'Britain must not be Trump's sidekick': Labour MPs condemn 'reckless and unlawful' killing of top Iran general by America

James MorrisSenior news reporter, Yahoo News UK

Labour MPs have condemned the killing of a top Iranian general in a US airstrike.

The killing of Qassem Soleimani, who led Iran’s military operations in the Middle East, today sparked a dramatic rise in tensions between Washington and Tehran.

A key Jeremy Corbyn ally and candidate for Labour’s deputy leadership urged Britain not to be Donald Trump’s “sidekick”.

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Richard Burgon said of the airstrike in Iraq - which Boris Johnson reportedly knew nothing about - on Friday: “Last year I warned that we needed to avoid the situation with Iran escalating further - and that a war on Iran could be even more dangerous than the war on Iraq.

“More than ever we need to avoid being the sidekick of Donald Trump. We need an international movement against war and for peace.”

Demonstrating his unwavering support of Mr Corbyn, he then added: “In increasingly dangerous times, it’s vital our party plays its role in that movement. Since 2015, Labour has been led by someone who has given his all to that movement. Our party must continue its commitment to anti-war internationalism. It’s our duty.

“The first internationalist demonstration I went to was when I travelled down to London from Leeds for the February 2003 demonstration against the Iraq War. Speakers at that demonstration included Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn.

“We must keep their example of anti-war internationalism close to our hearts and alive in our party, society and world.”

On his Facebook page, the Leeds East MP also posted a clip of Mr Corbyn’s speech from the 2003 protest.

Mr Corbyn himself later said the “US assassination of Qasem Soleimani is an extremely serious and dangerous escalation of conflict with global significance”, and that the “UK government should urge restraint on the part of both Iran and the US, and stand up to the belligerent actions and rhetoric coming from the US”.

Senior Labour MP Lisa Nandy said world leaders “must do all they can to stand up to Trump and advocate for de-escalation of the conflict”.

“The last thing we need is another all out war,” she added.

Labour’s shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry posted an equally damning reaction on Facebook, branding Mr Trump’s actions “reckless and potentially catastrophic”.

She wrote: “Writing almost two years ago on the 15th anniversary of the Iraq War march, I warned that the Trump administration was wilfully angling for a catastrophic conflict with Iran, a country nine times as big as Syria, with three-and-a-half times the size of Syria’s pre-war population.

“This followed Trump’s equally catastrophic decision, pathetically unopposed by Boris Johnson, to collapse the nuclear deal with Iran, simply out of jealous spite that it was the great diplomatic achievement of his predecessor, President Obama.”

You can read the full statement below:

Other Labour MPs also called for “engagement” rather than “escalation”.

Likely leadership candidate Sir Keir Starmer said: “This is an extremely serious situation. There’s a clear danger of further violence and escalation in the Middle East. We need to engage, not isolate Iran. All sides need to de-escalate tensions and prevent further conflict.”

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Tooting MP Rosena Allin-Khan said: “We're only 48 hours into the New Decade and Trump already wants to drag the world back into a dirty war in the Middle East. The UK government must not allow this to escalate into a war with Iran - enough innocent lives have already been lost through bloody conflict in the region.”

Ilford North MP Wes Streeting, a critic of Mr Corbyn, also said: “No one should mourn Qassem Soleimani, a man whose hands were soaked in blood. But this targeted assassination by the USA against a state actor risks escalating the conflict with Iran - apparently without thinking through the regional and global consequences. It is reckless.”

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