In the first gulf war, in 1990-91, the United States led a broad multinational coalition; in the second, in 2003, the European “coalition of the willing” was essentially reduced to Britain and Poland.
Part of Europe’s skepticism is rooted in that 2003 war, when there were charges of fake or exaggerated intelligence, which continue to haunt the reputations of then-loyal European leaders, such as former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and former President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland.
“Every European politician who supported George W. Bush was taken out and effectively executed,” Mr. Shapiro said. “Even in the U.K., no way there can be a repeat of that. If the U.S. policy is force, there will be no European support.”
But the Trump administration — which has already strained relations with Europe badly through unilateral moves over trade, climate change and relations with Israel and Russia, let alone Iran — probably doesn’t much care what the Europeans think, Mr. Shapiro said: “No one in the administration is expecting much help from Europe over this.”
Still, he noted, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an effort to come to Brussels and speak to European foreign ministers about Iran and American assessments of enhanced threat. For internal administration debates, European views will be taken into account, Mr. Shapiro said.
“If there is tacit support or even abstention,” he said, “that can be helpful in the internal debates, to say, ‘The allies are with us or against us.’ ”
European officials consider the debate in Washington over Iran far from over, and they want to do their best, as one official said, to support Mr. Trump in his clear reluctance to get America involved in another messy war in the Middle East.