US-Iran conflict: an acid test for the West?

US President Trump is apparently intent on further escalating the conflict with Iran: after Tehran announced it would retaliate for the US's killing of high-ranking General Soleimani, Trump threatened to destroy Iranian cultural sites. Several European countries are now urging steps to de-escalate the situation. The confrontation doesn't bode well for transatlantic relations, Europe's press observes.

Open/close all quotes
Spiegel Online (DE) /

Europe must distance itself

Spiegel Online is dismayed by Trump's aggressive behaviour:

“With his threats of the past two days US President Donald Trump is saying farewell to the Western community of values. He has openly questioned principles that until now have defined the West. With his threat to destroy Iranian cultural sites he has cast doubt on America's commitment to the Hague Conventions on the laws of war, which have provided the guidelines for warfare for more than a hundred years. If he makes good on this threat it would be a breach of civilisation, a barbaric act reminiscent of the Taliban's destruction of the Afghan statues in Bamyan. ... Europe must distance itself more clearly from an America that is so clearly opposing Western principles.”

Público (PT) /

You'd have to be mad to trust Trump

Writing in Público, historian Rui Tavares appeals to European leaders to use their common sense:

“As far as we know neither the government of a Nato state nor that of an EU state has been warned about an attack of this geopolitical magnitude - not even the British ... In the event of an Iranian retaliation against the US, the other Nato states would have to fulfil the obligations of the famous Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which states that an attack on one ally is an attack on all states. But assuming such a responsibility requires faith in the wisdom and predictability of the leaders of the allied states. And only a European leader who is not right in the head would stand up for Trump.”

Deutsche Welle (RO) /

The US no longer counts on the Europeans

Journalist Petre M. Iancu from the Romanian Service of Deutsche Welle, however, takes a different view of the situation saying the demands of the French, British and German governments for de-escalation are inappropriate:

“It wasn't the Americans who fired at the peaceful Iraqi demonstrators who have taken to the streets in Baghdad in recent months to protest against the Iranian-controlled puppet government. It wasn't the US that was carrying out acts of piracy in the Gulf, but Iran. ... To speak of a 'spiral of violence' therefore suggests ethically unacceptable, false equivalences. This is a missed opportunity for moral clarity and solidarity with the allies. The US no longer expects great things from the Europeans. America is disillusioned with Western Europe's cowardliness.”

Polityka (PL) /

Without partners or allies

Polityka sees Trump making enemies with every move:

“The White House has announced that it is forming a 'coalition' in the Middle East to fight Iran. The problem is nobody wants to go to war there. And Iraq, one of the potential coalition partners, isn't being treated as a partner by Trump. The president says he wants to 'keep the country's oil' and he won't meet with its democratically elected representatives when he visits his troops. America is depriving itself of partners and allies.”