Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Foreign secretary backs Trump over assassination of Iran military leader, in sudden shift from Boris Johnson government

Dominic Raab also declines to criticise US president’s overnight threat to hit 52 Iranian sites if Tehran retaliates

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 05 January 2020 09:56 GMT
Foreign secretary backs Donald Trump’s 'right' to assassinate Iran’s top military general

The foreign secretary has backed Donald Trump’s “right” to assassinate Iran’s top military general, in a marked shift towards supporting the incendiary attack.

Dominic Raab said the UK “understands the position the US found themselves in” ahead of killing Qasem Soleimani, saying it had “a right to self-defence”.

The shift comes after Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, criticised the UK, France and Germany for failing to be “as helpful as I wish that they could be”.

Mr Raab also declined to criticise the US president’s overnight threat to hit 52 Iranian sites if Tehran retaliates for the assassination – in what would appear to hint at looming all-out war in the Gulf.

He said he saw it as “the Americans trying to send a very clear message to Tehran that it cannot continue its menacing behaviour”.

However, the foreign secretary again called for both sides to “de-escalate”, saying a war would benefit no one but Isis, which would “exploit the vacuum”.

Speaking on Sky News, Mr Raab refused to comment on whether UK troops in Iraq were being switched from training local forces to “force protection”, because of the heightened threat.

He also declined to say whether Britons in the Middle East were now at greater risk, but confirmed that military escorts of UK shipping in the Gulf had been restored.

Asked whether the US was “right” to carry out the assassination, Mr Raab replied: “The US will take their own operational judgement call, but they’ve got the right of self-defence.

“If you look at what General Soleimani was doing, he’s not some victim in this scenario.

“He was a regional menace, he was in charge of the Quds Force, the wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which is directing militias and proxies in the region, in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Syria which is destabilising those countries, trying to get an Iranian advantage and trying to attacking western countries that are legitimately there.

“So we understand the position the US were in and I don’t think we should be naive about the Iranian Revolutionary Guard or indeed General Soleimani.”

The comments were fiercely criticised by John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, who tweeted: “Raab’s craven support for Trump’s reckless & potentially disastrous action adds to risk of full scale war.

“A British government must pursue an independent foreign policy in the best interests of our people and to prevent conflict not act as a supine cheerleader for another power.”

Lisa Nandy, a Labour leadership contender, suggested the UK’s refusal to criticise was because it was “begging the US for a trade deal”, as Brexit loomed.

Meanwhile, Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, accused Boris Johnson of “sunning himself, drinking vodka martinis” in the Caribbean instead of dealing on the Iran crisis, in a withering attack.

She pointed out that Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary, had been left to chair three emergency Cobra meetings about the assassination, in Mr Johnson’s absence.

Mr Raab’s shift to backing the case for the killing was in sharp contrast to the statement he issued on Friday, which inflamed Mr Pompeo – ahead of a meeting between the pair in Washington on Thursday.

Then, he simply said: “We have always recognised the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds force led by Qassem Soleimani. Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in