British foreign secretary and US secretary of state to meet within hours
Dominic Raab, Britain’s foreign secretary, arrived in Washington an hour ago. He had been expected to meet with counterpart Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, tomorrow but the meeting has been brought forward to late this afternoon.
Just landed in Washington DC for a day of valuable talks with senior members of Congress ahead of meeting with @SecPompeo. A chance to discuss the importance of the UK/US security partnership and the need to de-escalate the situation in Iraq.
January 8, 2020
It’s now expected to take place at 4.30pm ET/9.30pm GMT this afternoon. So far, we understand the two will not make public remarks before they disappear into their tête-a-tête but that could always change in the moment.
The two have met before, several times, and this was a pre-planned visit following the Conservative Party victory in December’s UK general election. It’s not an emergency meeting following the eruption of the US-Iran crisis in the last week (which affects NATO, British troops in Iraq, Britain’s participation in the Iran nuclear deal and British interests overall in a stable Middle East).
But there seems little doubt the events of the last six days will now be on the agenda.
Donald Trump urged Britain and others earlier today to join the US in abandoning the Iran nuclear deal.
Mike Pompeo (L) and Dominic Raab (R)
laugh together before posing for a group photo during a meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels last November Photograph: Francisco Seco/AP
Russia and Turkey urge de-escalation
From Istanbul today: Turkey and Russia called on the US and Iran to prioritize diplomacy and de-escalate tensions, warning that the exchange of attacks by Washington and Tehran could lead to a new cycle of instability in the region.
The joint call was issued in a statement after a meeting between presidents Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin in Turkey, where they were discussing cooperation on a gas pipeline, designed to connect the large gas reserves in Russia to the Turkish gas transportation network and provide energy supplies for Turkey, south and south-east Europe.
In part, the joint statement read: “We are deeply concerned about the escalation of the tension between the US and Iran as well as its negative repercussions on Iraq. We evaluate the targeting..of Qassem Suleimani and his entourage in Baghdad on 3 January as an act undermining security and stability in the region.
“In light of the ballistic missile attacks by Iran against coalition military bases in Iraq on 8 January 2020, we believe that exchange of attacks and use of force by any party do not contribute to finding solutions to the complex problems in the Middle East, but rather would lead to a new cycle of instability and would eventually damage everyone’s interests.”
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Russian president Vladimir Putin (L) during their meeting in Istanbul earlier today. Photograph: Alexey Druzhinin/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN POOL/EPA
US promises cooperation after air crash
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said a little earlier that the United States was calling for complete cooperation with any investigation into the cause of the crash of a Ukrainian airliner shortly after it took off from Tehran just over 12 hours ago.
In a statement, Pompeo said the US was prepared to offer Ukraine all possible assistance after the crash of the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737, which burst into flames shortly after take-off from Tehran on Wednesday, killing all 176 people aboard.
There is speculation that the plane was shot down, and it appeared to burst into flames in mid-air. There is no confirmation of, or official lines on, causes yet.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, said that there were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians on board. The Ukrainian nationals included two passengers and the nine crew. There were also 10 Swedish passengers, four Afghans, three Germans and three British nationals, my Guardian colleagues in London and the Middle East report.
Meanwhile, announcing on his Facebook page that Ukraine would send a team of experts to Iran later today, president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said: “Our priority is to establish the truth and those responsible for this terrible catastrophe.”
Iranian relative of a passenger mourns at the site of a crash of a Boeing 737 jet about 30 miles south of Tehran on January 8, 2020. All 176 passengers on board were killed during the Ukrainian plane crash shortly after take-off from the Imam Khomeini International airport. Photograph: UPI/Barcroft Media
at 1.08pm EST
Highlights of Trump speech
Here are some more detailed quotes of some of the main points made in the US president’s short address from the White House a little earlier.
Iran seen as standing down. “No Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime. We suffered no casualties. All of our soldiers are safe and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases. Our great American forces are prepared for anything. Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.”
Boasting of US strength. “Our missiles are big, powerful, accurate, lethal and fast…The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it. We do not want to use it. American strength, both military and economic, is the best deterrent.”
A new Iran deal? Much to US allies’ chagrin, Trump announced in 2018 that the US intended to “exit” the 2013, multi-national Iran nuclear deal aimed at persuading Iran to abandon the pursuit of nuclear weapons in return for the easing of harsh economic sanctions. Trump said moments ago: “Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism. The time has come for the United Kingdom, Greece, France, Russia and China to recognize this reality. They must now break away from the remnants of the Iran deal, or JCPOA.”
