DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — France’s defense minister criticized the U.S. on Saturday over what she described as “unanswered” attacks in recent months threatening the Persian Gulf, warning that the decades-long American deterrence in the oil-rich region appeared to be losing its power.
Florence Parly separately said France “deplored” both U.S. President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that led to the re-imposition of crushing sanctions, as well as Tehran recently breaking the deal’s enrichment, stockpile and centrifuge limits.
While saying France would continue to talk to Iran, her speech before the annual Manama Dialogue in Bahrain struck a muscular tone for Paris, which maintains a naval base in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. She said France would push for a European-organized maritime security force in the region that would cooperate with but be separate from an American-organized force.
"We've seen deliberate, gradual U.S. disengagement," she said at the summit organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. "It had been in the cards for a while but it became clear when fighter jets remained on the tarmac in 2013 after the Syrian chemical attacks or later, after the downing of a U.S. UAV and the bombing Saudi oil facilities."
"With the cornerstone moving, the edifice has started shaking," she said.
Since the summer, there have been a series of attacks in the region, starting first with the suspected mining of oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. blames Iran for the attacks, something Tehran denies. Iran did shoot down a U.S. military surveillance drone and seize oil tankers.
This geostrategic significance came into fresh focus when Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani recently threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz following the Trump administration’s decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal.
A September drone-and-cruise-missile attack on Saudi oil fields halved the kingdom’s crude oil production, shocking energy markets. The U.S. blames that attack on Iran as well, something Iran denies. Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed the attack, but analysts say the weapons used likely would not have the range to reach the sites from rebel-held territory and appeared to come in from the north of the Persian Gulf, not from the south toward Yemen.
“When the mining of ships went unanswered, a drone got shot (down). When that in turn went unanswered, major oil facilities were bombed,” Parly said. “This is dangerous, even for those who think they gain. Because bold is never far from daring and daring never far from reckless.”