Amid rising tensions and reciprocal accusations between the United States and Iran, European nations are giving a clear thumbs-down to having any part in what is seen as an effort by the Trump regime to nudge Tehran into attacks that would provide an excuse to bomb Iran. Since long before Donald Trump sat down behind the big desk in the Oval Office, national security adviser John Bolton and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have pushed for bombing the Islamic Republic.
The Europeans are just not buying U.S. claims that Iran has been escalating threats to U.S. forces and allies in the Middle East. Iranian moves are said to include loading missiles on sea-going dhow boats for possible attacks on U.S. Navy deployments in the Persian Gulf as well as commercial shipping. About 20% of the world’s oil exports pass through the chokepoint of the gulf, the Straits of Hormuz. On Thursday, a Navy veteran and longtime participant at Daily Kos posting under the moniker LeftofYou demolished the idea that dhows are practical for such a purpose, arguing that Iran has no need of such a jury-rigged tactic since it has plenty of ships bristling with advanced military hardware if it should choose to attack the U.S. in the gulf.
Steven Erlanger at The New York Times reports Friday:
“Every single European government believes that the increased threat we’re seeing from Iran now is a reaction to the United States leaving the Iran nuclear agreement and trying to force Iranian capitulation on other issues,” said Kori Schake, a former Pentagon official who is now deputy director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“They believe that the U.S. is the provocateur and they worry that the U.S. is reacting so stridently to predictable Iranian actions in order to provide a pretext for a U.S. attack on Iran,” Ms. Schake said.
It is a far cry from the debate preceding the 2003 Iraq war, which “split Europe in two,” said Tomas Valasek, the director of Carnegie Europe and a former Slovak ambassador to NATO. “This is a case of all European governments saying to Washington that this is insane, we shouldn’t be here, and it’s your fault that we’re actually talking of war.”
A key part of the intelligence that reportedly stirred Bolton and Pompeo to stoke war talk may have been misread, according to The Guardian. Three weeks ago a prominent Iranian military leader told Iran-aligned militias in Baghdad to “prepare for proxy war.” This reportedly was taken in Washington as a sign Iran was preparing to launch attacks on U.S. forces and facilities. But, The Wall Street Journal reported, the proxy war call was apparently made because Tehran’s leaders believed a U.S. attack was soon coming. In other words, this was a self-defense move.
Whether they truly believe it when they say it, Erlanger writes that the Europeans don’t think Trump himself wants a war with Iran, but do believe Bolton does. That’s not a big leap, since he’s been beating that drum for more than two decades. Trump himself told Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan Wednesday that he doesn’t want war with Iran. Although he is, of course, a notorious liar, that stance would, in fact, match his previous statements. As pointed out here Thursday, although Trump denies there is any infighting over Iran among him and his advisers, anonymous sources have told reporters that Trump is frustrated that Bolton appears to have made a confrontation between the two nations more likely.
Despite this alleged disagreement from his underlings, however, Trump’s own bombastic rhetoric, his withdrawal last May from the multilateral 2015 nuclear accord negotiated by the Obama administration, the reimposition of old economic sanctions, and adding of new ones have all cranked up the potential for shooting to get started.
The withdrawal from the accord is what many European leaders believe, with good reason, precipitated the current situation, with Iran now responding a step at a time, exactly as predicted at the Pentagon and by other longtime observers, according to Times’ sources.
The first step, announced earlier this month, is to move away from provisions of the accord that curtail how much enriched uranium and heavy water Iran can stockpile. Each is key to making nuclear weapons if Tehran should choose to do so. If the Europeans have not come up with a means to get around sanctions by mid-July, President Hassan Rouhani says Iran will again begin enriching uranium, which would be a major step away from its verified compliance with the accord since it was signed nearly four years ago.