Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has called for a calming of tensions from all aggressors after the US killed Iran’s top general in an air strike – as Boris Johnson contined his holiday.
General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Tehran’s elite Quds Force who spearheaded military operations in the Middle East, was targeted in a drone strike at Baghdad’s international airport on Friday.
Raab discussed the dramatic ratcheting of tensions with Donald Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later in the day.
Prime minister Boris Johnson, who was reportedly not informed in advance about the strike, has been celebrating New Year on the private Caribbean island of Mustique and is yet to comment.
He is under pressure to return from the island to deal with the crisis, as other political leaders criticised Trump’s actions.
Outgoing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described the “serious and dangerous escalation” as an “assassination” and called for the UK to stand up to the “belligerent actions” from the US.
Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary vying to succeed Corbyn, said Raab’s statement was insufficient and criticised the PM for having “pathetically unopposed” Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.
“The Foreign Office’s call for restraint today is too little and far too late, in the wake of such a brazen, unlawful and provocative attack,” she 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.”
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, who is the current Labour leadership’s favourite successor, echoed Corbyn’s “assassination” comment and warned that the president is “pushing us closer to the brink of another disastrous war”.
“Our government should help de-escalate tensions, and we must resist any rush to war,” she added.
Clive Lewis, another Labour leadership hopeful who served as a Territorial Army officer and completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan, called on the PM to condemn this “cowboy action”.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer, who is considering a run to replace Mr Corbyn, said it was an “extremely serious situation” and urged the UK to “engage, not isolate Iran”.
Sir Keir’s potential rival, Labour MP Lisa Nandy, said it is “a very dangerous moment”, adding: “World leaders must stand up to (US president Donald) Trump. The last thing we need is another all out war.
Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, a former defence minister who served as a captain in the Army, tweeted “this is big”, adding: “Expect repercussions.”
The Foreign Office advises British-Iranian dual nationals against all travel to Iran and for other British nationals to seek the department’s advice before travelling to the nation.
British nationals risk being arbitrarily detained or arrested by Tehran, the department warns.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been among the dual nationals being held in Iran since she was arrested in 2016 and accused of spying while visiting family.
Her husband Richard Ratcliffe told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I sit here partly worried for what that means for Nazanin, partly worried what that means for my in-laws, sat in their ordinary living room in Tehran where they’re all really worried.”