Further sanctions: “As we continue to evaluate options in response to Iranian aggression, the United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime. These powerful sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior.” No details given.
NATO: “The civilized world must send a clear and unified message to the Iranian regime: your campaign of terror, murder, mayhem will not be tolerated any longer. It will not be allowed to go forward. Today I am going to ask NATO to become much more involved in the Middle East process.”
Trump talks of “shared priorities” with Iran, in apparent de-escalation
Donald Trump rounded off his short TV address to the public with what might normally be considered some small-talk or waffle but in the current context and with this president counts as actual diplomatic outreach.
It may be no more than lip service. But given that Trump often opts for bellicose and extremely simplistic rhetoric in denouncing or threatening anyone he regards as a foe, his closing sentences were noteworthy.
In fact, all the signals from the last 19 or so hours are that both Iran and the US have embarked on a hasty de-escalation of their sudden crisis.
As he wound down his speech moments ago, Trump referred to the battle against Islamic State, and American forces’ assassination of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last October.
But then he swiftly pivoted.
“ISIS is a natural enemy of Iran,” Trump said at the White House. “We should work together on this and other shared priorities. To the people and leaders of Iran, we want you to have a future, and a great future, one that you deserve, of prosperity and harmony.”
He concluded that the US is “ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.”
This might be meaningless chat from the US president but indicates an unusual level-headedness, however brief, communicated via Trump by those advising him and is a clear de-escalation of the rhetoric.
An Iraqi worker clears rubble during the reconstruction of the Great Mosque of Al-Nuri, in Mosul’s war-ravaged old town, on December 15, 2019. The famed complex including the 12th century mosque and its 8th century leaning minaret dubbed “Al-Hadba” or “the hunchback”, was where the chief of the Islamic State group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a self-styled “caliphate” after sweeping into Mosul in 2014. It was destroyed in fighting three years later. Photograph: Zaid Al-Obeidi/AFP via Getty Images
Calls on NATO to become more involved
In his short speech, Donald Trump, who has been scathing and mocking of NATO, called on the alliance to “get more involved in the Middle East”.
He didn’t go into further detail and went on to boast that the USA is now self-sufficient in oil and natural gas, as “the number one producer in the world”, and said: “We do not need Middle East oil.”
Trump then asserted, in warning Iran in characteristic tone, that “our missiles are big and powerful and accurate…and lethal.”
He said he didn’t want to use force, however, and said that “America’s strength, both military and economic, is the best deterrent.”
Donald Trump delivers statement about Iran at the White House in Washington
He is flanked by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (left, in blue tie), vice president Mike Pence and secretary of state Mike Pompeo (partially obscured by teleprompter), and military leaders in the Grand Foyer at the White House moments ago Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
Trump announces new sanctions on Iran
The US president just declared that he will impose additional economic sanctions on Iran.
He is calling on Europe to “break away from the remnants of the Iran nuclear deal”, which he called a “foolish” deal and had previously announced the US would abandon.
Trump has not given any details about the nature of further sanctions.
Trump: ‘We eliminated the world’s top terrorist’
Donald Trump has described last week’s missile assassination of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani as “decisive action to stop a ruthless terrorist”.
“Last week we eliminated the world’s top terrorist,” he said at the White House.
at 11.36am EST
Trump says ‘Iran appears to be standing down’
Donald Trump has announced that there were no US casualties in the Iranian missile strikes on US facilities in Iraq last night.
“Iran appears to be standing down,” he said.
at 11.36am EST
Trump addresses the public
The president has arrived and is now speaking.
Trump to address the public on TV in moments
The US president is about to arrive at a briefing podium in the White House and will begin speaking shortly on the latest developments in the US-Iran crisis. Watch, live.
Vice president Mike Pence and secretary of state Mike Pompeo just entered.
US Congress in limbo over Trump’s actions against Iran
Senior US House Democrats a little earlier today said there is no set schedule yet for voting on a war powers resolution that would limit Donald Trump’s actions regarding Iran, and that legislation is still being drafted.Representatives are seeking to put a check on the president’s power after he failed to inform Congress in advance of the US drone strike last week that killed top Iranian commander Qassem Suleimani as he was driving away from Baghdad airport in Iraq.
at 12.34pm EST