Germany's point-blank refusal to support Washington's proposal for a maritime protection force in the Arabian Gulf to protect shipping from attacks by Iran is yet another example of Berlin's diplomatic and economic sabotage of the Western alliance. Pictured: U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a press conference on April 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Germany's point-blank refusal to support Washington's proposal for a maritime protection force in the Arabian Gulf to protect shipping from attacks by Iran is yet another example of Berlin's diplomatic and economic sabotage of the Western alliance.
Following the recent upsurge in Iranian aggression in the all-important Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf shipping artery through which flows one-fifth of the world's energy needs, Washington has sought international backing for Operation Sentinel, its naval operation to protect shipping in the region.
This search follows a series of Iranian attacks, including the shooting down of a US Navy drone operating in international waters in the Strait of Hormuz, as well as a number of attacks against merchant shipping, such as last month's seizure of the British-registered oil tanker Stena Impero.
But while Washington has responded to Iran's deliberate escalation of tensions in the region by deploying an aircraft carrier battle group, as well as troops, missiles, and fighter aircraft, its appeal to other nations to support its effort have received a muted response.
In particular, Washington would like to see Britain, France and Germany -- the three European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran -- provide tangible support for the mission.
From Washington's perspective, the fact that Europe is far more reliant on the Gulf for its energy supplies than is the US, whose energy imports from the region today are negligible, it seems only fair that Europe, as well as other beneficiaries such as Japan, pay their fair share towards ensuring no further Iranian disruption of Gulf shipping takes place.
To date, though, only Britain has deployed warships to the Gulf -- a frigate and a destroyer -- while France is considering its options.
Germany, however, the country that enjoys Europe's largest economy and is therefore more than capable of contributing to the American initiative, has bluntly rejected a State Department request to support the mission.
In an attempt to shame the Germans into joining the operation, Washington's request was made public through the US Embassy in Berlin earlier this week. "We've formally asked Germany to join France and the UK to help secure the Straits of Hormuz and combat Iranian aggression," an embassy spokeswoman announced. "Members of the German government have been clear that freedom of navigation should be protected... Our question is, protected by whom?"
The US ploy, though, has fallen on deaf ears in Berlin, where there is considerable opposition within German Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition to becoming involved for fear that it might exacerbate tensions with Iran. Germany, like the rest of Europe, is still wedded to the naive notion that the Iranian nuclear deal can be saved, irrespective of the Trump administration's decision last year to withdraw from the agreement.
Olaf Scholz, the German vice-chancellor, who is deputising for Mrs Merkel while she is on vacation, responded by confirming that his country would not take part in a US-led naval taskforce; he warned about the danger of the world "sleepwalking into a much larger conflict".
Germany's outright rejection of Washington's request is likely to inflame tensions further between Washington and Berlin. U.S. President Donald J. Trump is already at odds with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on a range of issues, from Germany's obstinate refusal to meet its Nato funding commitments to its pursuit of closer energy ties with Russia through the construction of the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
Mr Trump is highly critical of the project. He argues that it will make Europe, and especially Germany, too dependent on Moscow for its energy needs, which could undermine the resolve of the Nato alliance to take a robust stand against Moscow in any future confrontation.
Moreover, Germany's refusal to support the Western alliance in combating Iranian aggression in the Gulf comes at a time when Nato is facing another major dilemma over the future participation of Turkey as a member.
This follows the decision by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to press ahead with the purchase of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems in the face of strong opposition from Washington, which has responded by cancelling Ankara's continued involvement in the F-35 stealth fighter programme.
So, at a time when the Western alliance is already struggling with how to respond to Turkey's deepening military ties with Russia, Germany's refusal to fulfil its obligations to protect shipping in the Gulf will be interpreted by adversaries of the West such as Moscow and Tehran as yet further evidence of what would doubtless please them very much: deepening divisions within the Western alliance.
Con Coughlin is the Telegraph's Defence Editor and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute. He is the author of "Khomeini's Ghost".