Iran Crisis Escalates: A Litmus Test for a ‘Stronger Europe’ Acting as a ‘Global Actor’

Written by | Friday, January 10th, 2020

As European leaders called for a ‘de-escalation’ in tensions between the West and Iran after the US assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the Ambassador of Croatia to the EU, the country that has just taken over the EU’s Council Presidency, suggested that the current crisis is a test of the EU’s ability to act as a “global actor.” Speaking in Brussels earlier this week, Irena Andrassy stressed that “looking ahead we have to try and find ways to leverage EU influence.” Croatia’s presidency, in her words, was based on “four pillars” that include creating a “stronger Europe” and boosting connectivity, together with efforts contributing to “strengthened” single market.
Meanwhile, while the safety of EU nationals and EU personnel in the wider Middle East was a “top priority,” there were no immediate plans to pull EU officials out of Iran or Iraq, a European Commission spokesman told reporters. Canada, which leads the NATO training mission in Iraq, announced it was pulling out some of its 500 troops, and Germany said its presence in the country would be “temporarily thinned out,” citing security concerns. Tensions have been mounting in the Middle East after Soleimani’s killing, with Iran firing more than a dozen missiles in retaliation at Iraqi bases hosting US and coalition troops on Tuesday (7 January).
“The developments in Iran and Iraq and the whole region are extremely worrying,” said High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell in statement. “The latest rocket attacks on air bases in Iraq used by the US and the coalition forces are yet another example of escalation and increased confrontation.” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in her statement that “the current crisis deeply affects not only the region but all of us. And the use of weapons must stop now to give space to dialogue,” adding that “there cannot be enough of that.” In contrast, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson threw his country’s support behind Washington, saying that the killed Iran’s top military commander had “the blood of British troops on his hands”.
As Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warned on Thursday (9 January) that Tehran could take further “harsher revenge” against the US soon, Johnson said during a weekly House of Commons session that no British personnel were injured in the Iranian attacks on military bases in Iraq and that the UK was doing “everything we can” to protect its interests in the region. “Iran should not repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks but should instead pursue urgent de-escalation,” the UK PM told Parliament. He also alleged that Soleimani was involved in arming Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement and Hezbollah and supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and was behind attacks on British troops. “Most reasonable people would accept the US has a right to protect its bases and personnel.”

Article Categories:
Americas · Asia-Pacific · GLOBAL EUROPE

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