UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly uttered the abrupt, four-letter response of “F***” when he was informed of US President Donald Trump ’s drone attack near Baghdad International Airport that killed a top Iranian general, reports the Mirror.
The Prime Minister, who has been enjoying a luxury Caribbean island holiday with his girlfriend Carrie Symonds since Boxing Day, was informed of the killing of General Qassem Soleimani, who headed the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, over the phone on Friday, 3 December, as Britain was reportedly given no advance notice of the attack, which came to its attention only because British troops are stationed alongside US forces in Baghdad.
10 Downing Street has not offered an official comment on Johnson's reaction to the news of Friday's air strike.
The Prime Minister is expected to return to London in time for ministerial meetings at Number 10 Downing Street set for Monday, 6 December.
According to the Sunday Mirror, no ministerial COBRA meetings have taken place in the Prime Minister’s absence to discuss the crisis.
Boris Johnson is yet to offer a public comment on the general’s killing.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who urged all parties to de-escalate the situation, saying:
“Further conflict is in none of our interests.”
Raab is set to visit the US next week to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a previously planned visit. He’s also expected to meet with his counterparts in France and Germany in the next few days, and will be visiting Canada.
The UK Foreign Secretary also issued a statement warning Britons against travelling to Iraq at a time of “heightened tensions”.
Meanwhile, 50 members of the UK’s Special Air Service (SAS) have been sent to Iraq to help with potential evacuation of Britons against the backdrop of recent developments, according to The Daily Star.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace also ordered the deployment of UK warships to the Strait of Hormuz in order to “take all necessary steps to protect our ships and citizens” as Iran is pledging retaliation following the killing of Soleimani.
Johnson Conspicuously Absent
Boris Johnson has been under fire for failing to return from the exclusive private Island of Mustique to comment on the developments and deal with the fallout from the US strike.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has lashed out at the prime Minister for failing to cut short his holiday, saying:
"The assassination of Qassem Suleimani risks an extremely serious escalation of a dangerous conflict with global consequences by a belligerent US President… Boris Johnson should have immediately cut short his holiday to deal with an issue that could have grave consequences for the UK and the world.”
Acting Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey questioned the UK Prime Minister’s much-touted “special relationship” with President Trump, saying:
“Boris Johnson's global Britain has got off to a disastrous start - with Donald Trump keeping him in the dark about his reckless action which has heightened tensions in Iran… This is nothing short of highly embarrassing for Boris Johnson and the supposed special relationship.”
As tensions have reached near-boiling point in the region, following the developments of Friday, 3 December, European leaders have been issuing calls for calm amidst the potentially dangerous rhetoric of the last 24 hours in the aftermath of the US airstrike that killed a top Iranian Commander, General Qassem Soleimani.
However, threatening rhetoric continued to be exchanged by Washington and Tehran, as in a series of tweets earlier in the day, Trump vowed to retaliate if the Islamic Republic attacks America.
In his tweets on Sunday, Trump warned that the Pentagon had 52 Iranian sites in its crosshairs, vowing to hit Iran “very fast and very hard” should it attack Americans or US assets.
Using the number 52, the President was referencing the 52 hostages taken by Iran at the US embassy in Tehran in the 1979 incident. The hostages were released, yet the affair led to a diplomatic rupture between the two nations and the introduction of stringent US sanctions on Iran.
The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment. We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World! If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way...and without hesitation!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2020
....targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2020
Trump's current words ignited the ire of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif who underscored that the US president's threats, if acted on, will represent another breach of international law.
-Having committed grave breaches of int'l law in Friday's cowardly assassinations, @realdonaldtrump threatens to commit again new breaches of JUS COGENS;— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 5, 2020
-Targeting cultural sites is a WAR CRIME;
-Whether kicking or screaming, end of US malign presence in West Asia has begun.