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A look at Europe’s Mideast presence after Iran’s warning

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

Iran’s president said Wednesday that European troops in the Middle East “could be in danger” if their nations join the United States’ maximum pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic that had led to a military confrontation earlier this month.

Britain, France, and Germany have spent months trying to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal after President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned it in 2018. But on Tuesday, the European Union initiated a dispute resolution mechanism to try to bring Iran back into compliance after Tehran began openly breaching some restrictions last summer.

Iran says it should not be bound to the agreement since the U.S. reimposed crippling sanctions. After a U.S. airstrike killed Tehran’s top general in Iraq, Iran responded by firing ballistic missiles at U.S. troops stationed there. No one was hurt in the missile attacks.

“Today, the American soldier is in danger, tomorrow the European soldier could be in danger,” President Hassan Rouhani said at a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, without elaborating.

European countries have thousands of troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, where they mainly operate alongside much larger U.S. deployments. Iran is allied with powerful armed groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

Here is a look at Europe’s military presence in the region:


The NATO mission in Afghanistan currently consists of around 17,000 troops from 39 allied and partner countries. The alliance formally concluded its combat mission at the end of 2014 and now provides advice and training to Afghan forces. Britain has nearly 1,000 troops in Afghanistan and Germany has around 1,100.


Britain, France and Germany are all part of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group. Britain has around 400 troops based in Iraq while Germany has nearly 450 troops deployed to counter IS and to train Iraqi forces. Germany “temporarily” withdrew 35 of its troops from Iraq after Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed. Most were flown to Jordan, where Germany also has troops involved in reconnaissance and refueling flights for the anti-IS coalition. France has around 1,000 troops deployed in the region to help combat IS in Iraq and Syria.


Britain operates a naval base in Bahrain that can house up to 500 British military personnel and is focused on maritime security. It also has a joint training base in Oman. France has a naval base known as Camp Peace in Abu Dhabi’s Port Zayed, which houses some 700 French troops. Britain and France also station troops at U.S. bases in the region.


Several European countries contribute forces to the U.N. peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon, which patrols the tense frontier between Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group. France contributes around troops. Germany provides more than 100 forces to the peacekeepers’ maritime mission.

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