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THE assassination of Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani, has raised tensions in the Middle East to boiling point, anti-war campaigners have warned.
Stop the War Coalition has called a demonstration outside Downing Street at 2pm on Saturday under the heading No War with Iran.
The commander of the elite Quds Force, who led Tehran’s military operations in the Middle East, was targeted by the United States in a drone strike at Baghdad’s international airport early today and Iran and its allies are calling for a “harsh vengeance.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “The US assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani is an extremely serious and dangerous escalation of conflict in the Middle East with global significance.
“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 United States.
“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.”
Labour MP Richard Burgon warned that US President Donald Trump’s is risking engagement in a war with Iran that would be “even worse than that on Iraq.”
Labour MP Rebecca Long Bailey called for a de-escalation of tensions and resistance against “any rush to war.”
She said: “With this assassination, President Trump is pushing us to the brink of another disastrous war that would cost countless lives, further destabilise the region and make us all less safe.”
Stop the War Coalition’s Lindsey German called the killing of Gen Soleimani “an act of war by Donald Trump,” and said the act violated all agreements with the Iraqi government.”
She said: “Trump has been heading for war since tearing up the nuclear deal with Iran, and, if he succeeds, will create a bigger war than we have seen in the Middle East. It will draw in major players across the region including Israel, Saudi Arabia and possibly Russia.
“This is the bloody result of two decades of war started by the US after 9/11.
“Those of us who said war in Iraq would lead to endless conflict and misery were absolutely right to do so.
“And those who justified those wars are now looking on while the situation escalates.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called for a de-escalation of tensions, adding that further conflict “is in none of our interests.”
Chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the last parliament Tom Tugendhat suggested that the US had neglected to warn the British government about the air strike.
And while Labour MP Stella Creasey called for MPs to immediately return to Parliament, there was no response from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, busy celebrating New Year on the private Caribbean island of Mustique.
Labour’s shadow secretary Emily Thornberry called Mr Raab’s statement insufficient and criticised the PM for having “pathetically unopposed” Mr Trump pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later thanked Mr Raab for recognising the “aggressive threats posed” by the Quds Force during a phone conversation between the pair.
The US Defence Department said Gen Soleimani had been targeted because he was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members” in the region.
It also accused Gen Soleimani of approving the attacks on the US Embassy by angry protesters in Baghdad earlier this week.
Mr Trump, who tweeted an image of the US flag shortly after the strike, later said that Gen Soleimani was “plotting to kill” many US citizens and that “he should have been taken out many years ago.”
But US senator Bernie Sanders said he would do “everything in [his] power” to prevent a war with Iran and would “apologise to no-one.”
The presidential hopeful, competing for the Democrat nomination, said: “Trump’s dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars.
“Trump promised to end endless wars, but this action puts us on the path to another one.”
Iranian officials have vowed to retaliate for the attack. The country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned that “severe revenge awaits the criminals” behind the strike.
And cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei tweeted that Iran’s severe response would not be far away.
President Hassan Rouhani called the killing a “heinous crime” and declared that “the great nation of Iran will take revenge,” while Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif called the strike “without any doubt an act of state terrorism” and a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.
Iran’s parliamentary committee on national security leader Mojtaba Zonnour threatened US forces in the Middle East.
He told state TV: “When the US is killing Iranian forces outside of Iran, the US must see its troops killed at its bases in the region.”
Gen Soleimani and Iranian and Iraqi advisers were leaving Baghdad airport in two cars when they were hit by the US strike near a cargo area. Several missiles struck the convoy and, according to Iranian state TV, at least 10 people are believed to have died.
The Association for Defence of Peace, Solidarity & Democracy warned that any war on Iran would inevitably strengthen the grip of its theocratic regime “and thus weaken the people’s struggle for human and democratic rights and social justice.”
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