UK and US in talks for use of bases
The British Royal Navy’s Astute Class attack submarine, HMS Ambush, is seen in this photo. The UK has one nuclear submarine in the Hormuz Strait. EPA photoBritain’s government has said it is involved in military contingency planning with the United States on potential flashpoints in the Middle East, but insisted it does not support any imminent strike on Iran’s nuclear sites.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s office confirmed Oct. 26 that planning is being carried out with the U.S. and other allies, including on the potential use of British bases overseas by U.S. forces.
The confirmation followed a report by The Guardian that the U.S. had asked Britain to use its bases in Greek Cyprus, and British territory in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean, to build up forces in the Gulf.
Cameron’s office said discussions were taking place, but declined to specify the details. According to The Guardian, the British government has rejected Washington’s request to use military bases in Greek Cyprus, Ascension Island in the Atlantic and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, citing advice from British government lawyers that such an attack would violate international law.
Clear breach of int’l law
The U.S.’ approach is part of contingency planning over the nuclear standoff with Tehran, but British ministers rebuffed the request. They have pointed U.S. officials to legal advice drafted by the attorney general’s office which has been circulated to Downing Street, the Foreign Office and the Defense Ministry.
The West and its allies fear the nuclear enrichment process of Tehran could lead to nuclear weapons development, a charge Iran denies, saying its nuclear ambitions are only for peaceful purposes.
The advice stated that providing assistance to forces that could be involved in a preemptive strike would be a clear breach of international law. “The U.K. would be in breach of international law if it facilitated what amounted to a preemptive strike on Iran,” said a senior British official. “It is explicit.
The government has been using this to push back against the Americans.”
According to the report, Washington has not made a formal request to the British government and that they did not believe acceleration toward conflict was imminent. “But I think the U.S. has been surprised that ministers have been reluctant to provide assurances about this kind of upfront assistance,” said one source.
The British navy has up to 10 ships in the region, including a nuclear-powered submarine and counter-mine vessels which are on permanent duty in Hormuz.
Britain has assumed that it would only become involved once a conflict had already begun and has been reluctant to commit overt support to Washington in the buildup to any military action.