Britain's Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, has met his US counterpart, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to discuss developments in the Middle East at a period of increased violence in the region. Iran carried out ballistic missile attacks on US troops stationed in Iraqi bases on 8 January 2020, following the US assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, on 2 January.
Raab said that the UK and US "want to see the tensions de-escalated", according to the BBC. "Of course it also needs the government in Iran to be willing and committed to that outcome as well", he added.
Useful talks with @SecPompeo yesterday, focused on Iran and a range of bilateral issues. UK recognises the US right to self-defence and the serious threat Iran poses in the region. We need to de-escalate tensions, and we discussed the need to find a diplomatic way forward. pic.twitter.com/qjdr5ZvVOw— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) January 9, 2020
The UK Foreign Secretary condemned the Iranian retaliation and urged the country "not to repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks". A Middle East war would "only benefit Daesh and other terrorist groups", he said.
US President Donald Trump gave a press conference after the attacks and announced "additional punishing economic sanctions" against Iran, although he did not announce further military action. These "additional sanctions" will be on top of those the US slapped onto Iran after Trump decided to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2018. Trump's withdrawal from the JCPOA was despite the International Atomic and Energy Agency repeatedly stating that Iran was in full compliance with the nuclear agreement, and therefore violated UN Secretary Council Resolution 2231 (2015) which ratified the deal.
The US President also characterised Soleimani as the world's "top terrorist" and claimed that the General was "planning new attacks on American targets", though that claim has been disputed by experts and observers who say no evidence has been provided to support these arguments.
General Soleimani was one of the key figures directing the fight against Daesh* and was participating in peace negotiations between Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia when the US killed him, according to the Iraqi Prime Minister.
* Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS/Islamic State) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and many other countries