Tanker row: London wants naval mission

Britain is calling for a European naval mission to protect merchant vessels in the Persian Gulf. The initiative comes after Iran seized the British tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz last week. How much sense does such a mission make?

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Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

A step towards a European foreign policy

The Süddeutsche Zeitung is impressed by the proposal from London:

“Because it makes it clear that Britain and the Europeans will not join US President Trump's 'campaign of maximum pressure' against Iran - on the contrary. The mission's independence draws a clear line separating it from the US and is a renewed show of commitment to the nuclear deal which France, Britain and German are trying to save. At the same time it is another small step towards strategic autonomy in European foreign policy. ... The mission also sends a long overdue signal to Iran: for all the efforts to save the nuclear deal there are limits to what the Europeans are prepared to tolerate. ... Moreover the undertaking was a first step towards involving Britain, which may not be in the EU much longer, in European politics.”

El País (ES) /

Hormuz shows UK's limits

Boris Johnson needs to learn very quickly about the limits of British autarchy, El País cautions:

“Of course the Europeans will help the British as much as possible: they are their partners and should remain so in the future, albeit in a different format. But the cry for help shows very clearly that all the talk of sovereignty, imperial nostalgia and economic autarchy are false solutions to today's problems. Johnson will have to learn this lesson without delay. The insignificance of the aggressive, individualist nationalism he advocates, today bears the name Hormuz.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Worrying disunity in the West

While US President Trump is trying to increase pressure in the conflict with Iran, Britain is calling for a European naval mission. The obvious lack of a joint strategy is deeply worrying to Dagens Nyheter:

“It is unsettling to see the US and its allies pursuing completely different strategies to master a crisis which could have catastrophic consequences. War can break out for all sorts of reasons, including strategic errors. And the Middle East is definitely not a region lacking in fuses which can be set off at any moment.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Show solidarity with Britain

It's high time the EU and Germany reacted, the Tagesspiegel demands:

“With military defence and economic pressure. In other words by providing an escort for European ships crossing the Persian Gulf to prevent Iran from capturing more ships; a fortnight ago a convoy foiled an attempt by Iran to capture a British ship. And they must also react with sanctions against Iran, until the British ship is free - and until every other EU ship that Iran might be thinking about capturing is free. With Iran in the grips of a bitter financial crisis, sanctions should force it to yield fairly quickly. The US is showing the way. ... Now would be the moment for the EU to unite in defence of its member state Britain. The fact that Britain wants to leave is irrelevant, because right now it is an EU member.”

Ria Novosti (RU) /

No one wants to side with London

Britain's harsh rhetoric towards Tehran only highlights the helplessness of a country that was once a major power but now can't even drum up the support of all its allies, writes Ria Novosti:

“Britain is behaving like a quarrelsome child who has been beaten up again and is running to his big brother for help. But the British are in for a nasty surprise: both Washington and Nato have shown astoundingly little enthusiasm at the idea of helping out the enfant terrible. The Alliance confined itself to the terse statement that it supports 'all diplomatic attempts' to resolve the situation. And the reaction of the US was also suspiciously lame.”

Ethnos (GR) /

EU in a tight corner

The Europeans are in a difficult position, comments columnist Giorgos Kapopoulos in Ethnos:

“Irrespective of the Europeans' reluctance to bind themselves to Trump's policy and their desire to save the deal on Tehran's nuclear programmeinstead, the Old Continent's room for manoeuvre is limited. Faced with the dilemma of losing either the US or the Iranian market, the states and businesses in the EU have made their choice pretty clear. ... For Tehran, on the other hand, it's extremely dangerous that Trump's aggressive policy aimed at isolating Iran on the international stage is slowly but surely gaining traction.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Playing nice isn't working

There are plenty of arguments for a hard line against Tehran, says the Daily Telegraph:

“Iran is a bloodthirsty dictatorship that oppresses women and religious and sexual minorities. It has exported terrorism. It is threatening already to break the nuclear agreement and, say some analysts, has been developing rocket technology that means when the deal finally comes to an end, it might be in an even stronger position. ... It's essential that the next prime minister spends more on defence. He also needs to review British foreign policy, as it's clear that trying to play nice on the nuclear deal isn't working. The United States has given up on Iran and, considering what's just happened in the Gulf, understandably so. This is a rogue state. It should be treated as such.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

A coalition againt Iran is needed

The UK will have a vested interest in gathering an international coalition at its side in the tanker conflict, Tagesanzeiger comments:

“At first glance this doesn't seem that difficult. Iran isn't really trying to construct a reason for hijacking the Stena Impero from Osmanian waters. ... This is about revenge after the British navy stopped Iranian oil on its way to Syria in the implementation of an EU embargo - in British waters, it should be stressed. ... First off, London should avoid making impossible demands of its partners; and secondly, the main European players France and Germany should finally recognise their potential for mediating and put Iran under serious pressure to bring it to the negotiating table.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Johnson under pressure

NRC Handelsblad explains why the front-runner for the post of next British prime minister could be compelled to engage in military operations against Iran:

“Johnson has partially coupled his Brexit strategy with a trade agreement with the US; he needs the latter to be able to sell his strategy at home. To keep the prospect of such a favourable deal alive Johnson depends on Trump. So it is quite possible that Trump will make the favourable signals from Washington regarding a trade deal contingent on London supporting its plans to take tougher and even military action against Iran.”

Club Z (BG) /

An endless cat-and-mouse game

The conflict will continue to simmer for a while without coming to a head, Club Z predicts:

“Trump won't risk a new war just months before 2020, the year of the next presidential elections in the US. Such a war would go against his promise from his first election campaign to withdraw US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same tie he can't afford to end the sanctions and measures that he put in place against the Iranian regime a year ago without presenting the US electorate with some kind of victory. ... So the cat-and-mouse game between Washington and Tehran will continue.”