Foreign Office ‘in crisis mode’ over US-Iran tensions | UK News


Britain’s Foreign Office has gone into crisis mode because of rising tensions in the Gulf between the United States and Iran, Sky News can reveal.

Crisis mode is a formal status which can lead to staffing being increased to 24 hours per day at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s headquarters in Whitehall, with senior officials brought in to direct operations.

At the moment the level of crisis is at the lower end with a small number of additional staff focusing on Iran, and additional reports being produced by officials.

However, this level could be increased if the situation in the region worsens, sources said.

“We are going into crisis mode,” a Whitehall source said, describing it, for now, as “pretty light touch”.

A second source said the crisis in the region, with the United States and its ally Saudi Arabia pitched against Iran, is an “increasingly complex political and diplomatic situation” that “will need careful management by” the UK.

The source said Britain “is caught between [an] expectation from the US to support and a much more leery EU”.

“Prudent steps are being taken to mitigate risk associated with potentially volatile escalation or miscalculation,” they added.

US aircraft carrier the USS Abraham Lincoln passes Egypt's Suez Canal on route to Iran deployment
US aircraft carrier the USS Abraham Lincoln has been sent to the Gulf

A third source said the number of additional Foreign Office staff focusing on Iran had increased by about five “across the different workstreams” because of the change in posture.

It comes in response to the United States sending an aircraft carrier strike group, B-52 bombers and a patriot missile defence battering to the Gulf in recent days, as well as drawing up plans to deploy as many as 120,000 military personnel.

Tensions have been growing between the US and Iran during the last year since US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw America from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran.

Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened to increase Tehran’s uranium enrichment if new and better terms under the Obama-era agreement were not reached with the remaining signatories of the accord – Britain, China, the European Union, France and Germany – in two months.

Amid talks with his European counterparts – and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – in Brussels on Monday, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned there is a risk the US and Iran could end up at war unintentionally.

“What we need is a period of calm to make sure that everyone understands what the other side is thinking, and most of all we need to make sure we don’t end up putting Iran back on the path to renuclearisation,” he said.

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