Jeremy Hunt: US and Iran playing a 'game of chicken'

PUBLISHED: 09:31 04 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:24 04 January 2020

The US national flag waves in front of the US consulate in Frankfurt, Germany. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

The US national flag waves in front of the US consulate in Frankfurt, Germany. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt warned of the peril being faced after recent 'extreme' actions by both the US and Iran, which have simmered since Trump tore up a nuclear deal between the nations.

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"Well it's an incredibly dangerous game of chicken that's going on at the moment, because both sides have calculated that the other side cannot afford, and doesn't want, to go to war," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Hunt warned the tensions created a "very difficult situation" for the UK as an ally of the States, saying Britain "cannot afford to be neutral".

"But this is a very, very risky situation, and I think the job that we have to do as one of the US's closest allies is to use our influence to argue for more consistent US policy," he said.

Although not confirmed by the government, there has been criticism of the US for apparently not giving warning of the attack to the UK, which has hundreds of troops deployed in Iraq.

Mr Hunt said a failure to notify would be "regrettable" because allies should ensure "there are no surprises in the relationship".

Asked about what effect the current situation may have on the Iran nuclear deal, Mr Hunt said the deal was "on its last legs" but the "right thing to do because, as of today, Iran does not have nuclear weapons".

"And I think if Iran had nuclear weapons today, we would be in an immensely more dangerous situation," the former foreign secretary said.

"And Iran may well decide that it creates leverage for them to have nuclear weapons and they might decide to proceed even more quickly than they are currently doing, so it is going to be very, very challenging to keep that alive."

British nationals are being warned against all travel to large swathes of Iraq and also advising against all but essential travel to Iran and for those in the region to "remain vigilant".

Travel advice updated on Saturday morning urged Britons against all travel to Iraq outside the Kurdistan region, and for those there already to consider fleeing by commercial means.

The warning came as thousands began to gather on the streets of Iraq for the funeral of General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by strike at Baghdad's international airport a day earlier.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the updated advice was issued due to "heightened tensions in the region" and would be kept under review.

"The first job of any government is to keep British people safe," he added.

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