Relations between US and Germany in a tight spot because of Iran
Difficult relations between Germany and the United States since the election of Donald Trump as president are once again being tested. Another disagreement between the allies happened due to Berlin's unwillingness to participate in Washington's military mission to protect merchant ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz. Situation in the region got worse after British tanker was seized by Iran last month.
Overall, Iranian issue has seriously hurt Berlin’s friendship with Washington. For a long time Germans worked hard to protect the first "child of European diplomacy" - a nuclear deal signed with Iran in 2015 (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA). This event was celebrated as the greatest diplomatic success of the six mediating countries, great achievement of European diplomacy, thanks to which the world may have escaped yet another Gulf War, which seemed extremely likely in 2013. Accordingly, after successful signing of the deal, part of "economic pie" - and rightly so - should have went to the Germans, whose economic delegations and emissaries immediately went on a visit to Iran.
But there was no happy end. After Donald Trump and his pro-Israeli team came to power in the US, “child of European diplomacy” was thrown into the trashbin of history. Unlike many of his predecessors, Donald Trump was surprisingly consistent in the fulfillment of his campaign promises. He, just like he promised, withdrew from this “bad” deal with Iran and imposed severe economic sanctions against Tehran, thereby effectively reversing plans of European and, in particular, German businesses to gain foothold in Tehran. Of course, such shamelessness of American hawks in the Iranian issue hurt Berlin, but Germans still had to swallow this "bitter pill."
Crisis around the British tanker, literally raided by Iranian armed forces on July 19, opened new window of opportunity for pan-European diplomatic initiative. After these events, joint European mission was supposed to ensure safety of European merchant ships that pass through the Strait of Hormuz and try to defuse situation. Obviously, no one in the EU planned to begin military confrontation with Iran - most likely, there would some kind of giveaway game with Tehran. Iranians would allow "united Europe" to carry out joint, "pan-European" operation, at the same time contributing to isolation of the United States in the Iranian issue. This completely fits current logic of the Iranian diplomatic game, built on conflict between the EU and the United States.
It should be noted that since the beginning Britain itself spoke of purely "European mission" in the Strait of Hormuz, without participation of Americans. But after the election of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, a lot of things have changed, including those related to the issue of the Hormuz mission. Now London is supporting US participation in the mission, which caught Germany by surprise.
Christopher Burger, spokesperson for the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: "We're interested in having European face in our region, and it's clear that we, Europeans, are not part of the US strategy to maximize pressure on Iran." Acting head of the Social Democratic faction in the Bundestag, Rolf Mutzenich, also believes that this would create a "huge risk of escalation."
After the United States formally asked London, Paris and Berlin to include them in joint operation to ensure security of merchant ships, Germany found itself in a particularly bad situation. Transatlantic wing of the German government, represented by new Secretary of Defense, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU), said that "government is reviewing US request in close cooperation with the UK and France." But on the same day, German Foreign Minister Haiko Maas (Social Democrat) said during his visit to Poland that Germany would not participate in military mission in the Strait of Hormuz under the leadership of the United States.
Foreign Minister of the Free Democrats Party Alexander Graf Lamsdorf commented on the situation: "German ministers publicly contradict each other, and this makes Germany a laughing stock." The same opinion was expressed by Social Democrat Fritz Felgentroy, the SPD speaker on defense policy: "Government must come up with joint opinion. Coordinating the government is chancellor’s task."
Meanwhile, position of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who went on a long vacation due to health problems, is still unknown. However, sooner or later Merkel will have to choose, and the longer she keeps silent, the badly the Federal Republic of Germany will look.