Nicola Sturgeon: UK must not get dragged into Iran conflict
Nicola Sturgeon has said President Donald Trump "has acted recklessly" towards Iran and warned the consequences of US action could be "grave" for the UK.
Boris Johnson has called for the de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East as the government urged Iraq to allow UK soldiers to continue their fight there against Islamic State after its parliament called for the expulsion of foreign troops.
In his first statement on the controversial US air strike which killed Iran’s top military general, Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad early on Friday, the Prime Minister said that calls for retaliation “were in no one’s interest”.
Mr Johnson, who only returned from his festive holiday in Mustique yesterday despite mounting demands for a statement since the US air strike, said he would not “lament” the death of Soleimani, who, he said, had “posed a threat to all our interests and was responsible for a pattern of disruptive, destabilising behaviour in the region”.
He said that, while Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had been in “constant contact with leaders across the globe”, he had also spent the day speaking to French President Emmanuel
Macron,President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and would be speaking to other leaders in the coming days. Parliament, he said, would be updated tomorrow.
He added: “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.
“It is clear, however, that all calls for retaliation or reprisals will simply lead to more violence in the region and they are in no one’s interest.
“We are in close contact with all sides to encourage de-escalation. I will be speaking to other leaders and our Iraqi friends to support peace and stability.”
Responding to suggestions that the UK would be dragged into a wider regional conflict by the US, Ms Sturgeon said: “This is exactly what must not happen. It’s not necessary to have an iota of sympathy for the Iranian regime to believe that Trump has acted recklessly, without proper thought or strategy.
“The consequences could be grave and the UK mustn’t get dragged along in the slipstream.”
The Iraqi parliament passed a non-binding resolution which demanded the withdrawl of foreign troops.
Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said the US strike was “a political assassination” and told parliament that the government must establish a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops “for the sake of our national sovereignty”.
Around 400 UK troops are stationed in Iraq in the fight against Islamic State, while the US has 5,200, prompting fears of a withdrawal that could cripple the battle against the terrorist group.
A UK government spokesman said: “The coalition is in Iraq to help protect Iraqis and others from the threat from Daesh (Islamic State), at the request of the Iraqi government.
“We urge the Iraqi government to ensure the coalition is able to continue our vital work countering this shared threat.”
Mr Trump’s chief foreign affairs adviser, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, dismissed calls by the Iraqi prime minister for troops to leave.
“He’s under enormous threats from the very Iranian leadership that we are pushing back against,” Mr Pompeo said. “We are confident that the Iraqi people want the United States to continue to be there to fight the counter-terror campaign.”
Mr Raab refused to back the US decision to kill Soleimani, but said America had a “right of self-defence”.
Britain has already sent two warships to the Persian Gulf in a bid to protect citizens. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has confirmed that HMS Montrose and HMS Defender have been sent back to resume maritime patrols in the Strait of Hormuz, between the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, claiming the government had ordered the vessels “to take all necessary steps to protect our ships and citizens at this time”.
Mr Johnson said Britain had taken “steps to increase the security of our personnel and interests in the region”.