Jeremy Corbyn demands Privy Council meeting over US killing of Iran military chief
Jeremy Corbyn has written to Boris Johnson to demand a Privy Council briefing on the United States’s decision to kill an Iranian military chief.
The Labour leader wrote to Mr Johnson yesterday evening after US President Donald Trump ordered a drone strike against Iran’s top military official, Qasem Soleimani, near Baghdad airport in Iraq.
The American commander-in-chief's decision has sent shockwaves through the region, and Iran’s UN envoy Majid Takht Ravanchi has described it as "ttantamount to opening a war against Iran.”
General Soleimani was the head of the elite Quds Force, which are a part of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, and was seen as the country’s most powerful figure after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader.
In his letter to the PM, Mr Corbyn wrote: “I am writing to request an urgent Privy Council briefing on the consequences for the United Kingdom of the assassination of Qassem Suleimani.
“There are a number of questions which I believe need to be addressed”.
He continued: “Was HM Government informed in advance of the US President’s decision to launch this attack?
“Subsequent to the US attack, what communications have taken place with the US administration, and in particular, has the Prime Minister spoken directly to the President about the attack and its expected consequences?
“Given the present risk of an Iranian military response to the US attack what measures has the UK Government taken to ensure the safety of UK nationals in the region and beyond, and what action has been taken to protect UK shipping and UK strategic locations?”
Several of those bidding to replace Mr Corbyn as Labour boss also made clear their opposition to General Soleimani's killing.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said: "As the drumbeat for war with Iran grows ever louder, and the first shots are being fired, we must fight through the UN to stop this conflict, and fight in our Parliament to stop British forces being put in harm’s way in the service of Donald Trump."
Sir Keir Starmer, currently the bookies' favourite to be the next Labour leader, tweeted: "This is an extremely serious situation. There’s a clear danger of further violence and escalation in the Middle East. We need to engage, not isolate Iran. All sides need to de-escalate tensions and prevent further conflict."
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy, who announced her leadership bid yesterday, said: "This is a very dangerous moment. 17 years after the catastrophic decision to go to war in Iraq violence still rages every day. World leaders must stand up to Trump. The last thing we need is another all out war."
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It has been reported that the UK government was not given any warning prior to the US strike on General Soleimani, despite having 400 troops stationed in Iraq, where the attack took place.
Jeremy Hunt, former foreign secretary and Conservative Party leadership contender, reacted to the reports on BBC Radio 4 today: "I think it’s regrettable, because as one of the US’s closest allies, I think it’s an important aspect of that relationship that there are no surprises in the relationship.”
He added: “But it may also have been because they did not want to put us in a difficult position of asking us to make a judgement as to whether we agreed or not with what was done.”
Tom Tugendhat, chair of the foreign affairs committee in the last parliament, said yesterday: “I’ve long believed that the purpose of having allies is that we can surprise our enemies and not each other, and it’s been a pattern, sadly, which has been a bit of a shame, that the US administration of late has not shared with us, and that is a matter for concern.”
The former Army officer told BBC News: “The government needs to make some very quick choices on the safety of citizens overseas and the security of British personnel.”
UK military bases have now stepped up their security, as fears of retaliation from the Iranian regime against US allies grow.
The White House’s apparent choice to ignore usual protocol and not alert the UK follows a recent pattern of unilateral military decisions from the United States.
According to The Sun, the US administration also gave no warning about their raid on a Syrian compound to kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October.
The Government was muted yesterday in its response to the hit against the military chief, stopping short of supporting the action.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “We have always recognised the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds force led by Qasem Soleimani.
“Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate. Further conflict is in none of our interests.”
However, in the wake of General Soleimani's killing, the Foreign Office has changed its travel advice for the region, advising British citizens against all travel to Iraq, except to the Kurdistan region in the north, and against all but essential travel to Iran.
The Foreign Secretary said of the changes: "The first job of any government is to keep British people safe."
British troops are stationed in three areas of Iraq – Baghdad, Camp Taji, north of the capital, and in the Kurdish city of Erbil.
Another 500 British personnel operate in and around Syria.