How they see us: Will Europe support U.S. on Iran?
“The killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani will go down as a turning point” in the history of the Western alliance, said Christiane Hoffmann in Der Spiegel (Germany). It’s not just that U.S. President Donald Trump failed to consult with or even inform his European allies before launching the drone strike that killed the head of Iran’s notorious Quds Force. It’s also that he has abandoned Western values altogether. With his threats to destroy Iranian cultural treasures should Tehran retaliate, Trump has shown his willingness to violate international law and adopt the barbarism of the Taliban, which demolished Afghanistan’s famed Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001. Europe “must distance itself” from this “madman in the White House” who has set America “so clearly against Western principles.” Sadly, our leaders have not done so. In a meek joint statement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson merely called on Iran to refrain from escalation.
The U.S.’s failure to give advanced warning to its NATO partners was a shocking breach of the alliance, said Rui Tavares in Público (Portugal). In the event of Iranian retaliation, many NATO countries have troops in harm’s way. Britain has some 400 troops in Iraq, and Italy more than 1,000 peacekeepers in Lebanon. And if Iran hits the U.S., we will be obliged to come to America’s aid because Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty “states that an attack on one ally is an attack on all states.” It doesn’t matter that America started this mess. Remember, Iran was contained and abiding by the 2015 nuclear deal—signed by the U.S., the European Union, Russia, China, and other powers—until Trump withdrew from the pact in 2018 and slapped punishing sanctions on Tehran. The EU tried to keep the deal alive, but Tehran has now signaled it is beyond resuscitation.
Europe has no choice but to support America, said Angelo Panebianco in Corriere della Sera (Italy). What’s the alternative? It’s not as though Europe has “more affinity with Russia than with America, or with Iran than with Israel.” And frankly, greater U.S. engagement in the Middle East might help stabilize the region: Look at what happened when America walked away from Libya, which is now “in the hands of the Russians and the Turks,” and Syria, which is dominated by Russia and Iran.
Turkey can exploit this situation, said Serkan Demirtas in Hurriyet (Turkey). The U.S. has continued to back Kurdish militants in Syria, claiming they are allies in the fight against ISIS, despite our protests that these fighters support separatist terrorists inside Turkey. Ankara has told Washington that it might have to boot American forces from Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey; so far, the U.S. has shrugged at the warning. But that threat now has a new significance, because the air base will prove crucial should Iran start attacking American troops in the region. If the U.S. wants Turkish support against Iran, it will have to cut off the Syrian Kurds. ■