Iran crisis: British shipping could be hit by Iranian terrorists after US kills Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, ex-Royal Navy head warns

ATTACKS by Iranian-backed terror groups could see mines laid in the Gulf, British ships being targeted and deadly assaults launched in the UK, a former head of the Royal Navy has warned.

Friday, 3rd January 2020, 2:01 pm
Updated Saturday, 4th January 2020, 12:19 pm
Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran's Quds Force, attends an annual rally commemorating the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, in Tehran, Iran. The U.S. airstrike that killed a prominent Iranian general in Baghdad raises tensions even higher between Tehran and Washington after months of trading attacks and threats across the wider Middle East. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

Admiral Lord Alan West insisted there was a ‘serious chance’ Iran would respond following the assassination of the country’s top general, Qasem Seleimani by the US in Iraq.

Lord West, who was Britain’s security minister and advised ex-prime minister Gordon Brown, said the UK had been placed into a ‘difficult position’ by the attack, which was sanctioned by American president Donald Trump.

The former First Sea Lord claimed the general’s killing would have an ‘immense impact’ on Iran, with the nation’s seething supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei already vowing ‘severe revenge’.

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Admiral Lord Alan West, former First Sea Lord.

‘This is like the Iranians taking out the vice-president of the United States if he was on a visit to Greece,’ the naval chief told The News. ‘I find it very difficult to believe that the Iranians won’t make a response to his death.’

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Lord West warned the fallout from the US strike could see British ships in the Gulf targeted by terrorists.

The Labour peer also didn’t rule out the possibility of revenge attacks being launched on the streets of the UK by Iranian-backed extremists.

Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose defends a British ship in the Gulf amid tensions with Iran.

He said: ‘The Iranians are likely to do something. They see us as a “little Satan”. They see us as a valid target to attack.

‘We need to make absolutely certain that our bases and ships are well secured because they could be attacked at any time.

‘They way Iran will strike is by using proxies such as Hezbollah and terror-type attacks. I don’t think they will do a large kinetic attack because the US will zap them down.

‘But they could go and lay mines in the Strait of Hormuz. They could do anything.’

A full-scale conflict would be ‘unlikely’ he added, claiming an invasion of Iran would be ‘extremely bad news’ for all involved.

‘That would be very unpleasant. It won’t just be a quick war, it would be way worse than Iraq. It would be a nightmare.

‘No-one will want to invade’

Penny Mordaunt, former defence secretary, has since joined British foreign secretary Dominic Raab in calling for calm as the crisis continues to deepen.

The Portsmouth North MP told The News: ‘I understand why the US has taken this action.

‘The Iranian Quds force led by Qasem Seleimani and proxies acting for Iran have continually threatened the interests of humanity and peace across the region.

‘The last thing that region needs is another conflict. That is why we are urging all parties to de-escalate.’

The Royal Navy has hundreds of sailors based in the Gulf, including Portsmouth-based destroyer HMS Defender, frigate HMS Montrose and several minehunters.

They have already been tasked with protecting British shipping in the region following a series of attacks by Iran.

Retired Portsmouth Commander Ian Millen, who is an expert in Middle Eastern affairs and was Lord West's former intelligence officer, insisted the Royal Navy was well prepared for any scenario.

Cdr Millen warned Iran could use ‘proxies’ to target American firms and ships in the region, in a bid to disrupt the Strait of Hormuz.

He added: ‘I don’t see this as being a massive escalation. In a force-on-force fight Iran would end up second best. But they will retaliate in some way, that’s a given.’

Since the assassination of General Seleimani, Britain has increased its security and readiness at military bases in the Middle East, Sky News reports.

However, the Ministry of Defence has told the Press Association that there are no discussions about changing the forces it has deployed in the region at this time.

The MoD added the safety and security of personnel was of ‘paramount importance’ and that its force protection measures were ‘under constant review’.