UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned Tehran not to attempt “retaliation or reprisals” against America following the assassination of Qassim Soleimani, in his first official response to the crisis unleashed by the Washington-ordered killing of a top Iranian commander.
The UK Conservative Party leader said in an emailed statement that Iranian Revolutionary Guard Al Quids Commander Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by a US drone strike in Iraq on Friday, would not be lamented by Britain.
“General Qasem 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.”
The Prime Minister said he had been discussing the unfolding situation with his counterparts in Europe and the US President.
“Today I have spoken with President Macron, President Trump and Chancellor Merkel, and will be speaking with other leaders in the coming days. 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.”
Boris Johnson emphasised that steps had been taken to increase the security of British personnel and interests in the region.
Earlier, US President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in a phone conversation, discussed the situation in Iraq and Iran and reaffirmed the close alliance between Washington and London, the White House said in a statement, according to a report.
Previously, the UK Prime Minister had taken flak for failing to promptly cut short his holiday amidst the spiralling crisis following the killing of Qasem Soleimani, as the opposition Labour Party’s Emily Thornberry condemned him for "sunning himself and drinking vodka martinis", instead of dealing with the situation.
European Leaders Urge De-Escalation
In a joint statement on Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for a de-escalation of tensions in the region.
The three leaders held telephone conversations in the wake of dangerously spiralling tensions in the Middle East due to the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the elite Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, in a targeted US drone strike in Baghdad.
Amid the volatile developments, the political leaders urged Iran to refrain from moves contrary to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) treaty, informally known as the Iran nuclear deal, which had been in jeopardy since Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the agreement in 2018.
As the assassination generated outrage in Iran, Tehran had stated on Sunday that it would discontinue its remaining obligations under the JCPOA.
The European leaders also called on Baghdad to ensure continued support for the international US-led anti-terrorism coalition after the Iraqi parliament's vote to expel foreign troops from the country.
Dramatic Escalation of US-Iran Tensions
Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) Al Quds commander Qassem Soleimani was killed on 3 January in a US drone attack near Baghdad International Airport.
The Friday strikes also killed Iraqi Shiite militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and 10 other people.
Washington justified the assassination by claiming that Soleimani was plotting sabotage against US assets in the Middle East. However, no proof of the alleged plot was provided.
Shortly after the raid which led to Soleimani's assassination, Iran pledged to retaliate.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei tweeted soon after the incident, saying:
“Harsh vengeance awaits the criminals that got his [Soleimani] and other martyrs’ blood on their evil hands in last night’s incident.”
As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that Tehran would take revenge for what it views to be a heinous crime, US President Donald Trump said that Washington has identified 52 further Iranian targets, including those important for the Iranian culture, that would be struck if Tehran attacks US individuals or assets.
Amidst fears of a fresh full-scale war in the region, the international community has called for restraint and dialogue in the wake of rising international tensions.