Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reminded the United Kingdom on Monday of the consequences of refusing to ally with the United States against Iran.
During an appearance on “Fox & Friends,” Pompeo was asked by co-host Brian Kilmeade what responsibility America has for helping to free a British-flagged vessel that Iran seized last week in the Strait of Hormuz.
“The responsibility in the first instance falls to the United Kingdom to take care of their ships,” Pompeo said, before adding: “The U.S. has a responsibility to do its part.”
His remarks underscored American frustration over U.K. refusal to help form military task force to protect international shipping off the coast of Iran. The United Kingdom has instead sought to establish a European naval protection force as part of an effort to chart a different course than the United States on Iran.
Pompeo to Iran: Just act “normal”
Analysts have noted that the United Kingdom’s appeal to Europe is an ironic departure from the island nation’s longstanding aloofness from the continent, not to mention move toward Brexit. Henry Foy of the Financial Times recalled in a tweet Tuesday that the United Kingdom has for years rebuffed efforts to form a European army as “Brussels over-reach.”
Brilliant. UK, which has for years laughed at a proposed "EU Army" and rebuffed attempts to pool European defence assets as Brussels over-reach, now calls for a EU Navy to protect shipping tankers in the Gulf https://t.co/9ktuIvRX7T via @financialtimes
— Henry Foy (@HenryJFoy) July 23, 2019
However, since President Donald Trump last year announced the United States was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, the British have loath to appear to be siding with his pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic.
Before the capture of the Stena Impero, the British declined to deploy the Royal Navy to escort British-flagged ships in the area over concerns that the move would escalate tensions with Iran.
For his part, Pompeo said on Fox News that the crisis in the Gulf is not a consequence of U.S. policy, but rather represented a continuation of longstanding Iranian aggression in the region.
“This is a bad regime; it’s not honoring the people of Iran. It’s not honoring the people of Iran. They have now conducted what amounts to national piracy – a nation-state taking over a ship that’s traveling in international waters,” he said.
“We don’t want war with Iran. We want them to behave like a normal nation. I think they understand that and I think the whole world is waking up to the fact that this threat is real. It’s not just a threat against America, it’s not just a threat against Israel. It’s a threat against all of us.”
The nuclear option
Iran’s capture of the Stena Impero last Friday as it traversed the narrow Strait of Hormuz has British authorities scrambling for answers.
On Saturday, the United Kingdom demanded that Iran release the ship and its crew or face “serious consequences.”
However, with negotiations still ongoing Monday, Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said during an emergency cabinet meeting that the United Kingdom would not be aligning with the United States against Iran. He also ruled out military options.
“It will not be part of the U.S. maximum pressure policy on Iran because we remain committed to preserving the Iran nuclear agreement,” he said.
In the meantime, the U.K. Foreign Office has warned British-flagged ships to avoid the Strait of Hormuz.