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How The International Community Is Reacting To Rising U.S.-Iran Tensions


And let's broaden this out of Washington now because, of course, America's allies and adversaries around the world are watching closely for the next moves from the U.S. and Iran. So we are going to check in now with three key cities. On the line now are our NPR correspondents in Baghdad, Jerusalem and Berlin. Hey, you guys.



KELLY: Jane Arraf in Baghdad, I will let you kick us off. How worried are people in Iraq?

ARRAF: They're pretty worried because you'll remember that a lot of people here remember what it was like to live under that threat of, is there going to be a conflict, are there going to be airstrikes because they lived through that with the campaign before the 2003 war and during the war. Iraq's problem is basically that it has close to 6,000 U.S. troops here, and it also has Iranian-backed paramilitaries. And the Iraqi government is trying but not completely able to get all of those under control.

So the fear is that this couldn't be a limited conflict; that it will extend to Iraq if it happens. And, in fact, some countries are already making contingency plans if this escalates. Iraqi politicians tell us that the Kuwaiti emir, for instance, is looking at alternative oil routes through Iraq rather than that Strait of Hormuz, which is that passageway in the Persian Gulf where all the oil goes through, where the drone was apparently shot down.

KELLY: Oh, really? So they are already planning for Plan B in case that Strait of Hormuz is no longer somewhere where they can get their goods through.

ARRAF: That's been a focus of a lot of this because, of course, a lot of this actually is about oil, as well as that regional power play between, for instance, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

KELLY: Stay with Saudi Arabia for a second, Jane, because I understand Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke with President Trump today. Do we have any readout on what was said?

ARRAF: They did speak today. President Trump and the Saudi crown prince talked about the U.S. reaction and the Iranian - what they termed to be the Iranian offensive action. We're not sure exactly what they discussed, but we do know that Saudi Arabia would have been supportive of the U.S. position.

KELLY: Speaking of supportive of the U.S. position, let me bring in Daniel Estrin. You are in Jerusalem, which has also been urging a hard line with Iran. That is still the official position there?

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Well, you know, we heard Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu take quite a forceful stance. He said Iran had increased its aggression, quote, "against all of us." And initially when Trump said Iran may have made a mistake in shooting the drone, we heard a lot of former Israeli defense officials say, well, Trump was letting Iran off too easily. But then when Trump said he aborted his attack on Iran, we heard no comment from Israeli officials. And defense analysts here say that Israel cannot afford to be seen as egging on the U.S. to attack.

But all of this happening now, in a way, is a very opportune moment for Israel to talk about one of its key demands, which is it wants Iranian forces to leave Syria. And it will be pressing that next week when Israel hosts national security adviser John Bolton for a preplanned meeting in Israel with his Russian counterpart.

KELLY: And what about the worries that are always present in Israel, that Iran might push proxy groups to attack Israel if there is some wider conflict playing out in the region?

ESTRIN: We've been hearing a lot of those concerns in recent days. The Israeli president issued a warning to Hezbollah not to attack. The Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also said don't try us, though we've been hearing more and more Israeli defense analysts saying it seems really unlikely that Iran would take that risk and try to egg on its proxies to attack Israel and be retaliated against.

KELLY: All right, let me spin us toward Europe now, where Deborah Amos is perched in Berlin. And Deb, I want to ask you about where Europeans are on this. They have not approved of the maximum pressure campaign that the Trump administration has launched against Iran. They've been urging maximum restraint again. Does that mean you woke up in Europe and there was this collective sigh of relief across the continent that we did not all wake up to war this morning?

AMOS: Exactly. And to see where Europe is going on this, you have to look at two meetings that are coming up next week. One is in Vienna. And there, Iran meets with the EU, Germany, France, the U.K. plus Russia and China. It's a meeting to outline progress made to help Iran with sanctions relief. How is INSTEX going? That's what the Iranians are going to want to know, and that's an alternative banking system that the Germans, the French and the British have proposed to get European companies to supply food and medicine to Iran.

KELLY: Right.

AMOS: The second meeting is the G20. That's the economic forum that's this time held in Japan. Now European leaders can lobby the president directly. And analysts here say that the Europeans are going to say look; we can help you with offramps. Let us create an environment to bring Iran to the negotiating table.

KELLY: So I'm imagining a queue of European leaders at the G20 lining up to lobby President Trump and bend his ear on this. But how much leverage do European leaders have over either Washington or Tehran?

AMOS: Not much, and they know it. They feel very much in the middle. They have been pretty tough lately, saying look; we're going to have to impose sanctions, too, if you walk away from the nuclear deal. The Germans have been the toughest on this. So they have a message to Washington, which is please be flexible. And their message to Iran is please stick to the deal.

KELLY: That's NPR's Deborah Amos in Berlin, Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem and Jane Arraf in Baghdad. Thanks all three of you.

ESTRIN: You're welcome.

AMOS: Thank you.

ARRAF: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF NYVS' "COLOR WOOLS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Deborah Amos covers the Middle East for NPR News. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.
Jane Arraf covers Egypt, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East for NPR News.
Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.