Labour urges arms embargo if Israel ‘escalates’ attacks on Iranian forces

Emily Thornberry, the shadow Foreign Secretary, has called for a ban on arms sales to Israel if it continues to attack Iranian forces.

In a letter to Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Thornberry asked him to confirm that: “If Israel does engage in escalating acts of aggression against Iran, including inside Iraq, then it will be in breach of the rules governing the UK arms export regime, and that the sale of arms to Israel for use in those acts of international aggression will therefore be suspended.”

Thornberry also said that, if these circumstances arise, the UK should withdraw its invitation for the Israel Air Force to participate in joint exercises with the RAF in the UK later this year.

The Shadow Foreign Secretary expressed concern that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had told the Israeli Government that the US would not object if the Israel Defence Forces conducted air strikes inside Iraq “against what it [Israel] alleges are Iranian-backed Shiite militias transporting missiles into Syria”.

Thornberry said the UK Government should press Israel to “act with restraint, proportionality and due care for civilian life in any military action inside Syria, and avoid action against Iranian forces and instillations which would risk an escalation into open warfare”.

Thornberry noted that the Israeli action was in response to Iran firing a surface-to-surface missile into the Golan Heights, which resulted in Israeli airstrikes on several Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s military and intelligence bases around Damascus on Monday. She said this was accompanied by “unacceptable rhetoric” from Iran and Israel and quotes Iranian air force commander Aziz Nasirzadeh who said his pilots were ready to “confront the Zionist regime and eliminate it from the earth,” and intelligence minister Israel Katz who said: “The policy has changed. This is an open confrontation with Iran.”

She also urged Hunt to remind Iran that “in a year when it will need support from countries like the UK to try and keep the JCPOA [nuclear deal] alive despite US sanctions, it will rapidly lose that support if it continues to commit acts of aggression against Israel, and allows spokespeople like Brig. Gen Nasirzadeh to engage in bellicose and antisemitic rhetoric.”