Tories ask Iraq ‘let UK troops remain!’

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The UK frigate HMS Montrose – now in the Persian Gulf

JOHNSON’S Tory government has urged Iraq to allow UK troops to stay in the country following the US assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike in Iraq last Friday on the orders of President Donald Trump.

Iraqi MPs responded to the airstrike by passing a non-binding resolution calling for an end to any foreign military presence in their country.

Johnson spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi by phone, and a Downing Street spokesman said the leaders had ‘agreed to work together to find a diplomatic way forward.’

In Parliament yesterday, in a statement on the issue, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: ‘On the 5th of January Iraq’s Council of Representatives voted to end permission for coalition activities in Iraq.

‘As the vote is only one part of the process, we are in discussion about what those implications mean with our Iraqi interlocutors.

‘Today I will simply remind the house that the coalition is in Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government to help protect the Iraqis and others from the very real threat of Daesh.

‘Our commitment to Iraq’s stability and sovereignty is unwavering and we urge the Iraqi government to ensure that the coalition is able to continue our vital work in countering this shared threat.’

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘At this highly dangerous moment we find the government giving cover and even expressing sympathy for what is widely regarded as an illegal act because they are so determined to keep in with President Trump.’

He added: ‘I have long spoken up about Iran’s human rights record including when he and I visited Iran together in 2014.

‘This is not a question of Soleimani’s actions or record in the region. Whatever the record of any state official, the principle and the law is that we do not 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?’

Wallace answered: ‘It is for the United States to answer in detail to whether it views the intelligence it made its decision on was legal or not. From the information and intelligence that I have seen, what I could say is that I think it is clear that there is a case for self-defence to be made on an individual who had come to Iraq to coordinate murder and attacks on US citizens.’

In his speech Corbyn raised the issue of war crimes: ‘In the past few days the US President has threatened to target Iranian cultural sites. To attack Iran in that manner, to quote him directly, “is disproportionate”. These actions would be war crimes yet the government still seems unable to condemn such threats.

‘On Sunday the Secretary said that the onus was entirely on Iran to deescalate.

‘I wonder that if Iran had assassinated an American general would the British government be telling the US that the onus is entirely on the US to deescalate.’

He asked: ‘Will the Secretery of State confirm that the government will respect Iraq’s sovereignty if the Iraqi government asks all foreign forces, including British forces, to leave?’

He concluded: ‘Many of us opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the failed invasion of Afghanistan and I opposed the bombing of Libya in 2011. Have we learned nothing from those events?

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

Meanwhile, a British frigate and destroyer – HMS Montrose and HMS Defender – are to start accompanying UK-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf.

While millions of mourners poured onto the streets of General Soleimani’s hometown of Kerman, for his funeral a deadly stampede erupted leaving many casualties.

Pir-Hossein Kolivand, head of Iran’s Emergency Medical Services, confirmed that at least 40 mourners lost their lives and as many as 213 others were injured in the mass overcrowding.

Soleimani’s burial had to be postponed.