UK will be ‘dragged in’ to Israeli strike on Iran

Lord Howell

Lord Howell

Diego Garcia, the British-governed island in the Indian Ocean, could be drawn into an Israel-Iran conflict, a Foreign Office minister has confirmed.

The territory has previously been used by the CIA for secret rendition flights and by the United States military as a base for long-range bombing missions on Iraq and Afghanistan.

Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Falkner asked during a House of Lords debate if the government would deny permission for the island to be used for logistical support, if the US backed Israel in the event of military action being taken over Iran’s nuclear threat.

Foreign Office Minister Lord Howell replied: “The answer is obvious. If Israel was to take military action, the United States would be involved and if the United States was involved, we would be involved.

"This would be a triggering of global action and Diego Garcia would therefore obviously be dragged into it.”

He added that the government was “absolutely clear” that it was a scenario it was “anxious to avoid”. Policies of “pressure and engagement” were being pursued, with negotiation with Iran “obviously the best path forward”.

The use of Diego Garcia has been contentious throughout the past decade. In 2008, then Foreign Secretary David Miliband admitted that six years earlier, two US “extraordinary rendition” flights had landed on the island to refuel while transporting terror suspects around the world for interrogation.

Critics have said the flights were used for “kidnapping and secret detention”. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair had repeatedly denied such flights had landed on the island.

Despite the continuing conflict in Syria and the recent Egyptian elections, Friday’s Middle East debate in the Lords was dominated by discussion about Israel and the Palestinians. There were more mentions of Israel in Friday’s four-hour session than any other country except Iran.

Labour’s Lord Haskel, a member of the Parliamentary Committee Against Antisemitism Foundation, was “particularly worried about the upturn in the vilification and demonisation of Israel” he had witnessed in Britain this year.

He said compassion for Palestinians should not lead people to bigotry towards Israel, and told the debate of the successful trade links between Britain and Israel.

Labour’s Baroness Blackstone said the international community, as well as the Israelis and Palestinians, had seemingly “given up” on the peace process. But she attacked Israeli settlement building as a “grave threat” to a two-state solution.

She attacked the sale of products from Israeli West Bank settlements, claiming their sale might exploit EU trade rules.

She called for consumer protection laws to be enforced, to allow shoppers to make “informed choices” through different labelling.

Last updated: 9:56am, July 19 2012