General Qassem Soleimani, head of Tehran’s elite Quds Force who spearheaded military operations in the Middle East, was targeted in a US drone strike at Baghdad’s international airport on Friday.
The US Defense Department said Soleimani was targeted because he was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members” in the region.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that “severe revenge awaits the criminals” behind the strike and announced three days of national mourning.
In a statement today, Corbyn said the killing was “an extremely serious and dangerous escalation of conflict in the Middle East with global significance”.
“The UK government should urge restraint on the part of both Iran and the US, and stand up to the belligerent actions and rhetoric coming from the United States,” the outgoing Labour leader said.
“All countries in the region and beyond should seek to ratchet down the tensions to avoid deepening conflict, which can only bring further misery to the region, 17 years on from the disastrous invasion of Iraq.”
Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, called for a calming of tensions. He said the government had “always recognised the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds force led” by the general.
“Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate. Further conflict is in none of our interests,” Raab added.
He was expected to speak to US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Friday morning.
Boris Johnson, who has been celebrating new year on the private Caribbean island of Mustique, is yet to comment.
Labour leadership hopeful Clive Lewis, who served as a Territorial Army officer and completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan, warned that the “violent escalation in an already volatile region is a mistake” which should not be “compounded” by UK support.
“I call on the PM to condemn this cowboy action & turn immediately to our international institutions to try & de-escalate any war with Iran,” the former shadow defence secretary tweeted. “The UK must now lead in being a broker for peace.”
Labour MP Lisa Nandy, who is also considering a run to replace Corbyn, said it is “a very dangerous moment”.
She added: “17 years after the catastrophic decision to go to war in Iraq violence still rages every day. World leaders must stand up to Trump. The last thing we need is another all out war.”
Labour’s shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon warned that there is a “real risk” Trump will engage in a war with Iran “that would be even worse than that on Iraq”.