does not know the agreement, the Federal Government is not a part of it. In our economic order we are not intervening in private business operations.

The question of the Federal Chancellor whether the Nuclear Power Plant Bushehr would rather not be in the long-term interest of Iran in light of the exhaustibility of oil, Tabatabai answered with pointing at solar energy from the large Iranian deserts (here the Federal Chancellor voiced strong doubts whether - except for limited purposes of private households - solar energy would be usable for the larger economy before 1.5 to 2 decades) and at gas and water power reserves. Replying to the additional question of the Federal Chancellor why the old government had let the Nuclear Power Plant Bushehr to be constructed at all, Tabatabai said he does not know either.

The Federal Chancellor expressed his understanding for the very plausible and reasonable interest of the Iranians in developing their agriculture.

Before leaving, the Federal Chancellor thanked Tabatabai for the greetings from the Iranian Prime Minister which he cordially returned. He asked Tabatabai to tell Prime Minister Bazargan[13] his [Schmidt] extraordinary interest in the economic and political development of Iran. This interest is rooted in Iran’s global economic role and is not caused by German business interests, although economic interests are not standing in contradiction to the former.

Before the Federal Chancellor left, Tabatabai still noted that Iran is not responsible for supplying the world with oil. The high oil production was responsible for the Iranian inflation. The Federal Chancellor countered with the argument that not high production but a capital inflow too high to be sensibly absorbed, was the reason. Wealth can also destroy (Tabatabai: destruction of the country was the intention of the Shah). The Federal Chancellor said farewell.

On bilateral relations Tabatabai remarked they had very much improved since his last visit. However, the Iranian Government does expect the Federal Government to visibly distance itself from unfriendly press reports, because it is difficult to explain to the Iranian people used to 40 years of dictatorship the independence of [German] parliamentarians and journalists. To the question by the Minister of State about the domestic development and the Kurds, Tabatabai responded: Within 14 days after the Revolution life has normalized although there existed neither an army, nor police, nor security forces. From arms falling into the hands of unauthorized people about two thirds have been collected again.

Answering to a question from the Minister of State: The number of the executed and those dying otherwise is not even 1,000.

1,000 dead was the hourly balance of the Shah.

Concerning the Kurdish question: The Kurds are having everything what they wanted (legal guarantee for protection of their religion, language, customs, culture, participation in political life). The unrests were emanating just from a few Marxist disruptive elements with relations to Israel and Bakhtiar[14]. Their leader is touting his good relationship with the Soviet Union, which is however interested in a policy of good neighborly relations. The Kurdish population, however, is welcoming the representatives of the Revolution. The Marxist groups (PDK[15]) had also wanted to thwart the developmental efforts of the government for the Kurdish region, which had been undertaken immediately after the Revolution. With the economic improvement for the Kurds the problem will disappear. Behind the unrests in the Kurdish region are the Israelis, like in Southern Lebanon. We know about signs with the text “cordial welcome, Israeli soldiers” in the center of Kurdistan. In the same place high-ranking Iraqi officers have been arrested.

The Minister of State voiced mild skepticism regarding a collaboration of Iraqi officers with Israelis.

Tabatabai remarked that the Kurdish problem has to be resolved both militarily and politically - one of both elements is not sufficient.

Minister of State addressed the request by German followers of the Baha’i cult forwarded via a parliamentary deputy (Member of the Bundestag Klein[16], Dieburg) regarding the protection of Baha’i temples in Iran from religious fanatics. The Charge d’Affairs replied that the Baha’i in Iran are less considered as a religious but rather a political group funded by neo-colonialists and Zionists. Many Baha’i were among the top personalities of the Shah regime. Maybe this is why there have occurred difficult to control incidents by the enraged population, of which however the government does not approve.

Minister of State explained that he is addressing these cases also because he wants to intensify our relations with Iran. This aspect therefore also has to be taken into consideration by the Iranians.

Towards the end, the meeting again turned towards economic questions. Tabatabai stated that Iran wants to free itself from the market economy and wants to move to other forms of the economy. German technology is supposed to help Iran with this process to make itself independent.

He mentioned his intention to talk with Hermes[17] next week. Minister of State remarked here that in addition talks with the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs would be useful. Tabatabai then came back to the Nuclear Power Plant Bushehr and emphasized that the problem is not solvable without involvement from the government (answering a question by the Minister of State, Tabatabai stated that the KWU has an agreement with the Iranian government). The less complicated issue of the submarine deliveries can be resolved by experts. One can purchase something else instead of submarines.

The Minister of State responded with regard to the Nuclear Power Plant Bushehr that first it must be examined where the differences are. Then one will see what can be done to get rid of this issue. To the subsequent remark by Tabatabai that this will be good news for Prime Minister Bazargan, the Minister of State emphasized one must not forget, however, that the Federal Government is not a party of the agreement. It can only try to create a better atmosphere so that the signatories of the agreement will talk to each other reasonably. Interjection by Tabatabai: “No, also that one is getting out well of this issue”. T. said the KWU could make other arrangements since many parts have not been delivered yet. Without commenting on this interjection, the Minister of State remarked at the end he will make an effort towards a contribution that the agreement partners will find a reasonable settlement.


[signed Franke]



[1] Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski (1922-2005), Minister of State in the Federal Chancellery 1976 to 1979.

[2] 1943-2015.

[3] Helmut Schmidt (1918-2015). Federal Chancellor of West Germany from 1974 to 1982.

[4] German pharmaceutical and chemical company.

[5] Hans-Joachim Leon (1947-1979), assassinated in Tehran on 14 October 1979.

[6] Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1900-1989), Supreme Leader of Iran from 1979 to 1989.

[7] Iranian Secret Police and Intelligence Service 1957-1979.

[8] Persians.

[9] Like Sadegh Tabatabai himself who spoke fluent German and had received his doctorate in West Germany.

[10] Otto Graf Lambsdorff (1926-2009), West German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs from 1977 to 1982.

[11] Otto Schlecht (1925-2003), State Secretary of the Ministry for Economic Affairs from 1973 to 1991.

[12] German Kraftwerk Union (KWU). Subsidiary of Siemens and AEG Corporations for nuclear power plant construction.

[13] Mehdi Bazargan (1907-1995), Prime Minister of Iran from 4 February to 6 November 1979.

[14] Shapour Bakhtiar (1914-1991). Prime Minister of Iran from 6 January 1979 to 11 February 1979, last Prime Minister of the Shah Regime.

[15] Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI).

[16] Heinrich Klein (1932-1989), Member of West German Parliament for the Social Democratic Party/SPD 1976-1989.

[17] Peter Hermes (1922-2015), State Secretary in the Federal Foreign Office between 1975 and 1979.

Tabatabai conveyed his government's regret over the assassination attempt on the German Merck administrative director Leib in Tehran that was organized an anti-government, anti-foreigner terrorist gang. The new revolutionary group and it's new laws and demands are described. Tabatabai continues to say that all negative rumors about the new regime, such as persecution against women and minority religions, is Zionist propaganda. The revolution has greatly damaged business. The fate of the Kurds are discussed.

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Bundesarchiv, B 136/17214. Contributed by Stephan Kieninger and translated by Bernd Schaefer.


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