The US assasination of Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani, has escalated into a Middle East “shadow war” between the US and Iran. Soleimani was killed in a targeted airstrike near Baghdad International Airport in Iraq. His death has brought about massive demonstrations against the US and a warning that Iran will retaliate.
US President Donald Trump authorised the airstrike against Soleimani without congressional approval, citing “imminent and sinister attacks”.
On Saturday, Boris Johnson broke his silence about the escalating crisis with a statement, which appeared to back Mr Trump’s actions.
The full statement said: “Today I have spoken with President Macron, President Trump and Chancellor Merkel, and will be speaking with other leaders in the coming days.
“General Qassem Soleimani posed a threat to all our interests and was responsible for a pattern of disruptive, destabilising behaviour in the region.
UK’s contingency plan to send troops into Iran revealed: ‘In no doubt!’
US President Donald Trump
“Given the leading role he has played in actions that have led to the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians and western personnel, we will not lament his death.
“It is clear however that all calls for retaliation or reprisals will simply lead to more violence in the region and they are in no one’s interest.
“We are in close contact with all sides to encourage de-escalation.
“I will be speaking to other leaders and our Iraqi friends to support peace and stability.”
It is not the first time Britain has sided with the US over Iran.
In the Nineties, during the US-led war against Saddam Hussain, Iran remained neutral as Iraq remained a fierce rival after the two countries waged a brutal seven-year war in the Eighties.
Iran’s top general Qasem Soleimani
British Prime Minister John Major in 1990
However, Tehran denounced the possibility of a long-term US military presence in the Middle East and, according to a 1990 report by the Daily Express, it declared a Holy War against US forces in the Gulf.
It also warned it would break the UN embargo on Iraq to help its old enemy Saddam Hussein.
Tehran’s threat to send food to Baghdad and allow oil to pass through Iran would have wrecked hopes of squeezing Saddam into economic submission.
Britain immediately responded to Iran’s intimidating remarks with Whitehall sources saying they were “in no doubt any Iranian military action would embroil British ground troops soon to be sent to the Gulf”.
Religious leader Ayatollah Khamenei told Tehran radio at the time: “The struggle against American aggression, greed, its plans and policies in the Persian Gulf will be counted as Jihad (Holy War) in the cause of Allah and anyone who is killed on that path is a martyr.
Harold Macmillan’s chilling prediction about the future of the bloc [INSIGHT]
How EU hit out at ‘irrational’ regime while offering UK ‘support’ [REVEALED]
Prince Charles: How heir to throne stunned in ‘dangerous’ Iran visit [VIDEO]
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq from 1979 until 2003
“We are vehemently opposed to America’s presence in the Persian Gulf as well as to its constantly increasing greed and its shameless policy in the region.”
If Iran then chose to attack the US over Solemaini’s death, the UK will likely be drawn into conflict.
The UK has followed the US to war before, notably following the 9/11 attacks in 2001, when Tony Blair followed President George Bush into Afghanistan.
Moreover, a senior commander in the Quds Force, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s international arm, warned yesterday British soldiers could be “collateral damage” in attacks on the US military.
He told The Times: “Our forces will retaliate and target US troops in the Middle East without any concern about killing its allies, including UK troops, as this has turned into a fully fledged war with much collateral damage expected.”
“We are very clear and have identified our targets and will fight with Americans.
“We request UK, the key US ally, and other western allies, including the NATO alliance, to not stand with this Trump regime, to avoid wider collateral damage in Iran’s response as it conducts foreign military operations against US after Soleimani’s assassination.”