France's Minister for Armed Forces Florence Parly has given a forceful speech Saturday warning of the dangers of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East and not responding to attacks.
Parly made the comments Saturday, addressing the annual Manama Dialogue in Bahrain, where she said "gradual U.S. disengagement" in the Middle East was worrisome and its failure to respond to provocations blamed on Iran set off a dangerous chain of events.
Since May, tensions in the Persian Gulf have increased with attacks against oil tankers, a U.S. unmanned drone being downed by Iran, and strikes on key Saudi oil facilities in September.
The United States, Saudi Arabia and European powers blamed Iran for the attack.
Despite the attacks on its Saudi ally and having one of its own drones shot down, the United States has avoided equivalent retaliation.
"We've seen a deliberate gradual U.S. disengagement," Parly said, adding it had been "on the cards for a while" but had become clearer.
"When the mining of ships went unanswered, the drone got shot. When that in turn went unanswered, major oil facilities were bombed. Where does it stop? Where are the stabilizers?" she asked.
"The region is accustomed to the ebb and flow of U.S. involvement. But this time it seemed more serious."
Parly said the U.S. drawback was a "slow process" and acknowledged that a U.S. carrier strike group had just entered the Gulf.
"But the trend is, I think, quite clear and thus probably irrespective of who wins the next elections."
The U.S. aircraft carrier strike group Abraham Lincoln sailed through the key Strait of Hormuz last week to show Washington's "commitment" to freedom of navigation, the Pentagon said.
It was the first time a U.S. aircraft carrier group has passed through the strait since Iran downed a US drone in June in the same area.
Parly said France will continue to speak to Iran. But she also stressed: “We will stand by our allies. You can count on us.”