Terrorists Would Be the Only Winners of U.S. War With Iran, Warns U.K. Foreign Secretary

The British foreign secretary has urged de-escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Iran over the assassination of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani, warning that a major conflict would be a boon to terrorist groups across the Middle East.

Dominic Raab told Sky News Tuesday that the U.K. is working to "de-escalate" tensions with Iran and retain good relations with the Iraqi government, as Shiite parliamentarians in Baghdad push for the expulsion of all foreign troops.

"We've been working very hard with our European partners, our American partners, we've been talking to our partners in the region," Raab said.

"What we're looking to do is de-escalate the tensions with Iran and make sure, in relation to Iraq, that we don't lose the hard won gains that we've secured against Daesh," Raab said using an Arabic acronym to refer to the Islamic State militant group.

Asked whether he was concerned about retaliation, Raab repeated that the U.K. wishes to de-escalate the situation. "We are concerned that, if we see a full blown war, it would be very damaging, and actually the terrorists—in particular Daesh—would be the only winners."

Raab said he would continue to advance a "clear and consistent" British message on the "need for de-escalation and to find a diplomatic route through."

Raab was more supportive of the U.S. position Sunday, when he said the U.K. was "sympathetic" to the American stance on Soleimani.

Then, Raab suggested the Iranian commander was "a regional menace, and we understand the position that the Americans found themselves in, and they have a right to exercise self-defence."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has described the killing as a defensive measure, while he and other allies of President Donald Trump have claimed the strike as necessary to stop imminent attacks on Americans. The administration has thus far failed to provide evidence to support the assertion, despite pressure from lawmakers and the media.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson—who said he would not support a U.S. war with Iran while campaigning to become Conservative Party leader—was silent on the Soleimani strike until Monday.

In a statement, the prime minister said the U.K. would "not lament" Soleimani's death, but warned that all calls for retaliation or reprisals will simply lead to more violence in the region, and they are in no one's interest."

Raab indicated Monday that the U.K. would not support any plans to launch airstrikes against cultural sites, as threatened by Trump.

Though the foreign minister did not openly criticize the president's threat—which experts have warned would constitute a war crime—Raab said, "We have been very clear that cultural sites are protected under international law and we would expect that to be respected."

Dominic Raab, UK, Iran, Qassam Soleimani, ISIS
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab arrives to meet with Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the wake of the killing Iranian general Qassem Soleimani on January 6, 2020 in London, U.K. Peter Summers/Getty Images/Getty