Boris Johnson has broken his silence following the killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani in a US airstrike – saying “we will not lament his death”.
Following his return from a holiday in the Caribbean, the UK’s prime minister confirmed he has spoken with France’s Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Angela Merkel, and US President Donald Trump.
In a statement, Mr Johnson said: “General Qassem Soleimani posed a threat to all our interests and was responsible for a pattern of disruptive, destabilising behaviour in the region.
“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.”
Mass crowds accompany General Soleimani’s coffin
The PM warned that “all calls for retaliation or reprisals will simply lead to more violence in the region” – adding that the UK “is in close contact with all sides to encourage de-escalation”.
Mr Johnson also confirmed that the UK has taken steps to increase the security of British personnel and interests in the region, and said parliament will be updated on Tuesday.
The prime minister has faced claims that his government has done “too little, too late” following Friday’s drone attack.
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Speaking to Sky News, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry accused Boris Johnson of “sunning himself drinking vodka martinis somewhere else and not paying attention” while he was on holiday.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday has accused hardliners in Tehran of “nefarious behaviour” – describing Maj Gen Soleimani as a “regional menace”.
Raab: Gen Soleimani was a ‘regional menace’
The Foreign Office has issued strengthened travel advice to Britons across the Middle East – including Saudi Arabia and Turkey – while the Navy will accompany UK-flagged ships through the key oil route of the Strait of Hormuz.
Despite international calls for calm following the killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani, aggression between the US and Iran is continuing to escalate.
While Washington is threatening to attack dozens of targets if Iran retaliates by striking American nationals or US assets, officials in Tehran have been describing President Donald Trump as a “terrorist in a suit”.
On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of mourners paid tribute to Maj Gen Soleimani during a grand funeral procession across the Islamic Republic.
Image: Iranian mourners witness Qassem Soleimani’s coffin in Ahvaz
US President Donald Trump has defended ordering the killing of Maj Gen Soleimani, tweeting: “They attacked us, & we hit back. If they attack again, which I would strongly advise them not to do, we will hit them harder than they have ever been hit before!”
He said Maj Gen Soleimani had recently killed an American – a civilian contractor at an Iraqi military base – and had also killed others over his lifetime including hundreds of Iranian protesters.
Pompeo defends deadly US drone strike
On Saturday night, the president warned the US is prepared to target 52 sites that are high level and important to Iran and its culture “very hard and very fast” if the country follows through with its threat to enact “harsh revenge”.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the president’s top diplomat, has insisted that the world is a safer place after the top Iranian general was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad on Friday.
Looking ahead to what will happen next, Mr Pompeo told NBC: “It may be that there’s a little noise here in the interim. That the Iranians make the choice to respond. I hope that they don’t. President Trump has made clear what we will do in response if they do.
“We’re going to take all actions necessary, not only in Iraq but throughout the region, to protect Americans, American citizens as well as my diplomats and service members who are serving overseas.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate and a long-time political rival of Mr Trump, has accused the president of taking the US “right to the edge of war”.
She warned: “That is something that puts us at risk. It puts the Middle East at risk. It puts the entire world at risk.”
Image: General Soleimani’s body has been returned to Iran
Iranian officials have criticised Mr Trump’s threats to target sites important to the country’s culture.
Foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif has claimed that the US president is threatening to violate international law again after committing grave breaches by killing Maj Gen Soleimani on Iraqi soil.
Mr Zarif wrote: “Targeting cultural sites is a WAR CRIME.”
Following in Mr Trump’s footsteps with a message of defiance on Twitter, telecommunications minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi wrote: “Like ISIS, Like Hitler, Like Genghis! They all hate cultures. Trump is a terrorist in a suit. He will learn history very soon that NOBODY can defeat ‘the Great Iranian Nation & Culture’.”
Image: Iraq’s parliament wants all foreign military personnel to leave the country
Iraq’s parliament has voted to back a resolution calling on the government to expel foreign troops, including US forces – and ensure they cannot not use the country’s land, air, and waters for any reason.
Prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi had earlier urged MPs to end the presence of foreign troops as soon as possible.
On Saturday, a rocket fell near the US embassy in Baghdad – hours after mourners chanted “death to America” over the killing of the top general. Another rocket fell on an air base housing US forces, but no one was injured.
The US has been an ally of the Iraqi government since the 2003 US invasion to oust dictator Saddam Hussein, but Iraq has become more closely allied with Iran.
Meanwhile, the leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group has warned America’s military in the Middle East – including US bases, warships and soldiers – are fair targets following Maj Gen Soleimani’s assassination.
In a televised address, Hassan Nasrallah said evicting US military forces from the region is now a priority, but he told his supporters he is “very clear” that American people and citizens should not be harmed.
“The suicide attackers who forced the Americans to leave from our region in the past are still here and their numbers have increased,” Nasrallah added.
Source : Sky News