"The Soleimani affair marks a new stage in the transatlantic divorce over the Middle East"

On January 4, Iranians were hanged in the streets of Téréran to denounce the American strike that killed General Ghassem Soleimani the day before.
On January 4, Iranians were hanged in the streets of Téréran to denounce the American strike that killed General Ghassem Soleimani the day before. Ebrahim Noroozi / AP

Chronic. Who can be surprised that the European allies of the United States have been kept away from the assassination of General Ghassem Soleimani? The opposite would have been surprising. In such operations, the Americans rarely play collectively, even with the British; they don’t need anyone. There is also no need to go begging for the blessing of their European partners, who would most certainly have refused them.

Why, then, did these Europeans – in particular the three frontline countries on this issue, France, the United Kingdom and Germany – avoid condemning this resounding action? First, because, as we said in Brussels, no one among them "Only cried Soleimani". Second, because they are part of an alliance – an alliance dominated by the United States.

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These three countries, it should be remembered, not only are members of NATO, but they have participated, under the leadership of the United States, since 2014, in an international coalition whose mission is to combat the Islamic State. They know that the military assistance of this powerful ally is essential to them. And therein lies one of their differences over the current situation in Syria and Iraq: for Europeans, the fight against Daesh is far from over. The continuation of this fight – which they cannot fight alone – is even qualified as "Priority" by three leaders Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Boris Johnson in their joint statement, released on January 5. However, a few hours earlier, the American military command had announced the suspension of the fight against Daesh: for Washington, faced with the prospect of Iranian reprisals, the priority of the American troops in Iraq is to take care of their own protection.

The 2003 fiasco

The Soleimani affair marks the third stage of the transatlantic divorce over the Middle East. The first was the Bush administration’s 2003 decision to invade Iraq to dislodge Saddam Hussein. This decision deeply divided Europe. France and Germany refused to follow the American ally; very soon after the 9/11 attacks, President Chirac had detected the Iraqi obsession with George W. Bush and his team and had tried unsuccessfully to warn them. Several other European countries, however, including the United Kingdom, agreed to participate in the expedition. The operation turned into a fiasco, the consequences of which are still being paid.


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