Qasem Soleimani: Corbyn urges Johnson to hold Privy Council meeting

Qasem Soleimani: Corbyn urges Johnson to hold Privy Council meeting


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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for an urgent meeting of the Privy Council over the US killing of a top Iranian general in Iraq.

In a letter to Boris Johnson, Mr Corbyn said the council – the historic group that advises monarchs – must meet and discuss the airstrike’s consequences.

BBC News understands the prime minister was not warned about Friday’s airstrike in which Qasem Soleimani was killed.

It comes as the US has pledged to send 3,000 extra troops as a precaution.

The UK has 400 troops based in the Middle East and works alongside US forces in the region.

The killing of Gen Soleimani marks a major escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said “severe revenge awaits the criminals” behind the attack, but a statement from the Pentagon said Gen Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region”.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has urged for a calming of tensions, adding: “Further conflict is in none of our interests.”

And the Foreign Office has updated its travel advice for British nationals, urging against all travel to Iraq, except the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. It also urged against all but essential travel to Iran.

Writing to the prime minister, Mr Corbyn asked several questions including what the UK was told before the airstrike and what the government was doing to ensure the safety of UK nationals.

And he asked whether, if it had been informed in advance, the government had expressed its opposition to the attack.

“Given the serious nature of the issues now faced by our country and indeed the world as a consequence of the US attack, I would welcome a prompt response to this request and stand ready to attend any briefing meeting as soon as arranged,” he said.

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Gen Soleimani, 62, spearheaded Iran’s Middle East operations as head of the elite Quds Force

Earlier, Mr Corbyn called the killing of Gen Soleimani a “US assassination” and an “extremely serious and dangerous escalation”.

He said the UK “should urge restraint” from both Iran and the US – and called for the government to “stand up to the belligerent actions and rhetoric coming from the United States”.

He added: “All countries in the region and beyond should seek to ratchet down the tensions to avoid deepening conflict, which can only bring further misery to the region, 17 years on from the disastrous invasion of Iraq.”

Mr Corbyn became a member of the Privy Council in 2015. Its members include all former prime ministers and cabinet ministers as well as leaders of the opposition.

What is the Privy Council?

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Media captionBBC Parliament’s Daniel Brittain explains who is on the Privy Council, its powers, and whether it is a secret and exclusive as some suggest
  • The Privy Council dates from the court of the Norman kings
  • It convenes, on average, about once a month – and has met six times so far this year
  • The Privy Council’s role is to advise the monarch of the day in carrying out their duties, such as the exercise of prerogative powers and other functions assigned to them by Acts of Parliament.
  • Much of its business is rather routine and is concerned with obtaining the monarch’s formal approval to orders which have already been discussed and approved by ministers.

Read a full guide to the Privy Council.

The acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Ed Davey, called for an immediate statement from Mr Johnson about the UK’s position, adding that Britain should “work with a broader group of concerned states at the United Nations”.

Meanwhile Tory MP Tom Tugendhat said there was a “pattern” from the current White House not to share details with its allies, which was a “matter of concern”.

The former chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee added: “I have long believed the purpose of having allies is so we can surprise our enemies, not each other.”

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The death of Gen Soleimani “will certainly be a huge blow to the Iranian regime”, but will “doubtless have consequences” elsewhere, Mr Tugendhat told BBC News.

Mr Raab did speak to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday, although the time of the call is not known.

‘Aggressive threat’

Mr Pompeo tweeted that he was “thankful that our allies recognise the continuing aggressive threats posed by the Iranian Quds Force”.

In a statement, Mr Raab urged “all parties to de-escalate” after the killing of Gen Soleimani.

He said the UK “recognised the aggressive threat” Gen Soleimani posed, but “further conflict is in none of our interests”.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has warned British nationals to avoid any rallies, marches, or processions in Iran over the three days of national mourning the country has called for Gen Soleimani.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner earlier said he did not think anyone in the UK was given an indication the airstrike was going to take place, adding: “My sense is this has caught the British government largely by surprise.”


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