BRITAIN’S Defence Secretary has refused to rule out military action in Iran, and promised to do “what it has to” to protect the UK and its citizens.
Ben Wallace said today that no one had any idea “what is in the minds of Iran or anybody else in the future” and vowed to do whatever necessary to keep the country safe.
He updated MPs in the House of Commons today for the first time since the airstrike on Iranian General Qasem Soleimani put Iran and the US on the brink of war last week.
Iran has vowed to retaliate after the drone strike killed the general, but President Trump has threatened to hit back with further action.
Mr Wallace confirmed that the UK has pulled embassy staff from Iran and Iraq amid fears of danger to British lives.
And he told MPs that the UK has sent a delegation of experts to Iraq to help with “contingency planning” as the crisis threatens the globe.
Helicopters and ships are on standby to assist civilians and diplomats “if the need arises”, he said.
Britain intends to keep its troops in Iraq but will withdraw them if the country demands it, Mr Wallace said.
Yesterday Iraq voted symbolically to boot US and UK coalition troops from the country following the attack.
“If they require us to leave, that is their right and we will respect it,” he said.
But he staunchly defended the US’ right to attack the Iranian general, stressing that coalition bases in Iraq and Iran had been attacked more than a dozen times since October.
The US also believes that Iran were behind an attack on 27 December which killed a civilian, he revealed.
General Soleimani was “no friend or ally” of the UK, he said, and instead had supplied weaponry to states and helped destabilise the region.
Iran has also provided support to the “murderous Assad regime”.
“The US is confident he came to Baghdad to coordinate attacks on US diplomats and personnel,” he said.
“The UK will always defend the rights of countries to defend themselves.
“There is definitely a case to answer that there would be cause for self defence.”
He warned: “Futher conflict is in no one’s interest.
“We are urging all to de-escalate as soon as possible.”
On the tragic case of Nazanin Zahari Ratcliffe, the dual national who is imprisoned in Iran on trumped up charges of spying, he vowed to “try and try and try” to get her out.
Mr Wallace said it had been a “long term foreign policy tool” to lock up people the regime didn’t like.
“We will do everything we can do within international law,” he stressed.