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Tensions over Iran show cracks in a time-tested alliance

Tensions over Iran show cracks in a time-tested alliance

2019/05/16 | 00:05

(Hatha al-Youm | Iraq News)-

Gone, at least for now, are the halcyon days when strong

military and political ties between Britain and the United States meant that

Washington could assume it had a staunch partner for standing up to a foreign

foe.Dating back to World War II and including joint actions

against Kosovo, Afghanistan and the two wars against Iraq, US leaders have been

able to count on Britain to take part in invasions and airstrikes, and to help

persuade sometimes cautious European allies to offer political and logistical

support.The Trump administration was expecting similar support over

what it calls an increased threat from Iran, but this hope has been swatted

down — not with anonymous whispers but by public comments from top British

officials.In an unusually blunt challenge from Britain, Maj. Gen.

Chris Ghika denied the US assertion of an increased threat from Iranian-backed

forces in Iraq and Syria. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt also warned that the

heated rhetoric could lead to an “accidental” war between the US and Iran.Those remarks brought Britain closely into line with other

European nations that want a focus on diplomacy, not escalation. Europe wants

to salvage a nuclear containment deal with Iran, not ratchet up tensions.The very public display of disunity comes as President

Donald Trump prepares to travel to Britain and France next month to mark the

75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, often cited as a shining example of the

value of trans-Atlantic cooperation.Peter Beyer, the German government’s coordinator for

trans-Atlantic relations, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Germany

is working closely with its European allies to “calm the situation in the Arabian

Gulf” before it gets out of hand.“Our goal remains to keep the Iran nuclear deal in place,”

he said, referring to the deal that world powers reached with Iran in 2015 to

constrain its nuclear development. Trump has abandoned the deal, frustrating

Britain, France and Germany, whose leaders believe it offers the best way to

prevent nuclear proliferation in the unstable Middle East.Beyer said Germany’s foreign minister met privately in

Brussels with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday and “outlined very

clearly that we do not want any type of military escalation.”In a newspaper interview to be published Thursday, German

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany, France and Britain are taking “a

different approach” from the US on Iran, adding that in this instance the three

countries “have common interests” with Russia and China.Britain’s ability to influence Trump on its own seems

particularly weak at the moment because the government is in disarray over its

stalled Brexit divorce plan from the EU, and Prime Minister Theresa May has

said she will step down once the withdrawal becomes a reality.Some European diplomats say privately that Pompeo was

unconvincing when he met separately with several European foreign ministers and

that there is little comprehension of what US officials hope to achieve by putting

maximum pressure on Iran at a time when its economy is already suffering under

sanctions.The meetings with Pompeo seemed to be thrown together at the

last minute rather than a carefully choreographed diplomatic encounter.German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told lawmakers that

putting intense pressure on Iran adds to the risk of an unintended escalation.“What has happened in recent days — acts of sabotage against

ships or pipelines — are indications that these dangers (of escalation) are

concrete and real,” he said.For now, the EU refuses to be drawn into the war of words.

Under the nuclear agreement, which is backed by a UN Security Council

resolution, the International Atomic Energy Agency reports every few months on

whether Iran is in compliance with the terms of the deal, known as the Joint

Comprehensive Plan of Action.A new report is due at the end of May, and the Europeans are

waiting to see what its conclusions will be, rather than endorsing the US

position.In the meantime, Europeans have been trying to keep supply

lines open to Iran. They have set up a complicated barter-type system to skirt

direct financial transactions with Tehran to try to evade possible US

sanctions.The plan, run jointly by Britain, France and Germany, is not

yet operational, but the fact that the three influential nations banded

together to come up with a way to frustrate US sanctions is one more sign that

the alliances that helped rebuild western Europe after World War II are being

tested as never before.









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