German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas previously made it clear that Berlin would not sign up for a US-proposed plan to set up an international maritime force in the Persian Gulf to counter a purported Iranian threat.
Senior US diplomats are pressuring the German government to reconsider its decision to not participate in a US initiative to police the Persian Gulf region in the wake of a series of “sabotage attacks” on oil tankers there blamed on Iran, The Washington Free Beacon reported, citing multiple American officials.
According to several insiders, Berlin’s refusal to join the US-led coalition would only prove to Tehran, which has strongly denied its involvement in the tanker incidents, that the West is not unified.
“German officials keep telling us that they’re on our side, but they have to side with Iran on nuclear related issues because of the nuclear deal. Iran is attacking tankers which has nothing to do with the deal. So what’s Germany’s excuse for not siding with us this time?” a senior US official was cited as saying.
Likewise, US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell told the Free Beacon that, “German participation would help deescalate the situation. The Iranians would see a united West”.
A spokesperson for the US Embassy in Berlin is said to have confirmed to the media outlet that Grenell and other high-ranking diplomats’ efforts to pressure Germany to pitch in the maritime coalition have failed.
“We’ve formally asked Germany to join France and the UK to help secure the Strait of Hormuz. Members of the German government have been clear that freedom of navigation should be protected”, an unnamed senior embassy functionary told the outlet.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has, meanwhile, defended his decision to steer clear of the US-proposed mission in the Gulf, citing concerns that Berlin might be dragged into a war with Iran if tensions continue to escalate.
“At the moment, the Britons would rather join an American mission. We won’t do it”, Maas said earlier this week, after previously stressing that “there can be no military solution” to the standoff in the region.
Germany is, however, not Washington’s only European ally to have been unwilling to be part of its naval force, dubbed Operation Sentinel: France has also been reluctant to join the mission.
The UK, in turn, has agreed to participate in the US-led initiative, having as well announced that it would put together a European-led maritime “protection mission” following the Iranian seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz over alleged violations of maritime law last month.
The incident came weeks after London detained an Iranian vessel off the coast of Gibraltar, claiming it was transferring crude oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions, which Tehran denied.
US ‘Alone in the World’?
As Maas reaffirmed Germany’s unwillingness to partake in the US-led coalition, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif claimed that Washington had failed to set up a unified maritime mission in the Gulf because it’s “alone in the world” and “countries that are its friends are too ashamed of being in a coalition” with the US.
US-led efforts to create an anti-Iranian coalition come against the backdrop of a series of incidents involving oil tankers in the region: in May, four vessels – two Saudi, one Norwegian and one Emirati – were purportedly “sabotaged” near the UAE port of Fujairah; a month later, two oil tankers – Japanese and Norwegian – were allegedly attacked in the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz.
Washington and its regional allies immediately blamed both incidents on Tehran, which, in turn, strongly denied any wrongdoing and urged the US to put an end to “warmongering” and “false flag ops”.