U.S. attack in Iraq "worrying"; Dutch MPs say reconsider Strait of Hormuz patrol

Stef Blok, Foreign Affairs, EU, Brussels
Stef Blok attending the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU in Brussels. July 15, 2019Ale_MiDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

In response to a drone attack by the United States on a Baghdad airport, killing an Iranian military leader, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said the events unfolding in Iraq are "worrying and serious." The attack happened weeks before the Dutch military was to send a frigate and helicopter to help patrol the Strait of Hormuz, which the U.S. requested months ago.

When the Netherlands committed to the deployment in November, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he said he was not concerned about the Dutch getting pulled into another military conflict contradicting the opinions of several leaders in the Netherlands military. "Nobody benefits from further escalation," Blok said on Friday.

Qasem Soleimani died in the Friday airstrike. He was the head of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command at the Iranian supported Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, was also allegedly killed, according to the PMF.

Blok said that "Soleimani played a role" in instability in the region, and acknowledged attacks by Iran on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and coalition forces in Iraq. "The Netherlands condemns this," the conservative VVD minister said.

But he pushed for an end to the brewing hostilities. "It is of great importance that the tranquility is preserved in the region."

Similarly, VVD parliamentarian Sven Koopmans said the US is "justifiably furious" about the attacks. However, "a personal attack on a general is an unprecedented and risky step."

In light of the upcoming Dutch mission in the Strait of Hormuz, one MP from centrist government coalition party D66 called on the government to re-evaluate the ship's deployment. Sjoerd Sjoerdsma called the military mission to protect oil tankers both "important" and possibly "extra risky" on social media. "The cabinet's priority must now be the safety of Dutch people in the region," he said.

Another coalition party, ChristenUnie, also called for a rethink on the Hormuz mission. "It is important to strengthen ties with democratic forces in Iraq and to ensure that Iran's influence in Iraq is reduced," said Joël Voordewind.

Far-right leader of the anti-Islam PVV, Geert Wilders, did not mention the Dutch mission to the Middle East, saying only that he was happy the "Iranian State Terrorist" who has "so much blood on his hands" had died. "Good riddance."