When France and Germany opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the George W. Bush administration dismissed them as representing “old Europe,” even as it prosecuted the war with Britain by its side. More than a decade later, Washington and all its major partners across the Atlantic find themselves on opposing sides again—this time, over how to deal with Iran.
These differences came to a head this week when Britain’s Ministry of Defense issued a statement backing comments made by a senior British military official disputing U.S. claims of an increased Iranian threat in the Middle East. The remarks, delivered Tuesday by British Army Major General Chris Ghika at the Pentagon, were quickly rejected by U.S. Central Command as running “counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian backed forces in the region.”
Such public disputes—particularly between allies with defense ties as deep as those between London and Washington—are rare. But the issue of Iran has proved incredibly divisive for the United States and its European partners. The Trump administration and its allies in France, Germany, and Britain have been at bitter odds over Iran since President Donald Trump made the consequential decision last year to withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear agreement and reimpose crippling sanctions on Tehran—a move the deal’s European signatories not only condemned, but have actively worked to circumvent.