Trump is wrong over Iran, but Europe can’t afford to divorce the US

The Guardian | : No other US president has been as antagonistic to European principles. But there’s no alternative to a strong transatlantic partnership

In 2003 a US-led war in the Middle East fractured western unity and divided the European family. It was a trauma of historic proportions, a watershed in some ways comparable to the 1956 Suez crisis. With Donald Trump’s decision on Iran, we may be on the verge of another such moment. On the surface, things may not look as bad as they did in early 2003. At this point, US military action against Iran is a worst-case hypothesis – not a plan. No 180,000-strong force is being built up near Iranian territory. Nor are Europeans split into two camps. In this current crisis, and despite Brexit, Europeans look like they’re sticking together.

Trump’s decision is not only extraordinarily brutal, it affects a project whose origins are found in a European initiative taken in the autumn of 2003, when the UK, France and Germany sent their foreign ministers to Tehran for talks: that project was aimed at limiting and controlling Iran’s nuclear programme through peaceful means. It took 12 years of international diplomacy, in which Europe played an important role, to reach the nuclear deal that Trump has now decided to tear up.This US move amounts to an open assault on multilateralism – something that, as history has taught us, Europeans have an existential interest in protecting and upholding. Trump’s decision can only be an own goal. US credibility will be severely affected. When a German chancellor declares – as Angela Merkel has just done, for the second time in a year – that Europe can no longer rely on the United States, you know something is amiss. Many others will now ask: how can we ever again trust a country that can withdraw overnight from solemn international agreements?

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