Jeremy Corbyn last night refused four times to say Qassem Soleimani was a terrorist – and described his killing by the US as ‘illegal’.
The Labour leader also criticised the killing in the House of Commons after previously writing a letter to Boris Johnson asking for an urgent Privy Council briefing about the US assassination of top Iranian General Soleimani last Friday.
He asked for evidence and clarification that proved Soleimani was a threat – but the Prime Minister rejected his request yesterday.
Speaking to Sky News last night, Mr Corbyn was asked four times whether he believed Soleimani had engaged in terrorism.
He did not say yes and also added that it would be a ‘good idea’ if all foreign troops were pulled out of Iraq.
Discussing Soleimani, he said: ‘He was in Iraq, for reasons of contact, I assume, with the Iraqi government – I’ve no idea what his actual meetings were.
‘All I’m saying is that to assassinate an official of a foreign government in a third country, in this case Iraq, is illegal under any law and the US – if it wants the world to stand by international law – must stand by international law itself.’
Asked a second time, he added: ‘I’m not here to defend the special forces of Iran, I’m not here to defend any of those actions that have happened or been planned for the future.’
On the fourth time of asking, he said: ‘Soleimani is the head of special forces of Iran. They obviously operate in all kids of places that you or I would not agree with or want. That is not the point.’
Mr Corbyn was mocked by Tory MPs in Parliament yesterday afternoon after he claimed to have ‘long spoken out against the Iranian government’s human rights record’.
Jeremy Corbyn described the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani as illegal
The Labour leader demanded answers from the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace in the Commons over the UK’s response to rising tensions in the Middle East following the US killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
But he was interrupted by laughing Conservative backbenchers after he insisted he was no ally of the Iranian regime.
Mr Wallace accused Mr Corbyn of talking the ‘usual tripe’ and ‘anti-America, anti-imperialistic guff’ after the Labour leader had slammed Donald Trump for what he described as the ‘illegal’ fatal drone attack in Baghdad last Friday.
Mr Corbyn has faced repeated criticism in recent years for past paid appearances on Press TV, Iran’s controversial state television broadcaster.
The Labour leader told the Commons: ‘As the Secretary of State for Defence will confirm, I have long spoken out against the Iranian government’s human rights record, including when he and I visited Iran together in 2014.’
The Labour leader demanded answers over the UK’s response to rising tensions in the Middle East following the US killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani
His remarks prompted a wave of uproarious laughter on the Tory benches opposite the Labour leader as he had to raise his voice in order to continue.
Mr Corbyn said the killing of Soleimani meant the world was facing a ‘highly dangerous moment’ as he demanded to know why Mr Wallace was updating MPs instead of Boris Johnson.
The Leader of the Opposition asked the Defence Secretary: ‘Could he tell us where the Prime Minister is and what is he doing that is so much more important than addressing Parliament on the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani?
‘An extremely dangerous and aggressive act that risks starting yet another deadly war in the Middle East.’
But Mr Wallace hit back and said: ‘We have had the usual tripe about this is about Trump, this is about America and all the anti-America, anti-Imperialistic guff that we have had [from Mr Corbyn].
‘The Leader of the Opposition asks where the Prime Minister is. Funnily enough the Prime Minister is running the country – something the Leader of the Opposition will fail to ever do as a result of the election.’
Mr Corbyn claimed Mr Johnson was ‘hiding behind his Defence Secretary’ as he claimed the killing of Soleimani was ‘widely regarded as an illegal act’.
The US has insisted the strike was justified on the grounds of self-defence.
Mr Corbyn demanded to know whether the White House had provided any evidence to the UK to support that claim.
He also attacked the government’s response as he claimed the UK’s call for calm had only been directed at Tehran.
He told MPs: ‘I wonder if Iran had assassinated an American general whether the British government would be telling Washington that the onus was entirely on the US to deescalate?’
He continued: ‘Time and time again over the last two decades the political and military establishments have made the wrong call on military interventions in the Middle East.
‘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 learnt nothing from those events? This House must rule out plunging our country into yet another devastating war at the behest of another state.’
Mr Corbyn’s comments came as Mr Johnson gathered senior ministers, military chiefs and spy bosses in Number 10 to discuss the mounting crisis in the Gulf.
At a Cabinet meeting earlier on Tuesday, the Prime Minister set out the government’s position on ‘the importance of protecting British citizens and interests and de-escalating tensions’.
It comes as Iran launched missile attack on two US bases in Iraq housing US and coalition troops, defense sources revealed.
The Al Asad airbase in western Iraq – where Trump visited in December 2018 – was reported to have been hit by 35 missiles fired from inside Iran.
And a US site in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, which provides facilities and services to at least hundreds of coalition personnel and CIA operatives, was also hit.
Iranian state TV said ‘tens’ of surface-to-surface missiles were launched Tuesday by the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division that controls the country’s missile program.
They reported the operation’s name was ‘Martyr Soleimani’ – named after the general killed in a US drone strike.