Johnson: Iran’s Soleimani had British blood on his hands

Boris Johnson has called for tensions to be eased in the Gulf but said the Iranian general killed by US forces had British blood on his hands.

The Prime Minister condemned missile strikes launched by Iran against coalition military bases in Iraq in retaliation for the US killing of General Qassem Soleimani.

He urged Tehran to hold back from further “reckless and dangerous attacks” and told US President Donald Trump there was a need for “urgent de-escalation”.

At the first Prime Minister’s Questions session since the election, Mr Johnson said: “We of course condemn the attack on Iraqi military bases hosting coalition forces.

“Iran should not repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks but must instead pursue urgent de-escalation.”

He said Gen Soleimani, who was killed by a US drone strike on January 3, “had the blood of British troops on his hands” because he had “supplied improvised explosive devices to terrorists”.

In a call with Mr Trump, the Prime Minister stressed the need for “urgent de-escalation to avoid further conflict”.

The message will be echoed by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday night.

Diplomatic sources said Mr Raab is expected to stress there is still a path to a peaceful solution if all sides are willing to engage in meaningful talks.

He will reiterate that while the UK sees eye-to-eye with the US on the need to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and for Tehran to end “nefarious behaviour” in the region, further escalation is in no-one’s interests.

There were signs that the two sides were stepping back from the brink of a potentially devastating war following the missile barrage which hit bases used by US and British troops.

(PA Graphics)

US officials said 15 missiles were fired, with 10 striking the Ain al-Asad base 100 miles west of Baghdad, one striking a base in Irbil in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region and four missing their targets.

Mr Johnson said: “As far as we can tell there were no casualties last night sustained by the US and no British personnel were injured in the attacks.”

Mr Trump said Iran appeared to be “standing down” following the attack and said an early warning system had prevented casualties from the missile strikes.

Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched.

We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.

— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 8, 2020

But there have been mixed signals from Tehran on whether further strikes could be expected.

Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran “took and concluded proportionate measures in self-defence” against the bases which had launched the attack on Gen Soleimani and “we do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression”.

But Iranian president Hassan Rouhani tweeted: “Our final answer to his assassination will be to kick all US forces out of the region.”

And Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made clear that the ballistic missile strikes were a “slap” rather than a full retaliation.

“Last night they received a slap,” he said. “These military actions are not sufficient (for revenge).

“What is important is that the corrupt presence of America in this region comes to an end.”

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