Germany rules out US anti-Iran alliance
The joint European approach to resolving tensions with Iran is showing signs of strain, with German figures warning that the UK may adopt a pro-US approach under Boris Johnson.
Olaf Scholz, the German vice-chancellor, publicly confirmed today (Wednesday) that his country would not take part in any US-led naval taskforce.
The finance minister, who is deputising for Chancellor Angela Merkel while she is on holiday, warned of “sleepwalking into a much larger conflict”.
One of Scholz’s party colleagues expressed scepticism about the UK’s role in any European action.
“The new government appears to have changed course to align with the Americans,” said Johann Wadephul, a Christian Democratic Union MP. “The US is pursuing a completely different path than the one we are.”
The new pro-Brexit UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said any EU naval mission would not be “viable” without Washington’s support. The failed Brexit minister also said he wanted to see a broad coalition.
Several attacks on tankers and drones are driving a wedge between the US and its European allies, with the UK and France last week refusing to join Washington’s “Operation Sentinel”. European governments last week suggested an alternative naval initiative.
Calls for the joint taskforce have increased following the seizure of the British-flagged Stena Impero tanker in the Strait of Hormuz in June.
Germany has ruled out a new US request to help secure the vital shipping lanes through the Persian Gulf.
The Strait of Hormuz is 34km wide and around 18.5 million barrels of oil passes through it each day. Around 20 per cent of the world’s oil travels through what the US Energy Information Administration calls the planet’s “most important oil transit chokepoint”. More than 90 per cent of Saudi oil exports travel through the strait along with oil from Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq and the UAE.
“One thing we must avoid is that it comes to an escalation that never ends, and we find ourselves sleepwalking into a far greater conflict,” Scholz told broadcaster ZDF. “I am very sceptical, and I think that’s a scepticism that many others share.”
The US embassy in Berlin said this week it had formally sought help from Germany, France and Britain to secure the Strait of Hormuz and “combat Iranian aggression”.
“Members of the German government have been clear that freedom of navigation should be protected,” an embassy spokeswoman said. “Our question is, protected by whom?”
Unlike the British and French, German participation in foreign military missions has to be approved by the lower house, the Bundestag, and the Social Democratic Party rules out any move.
The Strait of Hormuz often concentrates minds in western capitals. Picture credit: Wikimedia