The United States under President Donald Trump would go it alone in a potential military confrontation with Iran, as neither its Middle East allies nor its Western partners see utility in such an endeavor.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who is known for his staunch enmity towards the Islamic republic – this week convened his security chiefs for an urgent meeting, instructing them to “take steps to isolate Israel from any developments and ensure that Israel is not dragged into this escalation,” Israel’s Channel 13 reported Wednesday.
They concluded, the outlet reported, that Tehran posed no “immediate concern” for Israel.
In the Gulf – where tensions are running high in the wake of reported attacks against shipping vessels and oil infrastructure – some of America’s staunchest allies are similarly unenthusiastic about the prospect of a new war.
The United Arab Emirates, for one, would not be “baited into a crisis” with Iran, a senior diplomat told Bloomberg Television on Wednesday night.
His comments came days after the Emirati Foreign Ministry said that four commercial vessels had been “sabotaged” off its coastal province of Fujairah. In the wake of that incident, multiple US media outlets have quoted unnamed Trump administration officials suggesting without evidence that Iran was behind the incident.
The Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, emphasized that an investigation, supported by the French and Americans, was ongoing.
“This is the region we live in and it’s important for us that we manage this crisis,” he added.
Saudi Arabia, embroiled since 2015 in a military intervention in neighboring Yemen with no end in sight, has offered only rhetoric and propaganda against Iran.
An editorial published Thursday in the Riyadh-based Arab News said the US should move beyond sanctions in its so-called “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran.
“The next logical step – in this newspaper’s view – should be surgical strikes. The US has set a precedent, and it had a telling effect: The Trump strikes on Syria when the Assad regime used sarin gas against its people,” it said.
The editorial notably did not advocate for Saudi involvement in said military action. The historical precedent mentioned – the 2017 US strikes on a Syrian military airbase – had no meaningful impact on the broader war.
For Iraq, which the US military invaded in 2003, a move stoked by intelligence claims over non-existent weapons of mass destruction and breathless media coverage of purported threats, a conflict between Tehran and Washington threatens to undermine what fleeting security the country has clawed back after a years-long war to rid its territory of ISIS militants.
“Iraq is a sovereign nation. We will not let [the US] use our territory,” Iraq’s ambassador to Russia, Haidar Mansour Hadi, was quoted as telling reporters in Moscow this week. The envoy said he hoped the latest developments in the region, including the pullout of US non-essential embassy staff from Iraq, would amount to nothing.
Iraq, he said, “does not want a new devastating war in the region” and would prefer to be a mediator between its rival allies than get caught in the middle.
America’s allies in Europe are no more enthusiastic.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who crashed a European Union gathering in Brussels on Monday in a bid to close ranks for his maximum pressure campaign, was met with a cool reception from his diplomatic counterparts.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters that the US top diplomat “heard very clearly … from us, not only from myself but also from the other ministers of EU members states, that we are living in a crucial, delicate moment where … the most responsible attitude to take … should be that of maximum restraint, avoiding any escalation on the military side.”
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt went so far as to express his concern that “an escalation that is unintended” could spark a “much more serious situation than we’re fearing.”
The following day, the UK’s Major General Chris Ghika said there was “no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.”
The statement – from the number two officer in the US-led coalition to defeat ISIS – appeared in sharp contrast to a sudden US evacuation of non-essential staff from Iraq this week over announced Iranian threats.
Brett McGurk, the former US envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition who served under both Trump and Barack Obama, said the ordered departure from Iraq was unprecedented.
“Even when ISIS was bearing down on Baghdad in 2014, the US did not trigger ordered departure in light of its serious repercussions,” he tweeted, adding: “The big question now is where this leads. Trump again said he expects Iran to call him. They won’t. So then what?”
Speaking from Japan on Thursday, part of a diplomatic tour meant to shore up Asian alliances amid the US pressure campaign, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told Kyoto News Agency there was no possibility for direct talks with the Trump administration at this juncture.
Zarif heads next to powerhouse China, where he will meet with officials engaged in their own standoff with the US over trade.