Coalition of the Reluctant

By: Professor. Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Global Security and Religion, University of Tokyo.

Bahrain hosted a conference for maritime security in the Gulf on July 31. Allies and friends of the United States are invited to participate in a coalition of the willing to ensure the safe navigation of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

But many allies of US are cautious. France is not enthusiastic about the idea, Germany declines its participation in this stage and the UK calls on a separate European-led framework for surveillance missions, keeping a room for distancing itself from the US initiative at least on the surface.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has acknowledged on the previous day July 30 in Washington D.C. that it will take more time to launch the coalition.

Japan is also very cautiously considering this issue.

It is extremely rare for Japan to refuse demands by the US which is by far the most important partner in the diplomatic and security policy of Japan. It will never be completely rejected in this time. After the cautious deliberation, in the end, Japan will come up with a way to join the US effort in securing the sea lines of communication in and outside the Gulf. The issue is, how?

Japan, as one of the largest importers of oil from the Gulf, is willing to contribute in securing the safe passage of tankers through the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

However, if that coalition of the willing which is going to be formed in response to the US call will be a substantial military alliance against Iran, there’s going to rise a legitimate fear of unwanted consequences. Many countries are exerting their utmost effort to assure that the coalition will decrease not increase the risk of military confrontations and collisions in the Gulf.

It is legitimate to carefully consider the US proposal when it appears that it is taking counterproductive measures for safety and security and when the US policy itself appears to be inconsistent even between the President himself and his aides, extra caution is needed. In this context, the recently surfaced effort by the UAE government to open the channel of communications and cooperation with Iran in the field of maritime security and in the Gulf is highly appreciated and attracting much attention.