Britain will consider joining a US military assault on Iran, Jeremy Hunt said last night.
The Foreign Secretary confirmed the UK would consider requests for support ‘on a case-by-case basis’.
Washington has already mounted a full-scale cyber attack on Iran in the wake of an unmanned US drone being shot down. The Pentagon targeted computer systems used to control Tehran’s missile and rocket systems, intelligence sources said.
Donald Trump had earlier backed away from unleashing a major bombing campaign. He said the US military had been ‘cocked and loaded’ but added: ‘I am in no hurry.’
Tensions have escalated between the two countries ever since the US withdrew last year from a nuclear pact. Washington has blamed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard for attacking two tankers in the Strait of Hormuz – a key oil shipping route – this month.
Britain will consider joining a US military assault on Iran, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, pictured today, said last night
Tensions have escalated between the two countries ever since the US withdrew last year from a nuclear pact. Pictured: Iran’s firepower in the Gulf
Donald Trump, pictured yesterday, had earlier backed away from unleashing a major bombing campaign. He said the US military had been ‘cocked and loaded’ but added: ‘I am in no hurry.’
The Pentagon released images of what it said was an Iranian military vessel mounting an operation to remove an unexploded limpet mine from a tanker’s hull. Four other tankers were damaged by explosives in the port of Fujairah in May.
Mr Hunt said: ‘We will stand by the United States as our strongest ally but of course we have to consider any requests for military support on a case-by-case basis.
‘We do strongly believe that the solution is for Iran to stop its destabilising activity throughout the Middle East and we are very concerned about the sabotaging of tankers that has happened recently, which is almost certainly Iran, and we’re constantly in touch with the United States.
‘We want to de-escalate the situation but we are of course extremely worried.’
Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted a map saying the drone – also widely used for carrying out military strikes – had entered his country’s airspace on May 26.
Mr Trump decided not to go ahead with the military strike after being told by Pentagon advisers that an estimated 150 Iranian personnel could be killed.
He tweeted that it would not be proportionate to the loss of an unmanned aircraft.
Yesterday US national security adviser John Bolton cautioned Iran against misinterpreting the last-minute cancellation. ‘Neither Iran nor any other hostile actor should mistake US prudence and discretion for weakness,’ Mr Bolton said in Jerusalem.
Mr Trump said at the weekend that new sanctions were being prepared against Iran.
The US special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, urged ‘all nations to use their diplomatic effort to urge Iran to de-escalate and meet diplomacy with diplomacy’.
In recent weeks, hackers believed to be working for the Iranian government have targeted US government agencies, as well as sectors of the economy, including finance, oil and gas, by sending waves of ‘phishing’ emails, according to cybersecurity companies CrowdStrike and FireEye.
Washington has already mounted a full-scale cyber attack on Iran in the wake of an unmanned US drone being shot down. Pictured: US drone debris recovered from Iranian waters
He also attacked Boris Johnson – who is favourite to win with an 11-point lead among the Tory membership – saying he should answer difficult questions
This campaign appears to have started shortly after the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Iranian petrochemicals. Foreign minister Andrew Murrison has just returned from a visit to Tehran for talks.
‘I reiterated the UK’s assessment that Iran almost certainly bears responsibility for recent attacks on tankers,’ said Dr Murrison.
‘Such activity, which carries a high risk of miscalculation, needs to stop to allow for immediate de-escalation of rising tensions.’
Mr Hunt made the comments today while campaigning in Scotland for the Conservative party leadership.
He also attacked Boris Johnson – who is favourite to win with an 11-point lead among the Tory membership – saying he should answer difficult questions.
In an interview with Sky News, Mr Hunt said: ‘What Boris needs to do is engage properly in this leadership debate…
‘This is an audition to be PM of the UK and Boris needs to show he is prepared to answer difficult questions.’
It comes after Mr Johnson and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds were recorded by neighbours having a ‘plate-smashing, screaming row’ at the home in Camberwell.
Miss Symonds, 31, reportedly screamed ‘get off me’ and ‘get out of my flat’ during the bust-up with Mr Johnson. Police were called, but no formal action was taken.
Mr Hunt has made no secret that he hopes to make the head-to-head Tory leadership battle against Mr Johnson all about character.
And his supporters went a step further, with a senior cabinet minister describing Mr Johnson as a security risk.
He made the comments in conversation with another cabinet minister, who relayed them to the Sunday Times.
‘There will be things in his private life that we don’t know about,’ the minister is reported as saying.
‘There’s the danger that people leak what they have over him or blackmail him with it.’