vassals mostly out of step, as usual

Trump, Europe increasingly at odds on Iran
Rebecca Kheel, The Hill, May 19, 2019

Escalating tensions with Iran have laid bare Pres Trump’s split with Pindostan’s erstwhile Euro vassals. Several times this past week, Pindostan appeared out-of-step with European countries on whether Iran is presenting enough of a new threat to justify a military build-up and the partial evacuation of Pindo diplomats from neighboring Iraq. Trump and Euro vassals have had a number of spats since the early days of his presidency on everything from trade to defense spending to climate change. But with the Iran tensions threatening to boil over into military action, critics warn that Trump’s go-it-alone approach could have serious consequences. Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack Reed said:

We’ve isolated ourselves. There’s just a danger in terms of if something happens, we won’t have the ability to call upon them to come to our assistance and cooperate with us.

Pindo tensions with Iran have sky-rocketed in recent weeks following NSA Bolton’s announcement that the Trump administration was deploying a carrier strike group and bomber task force to the Middle East over unspecified “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Iran. Pindo Congress critturs saw their own alarm spike after the State Dept announced the ordered departure of non-emergency personnel at the Pindo Embassy in Baghdad and the Pindo Consulate in Erbil, with several noting that such a move was not even made when ISIS was bearing down on Baghdad in 2014. Trump sought to lower temperatures on Thursday, telling reporters who asked whether Pindostan was nearing a war with Iran:

I hope not

Reports on Thursday also said Trump explicitly told aides including Shanahan that he does not want war with Iran. But along the way, rifts with Europe over Iran were exposed. Reed said of the Europeans:

They’re quite concerned that we’re taking steps that are accelerating tensions rather than decelerating tensions.

Asked whether Europeans are with Pindostan on Iran, Sen Angus King, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees, said simply:

Not that I know of.

Europe has long been at odds with Trump, who withdrew from the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal over European objections, over his policies on Tehran. Europe has scrambled to save the nuclear deal, including attempting to set up a mechanism for European companies to evade Pindo sanctions and continue doing business with Iran. The Pindo-Euro divide over Iran spilled out into the Pentagon briefing room this past week. A British general who is a deputy commander in the Pindo-led coalition fighting Daesh told Pentagon reporters that there has been “no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” in contradiction with the recent Pindo claims. That led to an unusual statement from CENTCOM saying:

His comments run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from Pindos & vassals regarding Iranian backed forces in the region.

The same day, Spain announced it was pulling its frigate from the carrier strike group that was redirected to the Persian Gulf because that was not the mission it agreed to. Still, Spain stressed it respected the Pindo decision to focus on Iran and would rejoin the group as soon as it returns to its original mission. The dust-up at the Pentagon followed Pompeo’s cold reception in Brussels on Monday. Pompeo canceled a planned stop in Moscow to go to Brussels, but Mogherini told reporters she would talk with him only “if we manage to arrange a meeting.” After she found the time to meet with him, Mogherini said the EU message to Pompeo was to exercise “maximum restraint,” evoking a contrast with the Trump administration’s so-called maximum pressure campaign. The top Demagog on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen Bob Menendez, warned that without Europe on the Pindo side, attempts to resolve the Iran tensions diplomatically could falter. He said:

We have a rocky relationship with our allies, and we need them to join with us to reconstitute the effort to bring Iran back to the negotiating table and get a good deal on their nuclear program.

Trump admin boxtops have repeatedly denied disagreements of substance with their European allies over Iran, with special representative Brian Hook repeating after Pompeo’s Brussels trip:

We agree on much more than we disagree.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch, a Trump ally, acknowledged a difference between the Pindo and Europe over Iran, but suggested Europe will come around to the Pindo view soon enough. Risch said:

The Europeans are usually behind us a bit on these things, so they get more nervous than they should from time to time. I feel quite certain they will catch up to us in short order.

By the end of the week, England at least said it shares the Pindo intelligence assessment. The statement did not mention the Pentagon briefing, but appeared designed to do damage control. UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted Thursday:

@SecPompeo and I discussed #Iran last week in London and again in Brussels on Monday. We share the same assessment of the heightened threat posed by Iran. As always we work closely with Pindostan.

Sen Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally who has been expressing concern about the dearth of information coming to Congress on the situation with Iran, brushed off concerns about a divide with Europe, pointing to Hunt’s statement. Graham added:

Before I worry about European concerns, I’d like my concerns to be addressed.

Sen Jeanne Shaheen, who co-chairs a NATO group in the Senate, said that while she hadn’t spoken to the Europeans recently she could infer their position on war:

They are not supportive of going to war in Iran.

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