The Foreign Office has hardened its travel advice for Iran and Iraq after the killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a US airstrike.
It warns British nationals not to travel to Iraq, except for essential travel to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and only essential travel to Iran.
Tensions are heightened in the region – where the UK has 400 troops – after military commander Soleimani’s death.
Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn has called for an urgent meeting over the airstrike.
In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Mr Corbyn wants the Privy Council – the group that advises monarchs – to meet and discuss the consequences of the death.
The killing of Gen Soleimani marks a major escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said “severe revenge awaits the criminals” behind the attack, but a statement from the Pentagon said Gen Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region”.
In its advice, published on Saturday, the Foreign Office said there is a risk that British or British-Iranian dual nationals “could be arbitrarily detained or arrested in Iran”.
“The criminal justice process followed in such cases falls below international standards,” it said.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “Given heightened tensions in the region, the FCO now advise people not to travel to Iraq, with the exception of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and to consider carefully whether it’s essential to travel to Iran. We will keep this under review.”
Its advice for British-Iranian dual nationals remains unchanged, warning them not to travel to Iran.
It comes as the US has pledged to send 3,000 extra troops as a precaution.
The UK has 400 troops based in the Middle East and works alongside US forces in the region.
Mr Raab has previously urged for a calming of tensions, adding: “Further conflict is in none of our interests.”
‘Very risky situation’
BBC News understands the prime minister was not warned about Friday’s airstrike.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said he thought it was “regrettable because, as one of the US’ closest allies, I think it’s an important aspect of that relationship that there are no surprises.
“But it may also have been because they didn’t want to put us in a difficult position of asking us to make a judgement as to whether we agreed or not with what was done.”
He added: “The UK cannot afford to be neutral if we want to be a serious global player but this is a very, very risky situation and I think that the job that we have to do, as one of the US’s closest allies, is to use our influence to argue for consistent US policy.”
Writing to the prime minister, Mr Corbyn asked several questions including what the UK was told before the airstrike and what the government was doing to ensure the safety of UK nationals.
And he asked whether, if it had been informed in advance, the government had expressed its opposition to the attack.
“Given the serious nature of the issues now faced by our country and indeed the world as a consequence of the US attack, I would welcome a prompt response to this request and stand ready to attend any briefing meeting as soon as arranged,” he said.
Earlier, Mr Corbyn called the killing of Gen Soleimani a “US assassination” and an “extremely serious and dangerous escalation”.
He said the UK “should urge restraint” from both Iran and the US – and called for the government to “stand up to the belligerent actions and rhetoric coming from the United States”.
He added: “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.”
Mr Corbyn became a member of the Privy Council in 2015. Its members include all former prime ministers and cabinet ministers as well as leaders of the opposition.
What is the Privy Council?
- The Privy Council dates from the court of the Norman kings
- It convenes, on average, about once a month
- The Privy Council’s role is to advise the monarch of the day in carrying out their duties, such as the exercise of prerogative powers and other functions assigned to them by Acts of Parliament.
- Much of its business is rather routine and is concerned with obtaining the monarch’s formal approval to orders which have already been discussed and approved by ministers.
The acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Ed Davey, called for an immediate statement from Mr Johnson about the UK’s position, adding that Britain should “work with a broader group of concerned states at the United Nations”.
Mr Raab did speak to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday, although the time of the call is not known.
Mr Pompeo tweeted that he was “thankful that our allies recognise the continuing aggressive threats posed by the Iranian Quds Force”.
In a statement, Mr Raab urged “all parties to de-escalate” after the killing of Gen Soleimani.
He said the UK “recognised the aggressive threat” Gen Soleimani posed, but “further conflict is in none of our interests”.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has warned British nationals to avoid any rallies, marches, or processions in Iran over the three days of national mourning the country has called for Gen Soleimani.
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner earlier said he did not think anyone in the UK was given an indication the airstrike was going to take place, adding: “My sense is this has caught the British government largely by surprise.”