European allies of the United States have pleaded publicly and privately with the Trump administration to de-escalate the situation and not to respond militarily to the Iranian missile attack on US forces in Iraq.
The cancellation of a planned statement by US President Donald Trump to the American people late on Tuesday night was seen as a sign that the White House was willing to consult allies before taking any further action.
But European diplomats said they still feared that hawks within the administration will prevail upon the president and would insist that the US must respond militarily to the first official state sponsored attack on the US by Iran since the Iranian revolution in 1979.
There is, however, relief that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in his remarks on Wednesday morning did not speak of further military action and that the bulk of the Iranian military spokesman only threatened further action if the US itself fired back.
The German defence minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, speaking on national breakfast television, said: “It is now up to the Iranians, above all, not to cause any additional escalation, which is why the appeal particularly goes to Tehran again.”
The British foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, in a statement issued hours after the attack, expressing concern over “reports of casualties and use of ballistic missiles”, said: “We condemn this attack on Iraqi military bases hosting coalition – including British – forces … We urge Iran not to repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks, and instead to pursue urgent de-escalation.” He said a Middle East war would only be of benefit to Islamic State, a group that Iran is also fighting.
Raab will be able to convey this message personally to the White House administration when he flies to Washington on Wednesday. The prime minister, Boris Johnson, called on all sides to dial down the crisis, even as he defended the right of the US to act in its self-defence.
Ursula van der Leyden, the European commission president, at a morning press conference alongside the EU external affairs chief, Josep Borrell, said “the use of weapons must stop now to give space for dialogue. We are called upon to do everything possible to rekindle talks.”
Borrell said the situation was “extremely worrying”, adding: “One thing is clear: the current situation puts at risk the efforts of the last years and also has implications for the important work of the anti-Daesh [Isis] coalition.”
Borrell also indicated he did not expect the EU states – France, Germany and the UK – to walk out of the Iran nuclear deal, saying it was the only framework in which they could talk formally to the Chinese and Russians about the Iran crisis.
He added that he hoped it would be possible to have a meeting soon with the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif.
The French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said: “France condemns the attacks carried out last night by Iran in Iraq against the rights of the coalition against Daesh. It reiterates its solidarity with its allies and partners in the coalition, as well as its attachment to the sovereignty and security of Iraq.
Zarif was also inundated by calls from world leaders, including the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to prevent any further official attacks. He has said in interviews and tweets that the Iranian response has concluded, a vital message he had been pressed to make by mediators.
It was also notable that neither Saudi Arabia nor the United Arab Emirates issued calls for retaliation from Washington. Anwar Gargash, the influential foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, said: “It is essential that the region pulls back from the current and troubling tensions. De-escalation is both wise and necessary. A political path towards stability must follow.”
Some diplomats said it may be a stroke of pivotal good fortune that no US forces appear to have been killed in the attacks.
It was of no consequence that Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps was claiming 80 US soldiers had been killed, since this assessment might assuage domestic opinion.
The difficulty is that many other non-Iranian state actors are poised, such as Iraqi popular mobilisation units, and have said they are determined to exact separate revenge on US troops. Qais al-Khazali who leads the AsaibAhl al-Haq group, has promised matching retribution. (Source: The Guardian)