Britain could join the US in taking military action against Iran if current tensions in the Persian Gulf escalate into armed conflict, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Monday.
US-Iran tensions have risen sharply in recent days following the downing of the US Navy surveillance aircraft in the early hours of Thursday over international waters. Iran insists the craft violated its airspace.
“We will stand by the United States as our strongest ally but of course we have to consider any requests for military support on a case-by-case basis,” he told Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper.
“We do strongly believe that the solution is for Iran to stop its destabilising activity throughout the Middle East and we are very concerned about the sabotaging of tankers that has happened recently, which is almost certainly Iran, and we’re constantly in touch with the United States.
“We want to de-escalate the situation but we are of course extremely worried,” he added.
Speaking to BBC radio, Hunt said he does not believe either side wants war, but warned accidents could happen in the charged environment.
“We are very concerned: we don’t think either side wants a war, but we are very concerned that we could get into an accidental war and we are doing everything we can to ratchet things down,” he said.
Hunt is campaigning to replace Theresa May as Conservative Party leader and as Britain’s next prime minister. He has frequently talked tough on Iran and hailed Britain’s special relationship with the US to bolster his leadership bid.
His comments came a day after Andrew Murrison, Britain’s minister for the Middle East, paid a visit to Tehran in a bid to de-escalate tensions.
Washington deployed yet more troops to the region following attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week. The US and its allies blame the attacks on Iran, but Tehran strenuously denies the charge.
The US and Iran have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Actions (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, leaving the Europeans and other signatories of the deal to pick up the pieces.
Washington imposed a raft of new sanctions targeting Iran’s economy, particularly its oil sector.
US President Donald Trump said further sanctions will be announced on Monday in response to the shooting down of a US Navy drone. US media said the US also retaliated with a cyberattack designed to cripple Iranian weapons systems.
Trump said he called off retaliatory strikes on Iranian targets at the last minute, arguing such an attack would not be proportionate.