Can Europe Help In The US-Iran Conflict?

The word « de-escalation » has been spoken over and over again in recent days in Europe. A joint statement by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson regarding the current US-Iranian crisis also calls for it. All parties of the conflict are urged to show « maximum restraint and responsibility. »

Negotiations are ongoing with the United States, which, by the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Iraqi Baghdad on January 3, sharply exacerbated the crisis. Head of State Department Mike Pompeo expressed disappointment with the insufficient, in his opinion, European support for US actions. Washington justified rocket fire at the Baghdad airport, which killed Soleimani, with the upcoming attacks on the Americans, which the Iranian general allegedly prepared. However, the United States did not provide any evidence of these allegations, Rainer Breul, a spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry, said on January 6. « We familiarized ourselves with the US rationale, but did not find information that would allow us to agree with it, » he said at a government press conference on January 6.

Meanwhile, Europe embarked on shuttle diplomacy: Emmanuel Macron is in contact with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani; Boris Johnson is consulting with US President Donald Trump. On January 11, Angela Merkel will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow; the meeting will touch the situation in the Persian Gulf. This is important because Russia, like China, in 2015 signed a nuclear deal with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (JCPOA).

The German government is also in talks with Iraq. In response to US actions, the parliament in Baghdad on January 5 decided to withdraw from the country troops of the international coalition to combat the Islamic State. There are currently 120 Bundeswehr soldiers in Iraq as part of this coalition, who are training the local security forces to fight ISIS. On January 6, Germany announced a partial withdrawal of its contingent from Iraq to Jordan and Kuwait.

Europe’s weight is negligible in the Gulf conflict, writes former German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel in a commentary to the German newspaper Tagesspiegel. According to him, in the past two years, the European Union several times in crisis situations has shown itself to be a « paper tiger ». To change this and achieve real de-escalation, Europe needs to be courageous and be prepared for political risk.

In order to prevent Iran from being dragged into an escalation spiral, Gabriel advises offering the country multibillion-dollar loans from the European Central Bank or national banks of the EU countries. Thus, according to the ex-minister, Europe would be able to regain Iran’s confidence in itself and ceased to be a “paper tiger”.


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