- Boris Johnson’s government was “caught short” by the Iran crisis and “off the pace” in responding to it, according to the UK’s former national security adviser.
- Lord Peter Ricketts said Johnson was too slow in responding to the escalation in tensions between the US and Iran, telling the BBC: “the world doesn’t stop over Christmas and New Year.”
- The prime minister is accused of being distant from the crisis after taking three days to issue a public statement on Donald Trump’s decision to assassinate Iranian military chief Qassem Soleimani.
- Johnson was on a private island in the Caribbean in the days immediately following the assassination.
- Members of Parliament will debate the crisis on Tuesday before UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab travels to the US on Wednesday for talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Boris Johnson’s failure to return from his Christmas break in the Caribbean in the immediate aftermath of the Iran crisis has met growing criticism, with the United Kingdom’s former national security adviser accusing him of being “caught short” by the conflict.
Lord Peter Ricketts, who was the UK’s first National Security Adviser between 2010 and 2012, told the BBC that Johnson should have realised that “the world doesn’t stop over Christmas and New Year.”
Johnson was on a private island in the Caribbean in the days immediately following the assassination and didn’t issue a public response until three days after it happened.
In an interview with BBC Newsnight, Lord Ricketts said Johnson’s government was “off the pace” in responding.
“I think the British government were caught short by this,” he said.
“People were still on holiday, and there wasn’t sufficient early recognition at the top level that this is a serious crisis and really dangerous for Western interests in the Middle East. I think the reaction could have been quicker.
“Yes, I’m glad to see the wheels are finally in motion and things are happening but we are four days downwind of this sudden and dramatic escalation.
He added: “Prime ministers are entitled to get a break, and clearly Boris Johnson had had a tough year.
“But even in Mustique I hope that he was in very close touch with what was going on, because the world doesn’t stop over Christmas and New Year and we’ve seen that this year with in a very dramatic way and I think the British system has been off the pace in its response.
The UK Parliament returns from its Christmas holiday today and is scheduled to hold an urgent House of Commons debate on the crisis in Iran this afternoon.
However, Johnson is not set to attend, with the government expected to be represented by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
Asked on Tuesday why the prime minister wouldn’t be taking questions on the government’s behalf, his spokesperson said: “The prime minister leads a Cabinet government and he has been in charge of the overall response.”
Watch Lord Ricketts accuse Johnson of being too slow to respond to the Iran crisis
—BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) January 6, 2020
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is set to travel to the US on Wednesday for talks with Trump’s Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.
The UK and other western governments are urging Iran and the US to de-escalate tensions following President Donald Trump’s decision to authorize the assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani last week.
The Iranian regime has vowed to seek revenge for the assassination while Trump has threatened to destroy dozens of sites of cultural importance in Iran, tweeting that the US could hit such sites “VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.”
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