The U.S. is facing increasing isolation in the West following its assassination last week of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force and second most powerful man in the country.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has publicly complained that America’s traditional allies in Europe have not been forceful enough in their backing of President Donald Trump’s unilateral decision to kill Soleimani in a drone strike early Friday outside Baghdad International Airport along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the senior commander of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi force, and eight others.
“I spent the last day and a half, two days, talking to partners in the region, sharing with them what we were doing, why we were doing it, seeking their assistance. They’ve all been fantastic. And then talking to our partners in other places that haven’t been quite as good,” Pompeo told Fox News.
“Frankly, the Europeans haven’t been as helpful as I wish that they could be. The Brits, the French, the Germans all need to understand that what we did, what the Americans did, saved lives in Europe as well,” he said.
“Qassem Soleimani led and his IRGC led assassination campaigns in Europe. This was a good thing for the entire world, and we are urging everyone in the world to get behind what the United States is trying to do to get the Islamic Republic of Iran to simply behave like a normal nation.”
The European Union was already at loggerheads with the U.S. over the latter’s decision to pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with major powers and ratchet up sanctions against Tehran. Soleimani’s assassination has only deepened the foreign policy divide over Iran.
The U.K., France and Germany together comprise the so-called ‘E3’ bloc which sets the agenda for European foreign policy. The three countries released a joint statement as well as individual ones.
The joint statement said: “We have condemned the recent attacks on coalition forces in Iraq and are gravely concerned by the negative role Iran has played in the region, including through the IRGC and the al-Quds Force under the command of General Soleimani.
“There is now an urgent need for de-escalation. We call on all parties to exercise utmost restraint and responsibility. The current cycle of violence in Iraq must be stopped…We stand ready to continue our engagement with all sides in order to contribute to defuse tensions and restore stability to the region.”
The U.K. is caught between the U.S. and EU, as it often is. But this time, the situation is particularly difficult for London as it gears up to sign post-Brexit trade deals with Brussels and Washington.
Following the E3 bloc’s joint statement, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson inched towards the U.S. position slightly, saying: "I think most reasonable people would accept that the United States has the right to protect its bases and its personnel.”
He added that having supplied improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to terrorists that killed and maimed British troops, "that man [Soleimani] had the blood of British troops on his hands."
Further complicating matters is that Johnson was not warned of the operation beforehand, despite the U.K. having around 400 military personnel stationed in Iraq as well as more across the wider region.
Tom Tugendhat, a member of Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party and chair of the British Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told the BBC that “the purpose of having allies is that we can surprise our enemies and not each other. It's been a pattern, sadly, which has been a bit of a shame, that the U.S. administration of late has not shared with us, and that is a matter of concern. I would urge the U.S. administration to share much more closely with allies, particularly those who are fighting alongside in the region, including us."
Foreign Minister Dominic Raab told the BBC that the U.K. has “always recognised the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds Force led by Qassem Soleimani.” The statement fell short of a full backing of the assassination.
“Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate. Further conflict is in none of our interests,” Raab added.
Amelie de Montchalin, France’s deputy foreign minister, told French radio: "We are waking up to a more dangerous world. Military escalations are always dangerous."
This was a direct rebuke to the U.S. suggestion that the world was a safer place following the assassination. French President Emmanuel Macron said later that he wanted to “avoid a new dangerous escalation,” and like other world leaders, he called for restraint.
"The American action was a reaction to a series of military provocations for which Iran is responsible," said German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer, adding: "We stand before a dangerous escalation."
Germany therefore had the most pro-American position of the three major European powers, but this is only in a relative sense.
That its lukewarm response was the warmest towards the U.S. speaks volumes as to Washington’s growing isolation among its major allies.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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