Boris Johnson has backed the US decision to kill senior Iranian commander Qassem Suleimani in a missile strike, telling MPs that the general had “the blood of British troops on his hands”.
Making his first parliamentary appearance of the year, the prime minister said that “most reasonable people” would think the operation was justified.
Mr Johnson also condemned Iran’s retaliatory missile attacks on Iraqi bases hosting US and coalition troops on Tuesday night and called for calm.
Mr Johnson, speaking at prime minister’s questions, said: “We, of course, condemn the attack on Iraqi military bases hosting coalition forces.
“Iran should not repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks, but must instead pursue urgent de-escalation.”
He said Gen Soleimani “had the blood of British troops on his hands” because he had “supplied improvised explosive devices to terrorists”.
US officials said 15 missiles were fired, with 10 striking the Ain al-Asad base 100 miles west of Baghdad, one striking a base in Irbil in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, and another four missing their targets.
Mr Johnson added: “As far as we can tell, there were no casualties last night sustained by the US and no British personnel were injured in the attacks.
“We are doing everything we can to protect UK interests in the region, with HMS Defender and HMS Montrose operating in an enhanced state of readiness to protect shipping in the Gulf.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responded by questioning the legality of the initial drone strike ordered by President Trump.
He said: “The government has said that it is sympathetic to the assassination of General Suleimani. What evidence has the prime minister got to suggest that this attack on him and his death was not an illegal act by the United States?”
Mr Johnson said it was not up the UK to determine whether the strike was legal “since it was not our operation”, but added: “I think most reasonable people would accept that the United States has the right to protect its bases and its personnel.”
He added that he was “very surprised” that Mr Corbyn has not condemned the activities of the Revolutionary Guard commander.
Mr Corbyn responded: “Isn’t the truth that this prime minister is unable to stand up to President Trump because he has hitched his wagon to a trade deal with the United States and that prioritises everything else that he ought to be considering?”
Mr Johnson replied: “This is absolute fiction. But what I will say is that the UK will continue to work for de-escalation in the region.
“But he should be in absolutely no doubt, and this is of course a leader of the Opposition who famously received £10,000 from the Iranian Press TV, that we are determined to guarantee with everything that we can the safety and the security of the people of Iraq – whereas he, of course, would disband Nato.”
Mr Corbyn’s spokesman later said the £10,000 figure was “incorrect”, and that the Labour leader stopped appearing on Press TV “when he believed that he was no longer able to speak entirely freely about whatever he wanted”.