Donald Trump’s threat to attack Iranian cultural sites is a breach of civilization. If he did, he would be on par with the Taliban and Europe would then be alone in the West.
The assassination of the Iranian general Qasem Soleimani will go down in the history of the West, not only because military escalation in the Middle East has become almost inevitable. The targeted killings, which Washington had not discussed with its allies in Europe, also have the potential to further split the already fragile transatlantic partnership and the Western alliance. There is some evidence that this conflict will fundamentally change Europe’s relationship with the United States.
Germany and Europe have not yet found their role in the Iranian-American conflict. It is not easy either. On the one hand, there is Iran with its leadership, which could destabilize the region through its allies. With the brutal suppression of protests at the end of November, it showed that it does not feel bound to human rights and is ready for anything to stay in power.
On the other hand, there is the United States, which, against the will of its European allies, canceled the nuclear agreement and thus started the escalation. You have ignored Europe’s interests. But since last Friday, alienation between the Cold War allies has taken on a new dimension.
An act of barbarism
With his threats of the past two days, US President Donald Trump is about to say goodbye to the Western community of values. He has openly questioned the principles that have so far been the West. With his threat to destroy Iranian cultural sites, he has questioned America’s commitment to the Hague land warfare system, which has governed civilization in the event of war for more than a hundred years. If he did, it would be a breach of civilization, an act of barbarism commemorating the Taliban’s destruction of Afghan statues in Bamyan.
Trump’s attempt to impose US troops on Iraq against his will also contradicts international principles. When the Iraqi parliament voted to withdraw the American military on Sunday, the madman in the White House was threatened with sanctions “as they have never seen them before”.
Europe has to distance itself more clearly from an America that is so clearly against Western principles. If it wants to be credible, it must clearly state both: it should have condemned the Iranian security forces’ brutal crackdown on protests in the country. At the same time, Trump should also criticize clearly if he violates the values that were previously thought to be common.
The federal government has so far failed to do so. The statement that Chancellor Angela Merkel published together with French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday was primarily aimed at Iran.
Instead of criticizing the murder of Qasem Soleimani in violation of international law as a disproportionate escalation of the conflict, the Europeans urged Tehran to “refrain from further violent actions or their support”. The US approach was not even mentioned. This is how Europe makes itself unreliable.
The German contribution was otherwise exhausted in bland statements. Iraq must not sink into chaos, the German Defense Minister warned. The Foreign Minister echoed that there should be no proxy war in Iraq.
The Europeans’ quietness will not calm Trump. On the contrary, there is a growing danger that the US will be encouraged to escalate further. Then, however, the European Allies could soon face uncomfortable decisions: What if the Americans wanted to declare an Iranian retaliatory strike as a NATO alliance case?
Europeans must make it clear that they will not be drawn into America’s conflict with Iran. This could be an ordeal for NATO. Not excluded that not Russia, but Iran will push the transatlantic alliance to its limits.