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Statement on the security situation in the Middle East

7 January 2020

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The Defence Secretary, Mr Ben Wallace, made a statement on the security situation in the Middle East following the death of Qasem Soleimani. 

On 2 January 2020, Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards' clandestine overseas operations arm, the Quds Force, was killed in a US drone strike.

The Ministry of Defence are changing the readiness of UK forces in the region to assist if the need arises. Non-essential personnel have been relocated from Baghdad to Taji.

All training activities have been suspended and a small team has been sent to the region to provide additional contingency planning assistance.

Statement from the Defence Secretary

The Defence Secretary, Mr Ben Wallace, told MPs:

“[Iran] is a wonderful place with a dynamic population and the world owes a great deal to its culture and its history.

"But in recent times, Iran has felt its intentions are best served through the various use of proxy's and the use of subversion as a foreign policy tool.

"The United States Government has asserted that General Soleimani organised a strike on 27 December by the militia group, Qutab al Hezbollah, which targeted a US military base in Kirkuk, Iraq, and killed a US civilian contractor and the US is confident that General Soleimani came to Baghdad to coordinate imminent attacks on American diplomats and military personnel."

We are urging all people, all parties, to de-escalate as soon as possible

“Our challenge now is to deal with the situation we find ourselves in.

"The US consistently showed restraints through all previous attacks, even when their right to self-defence was well established.

"Since the early hours of Friday morning, the Government has responded to these events. Further conflict is in no one's interest.

We are urging all people, all parties, to de-escalate as soon as possible."

Urgent measures to protect British nationals and interest

"Meanwhile, the safety and security of British citizens and our interest in the region are of paramount concern.

"The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has strengthened its travel advice to both Iran and Iraq and will keep it under constant review. We urge British nationals in the region or those intending to travel to regularly check for further updates.

"We have taken other urgent measures to protect British nationals and interest. The Department for Transport are reviewing the threat state and advise to Red Ensign shipping on a daily basis and supported by the Mod we will issue guidance imminently.

"At the same time, Defence are changing the readiness of our forces in the region, including helicopters and ships on standbys to assist if the need arises.”

Response from the Opposition 

Responding on behalf of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn  said:

“This assassination [of Qasem Soleimani] puts British troops and civilians, as well as the people of the region, in danger.”

“Whatever the record of any state official, the principal and the law is that we don't go around assassinating foreign leaders without the clear demonstration of an immediate threat. It is illegal.

So, does the Government regard the assassination as legal under international law, if so, how? And do the lawyers in the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence regard it as legal?"

"It's not in anyone's interest for this to escalate to an all-out war. All sides should exercise maximum restraints and allow for meaningful dialogue led by the UN Secretary-General's Office. To prevent war we need a strong plan for diplomacy."

"This House must rule out plunging our country into yet another devastating war at the behest of another state."

Image: Pixabay

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