Anders Fogh Rasmussen called an emergency meeting of nato on Friday to consider mounting a military mission in the Mediterranean. Discussions have also been held with all EU defense chiefs. In the meantime, Germany has already reacted on its own initiative.
The European Union—especially its lead nation Germany—regards Africa as its own backyard, and the Mediterranean islands as stepping stones to that resource-rich continent.
For some years, Germany has held a UN mandate to patrol and secure the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Germany’s federal cabinet renewed that mandate in November of last year. It is not a mandate that Germany will ever be tempted to give up.
No northern African or Middle Eastern nation possesses the naval power to contest the EU’s possession of the Mediterranean.
The three key access points to the Mediterranean and what lies beyond are Gibraltar, Suez and the Dardanelles.
Gibraltar is secured as an EU possession by Britain. Turkey remains both an ally and a strong trading partner of the EU and Russia. If Turkey saw fit to block the Dardanelles, it would have both the EU and Russia to deal with. The provocation of either nuclear power is not in Turkey’s interests.
Suez is considerably more vulnerable to abuse by any unfriendly power that might seize control of Egypt and seek to then hold the West to ransom by threatening to block the canal.
Nasser did it in 1956. Then, after the Six Day War of 1967, the canal remained blocked for eight years. The escalation of costs to shipping was enormous as Atlantic-Indian Ocean trade had to reroute during that period around Africa.
The situation in the Middle East is much more volatile today than it was in Nasser’s day. Not only that. The EU was but a dot on the geopolitical horizon in 1967. Today it is a world power aggressively seeking to develop a high-powered, pan-European, nuclear-armed military force. Leading the way is a newly confident Germany.
There is another crucial gateway to which the rest of the world cannot afford to have its access blocked: the Persian Gulf. This is the most vital gateway giving access to the bulk of Middle East oil deposits.
This rogue nation—chief sponsor of Islamist terror, declared enemy of the West—has already threatened to block access to Gulf ports in retaliation against Western efforts to contain it.
Iran recently sought to capitalize on the unrest that has spread from Tunisia to Bahrain by floating a couple of warships up Suez and into the Mediterranean.
Germany was quick to respond.
Under the guise of “humanitarian interests”—that is, “the evacuation of German citizens from Libya”—the Bundeswehr sent three warships steaming to the Mediterranean to confront the Iranian provocation. Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg’s department has confirmed that the frigates Brandenburg and Rheinland-Pfalz and the tactical support ship Berlin have been dispatched to the southernmost point of the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Sidra, which borders the Libyan coast.
Had the real reason been for evacuation purposes, Germany could quite well, at far less expense and much more speedily, flown German citizens out of Libya. The numbers simply don’t compute. Three warships plus 600 military personnel on board to rescue just 160 German expats? There’s more to this than meets the eye. Especially when the Deutsche Marine has quite a reasonable fleet securing the coastal border between Israel and Lebanon, a relative stone’s throw away from Libya, let alone the warships patrolling the Med fulfilling that particular mandate.
The choice to beef up security in the Mediterranean by adding three warships was deliberate. Germany is sending a strong signal. The message to Iran and any other rogue element that might seek to take advantage of the revolutionary unrest in the Mediterranean is, Don’t mess with us on our own turf!
Mark our words—this is the first overt act of provocation and response between two nations that are prophesied to clash very soon in hot war—war that will be to the detriment of both Iran and the whole pan-Islamic effort at regional dominance. At the same time, that conflict will propel a German-led Europe into the world spotlight as a dominant global power. ▪