Corbyn branded ‘pathetic’ over response to Gulf tanker attacks

Jeremy Hunt said the Labour leader was unwilling to stand up for Britain and its allies.

Press Association
Last updated: 15 June 2019 - 9.50am

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has hit back at Jeremy Corbyn after the Labour leader accused the Government of fuelling conflict with Iran.

Mr Corbyn said Britain should not be stoking a military escalation in the Gulf without “credible evidence” Iran was behind the attacks on two oil tankers which dramatically heightened tensions in the region.

In response, Mr Hunt – who has said it was “almost certain” Tehran was behind the attacks – accused him of persistently failing to stand up for British interests and British allies.

“Pathetic and predictable,” he tweeted.

“From Salisbury to the Middle East, why can he never bring himself to back British allies, British intelligence or British interests?”

In a statement, the Foreign Office said “no other state or non-state actor could plausibly have been responsible” for the incident.

It was broadly in line with the assessment of the United States which has firmly blamed Iran – a claim which Tehran denies.

Jeremy Corbyn has accused the Government of fuelling tensions in the Gulf (David Mirzoeff/PA)

Mr Corbyn tweeted: “Britain should act to ease tensions in the Gulf, not fuel a military escalation that began with US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement.

“Without credible evidence about the tanker attacks, the Government’s rhetoric will only increase the threat of war.”

Mr Corbyn’s comments were echoed by shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, who said US hardliners like national security adviser John Bolton were trying to engineer regime change in Iran.

“These are extremely dangerous developments and we really have to pause and think about where we are going next,” she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Donald Trump has blamed Tehran for the attacks, saying Iran ‘did do it’ (Jose Luis Magana/AP/PA)

“The idea that we are going to get enmeshed in another war is really something we need to think about very carefully. What we do not want is British forces being drawn into a conflict of that size.

“We have got to give up on this idea that if the United States decides to go into war – especially one engineered by the likes of John Bolton and the neo-cons – we have to stop and say there are times when we just don’t follow.

“Harold Wilson did that with Vietnam and said ‘no’ to the Americans. We made a dreadful mistake when it came to Iraq and we must not make the same mistake again.”

The US has sought to back up its claims, releasing footage on Friday said to show an unexploded mine being removed from one of the tankers by Iranian special forces.

President Donald Trump told Fox News that Iran “did do it”.

“I guess one of the mines didn’t explode and it’s probably got essentially Iran written all over it,” he said.

Mr Hunt said Britain’s assessment “leads us to conclude that responsibility for the attacks almost certainly lies with Iran”.

“These latest attacks build on a pattern of destabilising Iranian behaviour and pose a serious danger to the region,” he said.

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