WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is seeking support to build an international fleet to escort ships around the Persian Gulf and is learning how “no” is said in various languages.
Washington has asked France, Germany and the United Kingdom, among others, to supply ships to escort commercial vessels around the Persian Gulf, through the Strait of Hormuz and into the Gulf of Oman as a way to counter Iranian threats. To date, those requests have been rebuffed.
It is not that those nations reject the concept of providing escort ships. In fact, the United Kingdom has sent a second military vessel to the region for that purpose and organizing is own coalition. It is just those nations are wary of going into a U.S,-led coalition because of Washington’s hardline approach to Iran.
A comparison of who is saying yes to Washington and London reflects the reality on the ground — or in this case, the sea.
So far London has received positive responses of consideration from Denmark, France and Italy. Washington has heard the only possible possibility coming from South Korea, a nation with limited naval assets.
Britain hopes to have a meeting today in Bahrain to sort out options to safeguard shipping through the Strait of Hormuz.
Washington’s words and actions have contributed to this rebuff.
After Iran seized a British oil tanker on July 19, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was not the U.S responsibility to protect ships of other nations. “The responsibility in the first instance falls to the United Kingdom to take care of their ships,” he said then.
That same day, U.S. Central Command announced it was forming a multinational maritime coalition called Operation Sentinel. Defense Secretary Mark Esper traveled to Tampa on Tuesday to meet with leaders of U.S. Central Command to firm the details of that plan.
To date, no other nations have agreed to be part of Operation Sentinel.
One nation asked directly, Germany, flatly said no. In response, the U.S. embassy in Berlin — in a rare slap at diplomatic protocol — attempted to publicly shame Berlin.
“Members of the German government have been clear that freedom of navigation should be protected,” the U.S. embassy in Berlin said in a statement. “Our question is, protected by whom?”
In early July, Germany said no to a request by Washington to send ground troops to Syria to backfill the ranks being emptied by the departure of U.S. forces from that nation.