Germany is currently considering a joint maritime operation with the US and UK in the Persian Gulf. Even at the risk of angering Washington by refusing, Berlin has no appetite for conflict with Iran, analysts say
The US has formally asked Germany to join a mission aimed at “protecting” maritime traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, along with Britain and France, the US Embassy in Berlin said on Tuesday. Building up a ‘coalition of the willing’, Washington and London aim to combat so-called “Iranian aggression” as they slam Tehran’s seizure of the British-flagged Stena Impero oil tanker.
Though the proposed operation has the support of some politicians and shipping industry figures in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel will likely face the wrath of opposition parties on all sides of the political spectrum if she agrees to back it. On Wednesday, Vice-Chancellor and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said he is “very skeptical about it,” and that the mission puts Germany at risk of being dragged into an even bigger conflict.
There is no plan, there is no strategic objective defined by the United States. Just being there raises the possibility of a risky development.
The US and Iran moved closer to open confrontation last month when Tehran downed an American drone. The situation risked spiraling out of control after US President Donald Trump decided to launch – and then at the last minute call off – massive military strikes in retaliation.
Further complicating matters is the often contradictory line coming out of the White House on Iran. National Security Advisor John Bolton is a longtime advocate of military action, while Trump appears to be wary of entering an unpopular war while vying for re-election.
[It’s a question] whether we follow Bolton and others, because it is not certain who is in control in Washington, and therefore it is too complicated to participate in war games.
While Schulze maintains that the German military could scrape together enough men, materiel, and vessels to contribute to a maritime security mission, Wimmer said the military’s state of disrepair suits the average German just fine.
While both analysts agree that refusing to hop on board the Hormuz mission may anger America, Merkel’s government could not survive the backlash at home. “If Berlin gives in to the demands and the pressure of Washington,” Schulze said, opposition parties ranging from the Greens to the right-wing Alternative for Germany would brand Merkel’s government “a poodle of Washington, and nobody wants that.”
She should, therefore, engage Iran peacefully and diplomatically, according to Wimmer, rather than “committing to second or 10th place in a military alliance against a country like Iran that is our longtime friend.”