/UK urges calm after US kills Irans top general

UK urges calm after US kills Irans top general

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab

Image caption

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab released a statement after the incident in Iraq

The UK government has “urged all parties to de-escalate” after the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in a US air strike in Iraq.

He was killed on Friday in a strike ordered by US President Donald Trump.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK “recognised the aggressive threat” Gen Soleimani posed, but “further conflict is in none of our interests”.

Jeremy Corbyn said the “US assassination” was an “extremely serious and dangerous escalation”.

The Labour leader said the UK “should urge restraint” from both Iran and the US and called for the government to “stand up to the belligerent actions and rhetoric coming from the United States”.

He added: “All countries in the region and beyond should seek to ratchet down the tensions to avoid deepening conflict, which can only bring further misery to the region, 17 years on from the disastrous invasion of Iraq.”

There are currently around 400 British troops deployed in the Middle East, according to the Ministry of Defence, with around 400 personnel based in Iraq – where the strike took place.

The troops in Iraq are there to train Iraqi forces tackling an Islamic State insurgency.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said he did not think the UK was given any indication the air strike was going to take place, adding: “My sense is this has caught the British government largely by surprise.”

‘Huge blow’

The former chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat, said it was part of a “pattern” from the current White House not to share such details with its allies, which was a “matter of concern” for the UK.

The Conservative MP told BBC News: “I have long believed the purpose of having allies is so we can surprise our enemies, not each other.”

Mr Tugendhat added that the death of Gen Soleimani “will certainly be a huge blow to the Iranian regime”, but will “doubtless have consequences” elsewhere.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has warned British nationals to avoid any rallies, marches, or processions in Iran over the three days of national mourning the country has called for Gen Soleimani.

The killing of Gen Soleimani marks a major escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said “severe revenge awaits the criminals” behind the attack, but a statement from the Pentagon said Gen Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region”.

Dominic Raab spoke to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier on Friday.

Mr Pompeo tweeted that he was “thankful that our allies recognise the continuing aggressive threats posed by the Iranian Quds Force”.

The acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Ed Davey, said Iran was governed by “a brutal regime”, but accused President Trump of “yet again radically and recklessly escalated tensions in an area where peace-keeping was already on a knife edge”.

‘We need to engage’

He called for an immediate statement from Boris Johnson about the UK’s position, adding: “The UK should not automatically follow whatever position the Trump administration takes, but work with a broader group of concerned states at the United Nations.”

Other UK MPs have been reacting to the incident on Twitter.

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said: “For two years, I’ve warned about Trump’s reckless lurch towards war with Iran. Last night’s attack takes us even closer to the brink.

“Those of us who marched against the Iraq War must be ready to march again, and ensure we are not dragged into this morass.”

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas called for the UK government to condemn the killing and “work with colleagues in the US to counter Trump’s reckless and dangerous foreign policy”.

And the deputy leader of Northern Ireland’s Alliance Party, Stephen Farry, said it was “time for cooler heads”.

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