Friday

24th Jan 2020

Opinion

US and Iran: Shoot and tweet, then think ...

  • 'The US has forgotten that in the past 12 months it has singlehandedly dismantled the past decade's work between the USA, EU, France, UK, Germany, Russia and China in concluding the Iran nuclear deal' (Photo: un.org)

If the world was hoping for 2020 to be a calmer decade, Iranian major general Soleimani's death quickly reminded us that global security and stability is on the edge.

On paper, removing Soleimani is a welcome move, celebrated by those he oppressed and the families of those he murdered at home and abroad.

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However, Soleimani's killing has also highlighted the US president's lack of a coherent strategy to guide the West through the aftermath of this event, and the growing chasm between the US and its allies.

Donald Trump's actions were not unexpected. This was not the first time someone has tried to take out Soleimani.

The gulf has been a melting pot for the past 12 months. Iranian attacks in the Gulf in May, the downing of an American drone in June, the attacks against the Saudi oil tankers in September, and then the storming of the US embassy in Iraq just a week ago have led to this retaliation.

However, the president's bombastic and erratic rhetoric, and his failure to inform allied governments and congress of his actions, made the world question whether this was another shoot first, think later moment from president Trump.

Behind Trump's big talk lies a big problem.

Real political and military solutions are rarely discovered amidst the rhetoric of a tweet.

Solutions require big picture thinking and strategic planning that accommodates compromise and expert advice, which is mostly lacking in today's hollowed out US state department.

Powder keg, not real estate

They require abandoning the belief that every situation and negotiation is a chapter from Trump's The Art of The Deal. This isn't a real estate deal; it is a potential powder keg.

Iran is considering its options to retaliate. Soleimani's death will have dented their strategy and their pride.

He was a powerful figure; one intrinsically woven around the economic and political interests of Iran.

Soleimani's tentacles of oppression and manipulation reached far into the corners of the Middle East providing leverage and consequences across conflicts in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and in Syria's relationship with Russia.

He organised the revolutionary guard and used them for both internal repression and foreign support for terrorist attacks.

While Iran's military strength does not mirror that of the US, it still possesses a wide range of options. It has military bases in Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and military and civil naval traffic in the Gulf.

It has a terrorist infrastructure around the world and its major capitals. As images of British and Israeli flags burn alongside American flags on the streets of Iran, allies will be concerned of being drawn into a situation they did not instigate.

UK Navy ships are now escorting commercial ships and oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz, Tel Aviv has received threats of an attack, and other European nations will fear attacks against their military and their diplomats.

The US has expressed its disappointed at the lack of support from Europe. But the US has forgotten that in the past 12 months it has singlehandedly dismantled the past decade's work between the USA, EU, France, UK, Germany, Russia and China in concluding the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) regarding Iran's nuclear programme.

Washington has rejected proposals to save it, and offered no coherent or credible strategy in its place.

It is clear that a strategically-united Europe has never been more important.

If Europe cannot bring the US back to the negotiating table to discuss a new strategy of de-escalation and how to stabilise the region and fight the spread of terrorism, Europe will have to go it alone in its Middle East strategy.

The EU must set in motion the most powerful tool in its arsenal; diplomacy that speaks with one voice and the force of 27 nations.

High representative for foreign affairs Josep Borrell no doubt entered into office with his own foreign policy priorities. The JCPOA and the Middle East was very much Federica Mogherini's baby; but events have the unique ability to derail the best laid plans of any leader.

To date, the EU - including the UK - has been united in its view that escalation is in nobody's interests, but as the next stages progress, keeping Europe united will be extremely difficult.

Europe must prioritise stabilising the region, preserving the sovereignty and security of Iraq, ensuring that terrorist factions such as ISIS do not use the situation to increase their power base, and prevent a new humanitarian catastrophe and migration crisis.

These actions are not only essential for regional stability, but for European and global security.

Europe needs to prepare for four more years of Trump, and four more years of testing the transatlantic alliance. Europe needs to forge its own future and protect its own autonomy.

I am a strong Atlanticist, but how can the US expect its allies to follow when it gives them no idea where they are being led?

Author bio

Assita Kanko is a Belgian MEP for the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group and a member of the foreign affairs and security and defence committees.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Analysis

Suleimani assassination strengthens Iranian regime

With the assassination of Iranian general and war hero Qassem Suleimani, Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei gets the opportunity to reunite the people in his country, after weeks of mass protests.

US scorns EU bailout of Iran deal

Gulf tensions have intensified, with Iran to speed up nuclear enrichment after US scorns French-led EU diplomacy.

3,000 troops from 19 EU states in Iraq. Will they stay?

Thousands of European troops are in Iraq as part of an anti-ISIS coalition effort. Many are now being either pulled out or scaling down, amid demands by Iraq they leave. Meanwhile, Iran has pummelled coalition bases with a dozen missiles.

Second-hand cars flaw in EU Green Deal

The moment Europe revels in its carbon-free transport system, most of the cars that emitted too much for EU standards will still be driving around for years somewhere else in the world.

Eastern Partnership must now improve media freedoms

The EU can hardly criticise Eastern Partnership countries for disrespecting media freedom. Five EU member states, including current presidency Croatia, came below Armenia and Georgia in the 2019 RSF Press Freedom Index. Bulgaria ranked nine places behind Ukraine.

Column

Why nations are egomaniacs

A nation, Reinhold Niebuhr wrote, is not capable of altruism. Even less so, if such a group has formed on the basis of strong emotions and casts itself as the "saviour of the nation".

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While Poland's government is escalating its rule of law crisis by introducing even more drastic measures against the country's judges, another problem is looming over the EU's commitment to upholding the rule of law: Malta.

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