26 Jul, 2019
As tensions continue to ramp up in the Persian Gulf over tanker detention incidents with Iran, Germany has signaled that it may take part in the proposed European effort to protect commercial shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.
Earlier reports claimed that Foreign Minister Heiko Maas asserted Germany’s interest in joining the mission, but his office said on Thursday that it was “too early” to talk about any involvement of German troops, which would still require a vote in parliament for authorization.
“It is too early to talk about possible forms of German participation,” the spokesman told Reuters. “Requests for German military participation were so far not the subject of” talks with Britain and France.
Newly appointed Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer also downplayed the reports, suggesting that German involvement was not a foregone conclusion.
“It is now the hour for diplomacy,” Kramp-Karrenbauer told reporters on Thursday, adding “there is no concrete requirement” for participation in the mission.
— Volker Witting (@VolkerWitting) July 25, 2019
The plans for a defensive operation – initially proposed by the UK, which has already begun carrying out the mission – follow a number of confrontations between Tehran, Washington and London in the region, with the UK seizing an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar in early July, and Iran reciprocating by seizing a British-flagged vessel off its shores last weekend while detaining then setting another one free with a warning. A similar exchange of potshots has occurred between Iran and the US Navy, with both claiming to have shot down one another’s drones over the Persian Gulf. Washington also pins blame for a pair of mysterious Gulf tanker attacks on the Islamic Republic, while Tehran accuses a third party –namely Israel– of sabotaging the vessels.
Notably, the spate of incidents follows a similar proposal, coming from the US in June, to protect shipping lanes, but at that time European countries showed little interest in the idea.
In addition to the UK, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Denmark have so far shown interest in joining the mission, with Spain, Sweden and Poland still on the fence. It is unknown whether the European mission will be managed under the purview of the EU or as a joint venture between individual countries.