Downing Street to White House: ‘UK would be in breach of international law if it facilitated pre-emptive strike on Iran’

US Politics
on 12 Comments

Big news from the UK — Downing street has “rebuffed” US requests to use UK military bases to support a preemptive attack on Iran. The rejection includes the use of any US bases on British territory for the buildup of forces in the Gulf. This  would prohibit the use of US bases on Ascension Island in the Atlantic and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

The reason? Because they do not consider Iran “a clear and present threat” therefore a preemptive attack on Iran would be in breach of International law. How refreshing.

The Guardian, Iran military action not ‘right course at this time’:

The UK government has reiterated that it does not believe military action against Iran would be appropriate at the moment, following the disclosure that Britain has rebuffed US requests to use UK military bases to support the buildup of forces in the Gulf.

Downing Street said: “We are working closely with the US with regard to UK bases” but “the government does not think military action is the right course at this point of time”.


They have pointed US officials to legal advice drafted by the attorney general’s office and which has been circulated to Downing Street, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence.

It states that providing assistance to forces that could be involved in a pre-emptive strike would be a clear breach of international law on the basis that Iran, which has consistently denied it has plans to develop a nuclear weapon, does not currently represent “a clear and present threat”

“The UK would be in breach of international law if it facilitated what amounted to a pre-emptive strike on Iran,” said a senior Whitehall source. “It is explicit. The government has been using this to push back against the Americans.”


“But I think the US has been surprised that ministers have been reluctant to provide assurances about this kind of upfront assistance,” said one source. “They’d expect resistance from senior Liberal Democrats, but it’s Tories as well. That has come as a bit of a surprise.”

The situation reflects the lack of appetite within Whitehall for the UK to be drawn into any conflict, though the Royal Navy has a large presence in the Gulf in case the ongoing diplomatic efforts fail.

The U.S. is not talking:

A US state department official said: “The US and the UK co-ordinate on all kinds of subjects all the time, on a huge range of issues. We never speak on the record about these types of conversations.”

(Hat tip Mondoweiss commenter seafoid)

    Leave a Reply