This article was updated at 18:05 on 10 January. It previously stated that Boris Johnson did not respond to Jeremy Corbyn’s request for a Privy Council briefing. However, Johnson refused the request.
A former UK ambassador to Tehran has confirmed that Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was in Iraq as part of a peace mission to Saudi Arabia, with the full agreement of the Iraqi government, when he was assassinated by a US drone strike on the orders of president Donald Trump.
Richard Dalton added that the decision to assassinate the general was “reckless”, the same term used by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn when giving his assessment of what happened.
On 9 January, Dalton, the UK ambassador to Iran from 2003 to 2006, was interviewed on BBC Breakfast TV. When asked about Soleimani, he was forthright, stating that the general was on a peace mission with the agreement of the Iraqi government.
The episode has now expired on the BBC‘s website.
Fortunately, one Twitter user put together an (unverified) transcript of the interview with Dalton (and colonel Tim Collins) in this thread:
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On 9 Jan 2020 at about 07:21 #BBCBreakfast showed an important interview with Colonel Tim Collins [TC] formerly of the British Army & Sir Richard Dalton [RD] Former #UK Ambassador to #Iran. That has just now expired from @BBCiPlayer. Luckily, I had just completed a transcript.
— Peri Hankey (@PeriHankey) January 10, 2020
And on 5 January, Washington Post reporter Mustafa Salim tweeted that Iraqi prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi stated that he had arranged to meet with Soleimani on the day he was assassinated:
“I was supposed to meet Soleimani at the morning the day he was killed, he came to deliver me a message from Iran responding to the message we delivered from Saudi to Iran” Iraqi PM said.
— Mustafa Salim (@Mustafa_salimb) January 5, 2020
A report by CNN also confirms Soleimani’s role in helping to crush Daesh (Isis/Isil):
— Danny Nation (@dannynation) January 10, 2020
Later, on BBC Five Live, Dalton described the decision by Trump to kill Soleimani as “reckless”.
This also echoed Corbyn’s words. He described Trump’s decision as “reckless” and that the killing was illegal (“lawless”):
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s declaration of ‘sympathy' for Trump’s reckless and lawless killing of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani is craven and dangerous.
Boris Johnson’s government must oppose this escalation towards another devastating war in the Middle East.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) January 5, 2020
On 3 January, Corbyn formally requested a briefing from the Privy Council on the crisis:
I've written to Boris Johnson requesting an urgent Privy Council briefing and answers to questions following the US assassination of Qassem Suleimani. pic.twitter.com/kOw36b6Ex2
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) January 3, 2020
Johnson refused the request.
But perhaps the most immediate consequence is the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane not long after leaving Tehran, with all people onboard killed. There are now claims that the plane was hit by a missile.
Importantly, as Fréa Lockley argued previously in The Canary, It’s crucial not to lionise Soleimani (or Mahdi):
Because some called him “a genocidal man” responsible for killing “thousands of men, women, and children in the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen”. Equally, Iran’s human rights record is appalling, particularly for women. And according to Reporters Without Borders, Iran is one of the world’s “five biggest prisons” for journalists and internet activists.
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