- British troops are being given heavier weapons and are abandoning duties and switching to ‘force protection’
- HMS Montrose and HMS Defender are accompanying British-flagged oil tankers to the Strait of Hormuz
- Donald Trump has tweeted he will strike 52 Iranian sites if they retaliate to his drone strike
- Boris Johnson is flying back to the UK from his holiday to Mustique on Sunday after being criticised for silence
- Iranian official said 35 US targets, including warships and Tel Aviv, have been identified for retaliatory strikes
- Anti-war protests broke out across the world against Donald Trump’s escalation of conflict
- Thousands of furious mourners chanted ‘Death to America!’ during Soleimani’s funeral in Baghdad
Britain has ramped up its security in the Middle East and has given its troops in the region greater firepower, telling them to prepare for revenge strikes following the US drone attack on Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani.
As well as two warships being manoeuvered to accompany British-flagged oil tankers in the Gulf, more than 400 soldiers training local forces have been ordered to abandon duties and switch to ‘force protection’ and guard British diplomats and assets amid fears of an ‘accidental war’ between Iran and the US.
The soldiers will be handed heavier weapons and have been told to move from eight small bases in Iraq to large US-controlled compounds, although these sights are at risk of retaliation after an Iranian official said 35 US targets had already been identified in the region.
A Royal Navy nuclear powered submarine armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles is also in the region, where it is kept at all times, and is in position to strike if tensions give way to war. The 20ft tomahawk carries a 1,000lb high explosive war head has a range of 1,550 miles and travels at speeds of 550mph, with the power to destroy a building.
Donald Trump then stoked the fire by threatening to hit ’52 Iranian targets… very fast and very hard’ should Iran strike any Americans or US assets in retribution for the killing of the popular and revered general.
At least four rockets were fired towards Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Saturday night, where the US and British embassies sit.
A senior British figure told The Times: ‘We have a plan A and a plan B and a ‘break the glass’ plan if it all kicks off. Our forces in the region have been told to reorientate towards force protection.’
Boris Johnson, who will return to the UK from his holiday in Mustique on Sunday and has remained tight-lipped throughout the crisis, has been described as ‘pretty doveish’ by a senior figure, who said the Prime Minister’s main concern was to avoid Britain being dragged into an unnecessary war.
But Mr Johnson will not only be greeted with a geopolitical emergency on his return, but he will also walk back in to a simmering diplomatic row with the US after Britain was left in the dark about the attack, unlike Israel.
He is now responding to threats in the Middle East by deploying HMS Montrose and HMS Defender, a Type 23 frigate and a Type 45 destroyer which were already in the region, to accompany British-flagged oil tankers.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace ordered the warships to the Strait of Hormuz to ‘take all necessary steps to protect our ships and citizens’.
Around 50 members of the SAS are also heading to the Middle East to help with a potential evacuation of Britons, while defence chiefs are asking Mr Johnson whether to deploy eight RAF Typhoon jets based in Cyprus, a Sentinel spy plane and drones.
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