The US defense secretary is trying to “internationalize” the US stand-off with Iran by convincing NATO allies to help. France reportedly rebuked his advances, saying the alliance shouldn’t be dragged into war in the Gulf where only the US is involved.
Mark Esper is meeting his NATO counterparts in Brussels this week, attempting to bring NATO members onto Washington’s side as its confrontation with Tehran is ratcheting up.
Talking to reporters at NATO HQ on Thursday after a closed-door session, Esper said the other allies need to publicly condemn Iran’s “bad behavior,” claiming this would help push events away from “a military track.”
But there seems to be skepticism among Europeans about Washington’s effort to build a coalition to oppose Iran. During the meeting, Esper was “warned by France not to involve the NATO alliance in any military mission in the Gulf,” Reuters reported. Together with other European heavyweights like Berlin, Paris called on the US to “uphold the Iran nuclear accord,” which the US broke over a year ago in what may be seen as the trigger point of the ongoing escalation.
The Pentagon chief called on the allies to take part in maritime patrols in the Persian Gulf. The patrols, he believes, would deter further attacks against oil tankers.
Washington accused Iran of using limpet bombs to damage six tankers in two different incidents, but some European nations expressed doubt that the evidence the US presented to make its case is conclusive. Iran rejected the accusations and implied the incidents were false flag operations meant to escalate tensions and justify the American military build-up in the Middle East.