Iran warning puts thousands of European troops in spotlight
Britain, France, and Germany have spent months trying to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal after President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned it in 2018. But on Tuesday, the European Union initiated a dispute resolution mechanism to try to bring Iran back into compliance after Tehran began openly breaching some restrictions last summer.
Iran says it should not be bound to the agreement since the U.S. reimposed crippling sanctions. After a U.S. airstrike in Iraq killed Tehran’s top general, Iran responded by firing ballistic missiles at U.S. troops stationed there. No one was hurt in the missile attacks.
“Today, the American soldier is in danger, tomorrow the European soldier could be in danger,” President Hassan Rouhani said at a Cabinet meeting without elaborating.
European countries have troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, where they mainly operate alongside much larger U.S. deployments. Iran is allied with powerful armed groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
A look at Europe’s military presence:
Britain, France and Germany are all part of the U.S.-led coalition that is fighting the Islamic State group. Britain has about 400 troops based in Iraq while Germany has nearly 450 troops deployed to counter IS and to train Iraqi forces. Germany “temporarily” withdrew 35 of its troops from Iraq after Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed on Jan. 3 in the U.S. drone strike. Most were flown to Jordan, where Germany also has troops involved in reconnaissance and refueling flights for the anti-IS coalition. France has about 1,000 troops in the region to help combat IS in Iraq and Syria.
The European Union as a bloc has several dozen personnel in Baghdad working on security sector reform and advising the Interior Ministry. European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said officials are aware of the threats, but that “we, as the EU, are not leaving Iraq.”
Read more at: AP News
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