Rory Stewart explains the potential consequences of Qassem Soleimani's death

3 January 2020, 17:56 | Updated: 3 January 2020, 17:58

Should the West intervene in the Middle East? Rory Stewart explains the potential consequences of Qassem Soleimani's death and opens up about the 2003 Iraq invasion.

Qassem Soleimani was Iran's "equivalent of the head of the CIA" and the killing was "genuinely astonishing," said Rory Stewart, former deputy governor for the transitional government in Iraq following the 2003 Iraq invasion.

"Even at the height of the Cold War when the United States and Russia were fighting each other they didn't try to assassinate the equivalents of the head of the KGB or the CIA," Mr Stewart said, "that was a line that people didn't cross."

LBC's Tom Swarbrick suggested that the US airstrike which killed this man was provocative, "Do you think it is therefore brazen and unlawful?"

Rory Stewart explained that there is a blurred line between whether this would legally be considered an assassination or an act of war, but President Trump's lawyers would argue that he is at war with the Iranian Quds Force.

"On the moral end, there's no doubt that this man has overseen some very very horrifying attacks over many, many years," he said, "I don't think anybody should be under any doubt this guy has a lot of blood on his hands."

However he questioned how sensible this act was; "It will potentially mean that the Iranians, instead of doing what they've traditionally done... will now feel under pressure to try to assassinate those senior figures, senior generals, senior commanders and the equivalent to the director of the CIA."

Kashmiri Shiite Muslims protesting against the US airstrike which killed Qassem Soleimani
Kashmiri Shiite Muslims protesting against the US airstrike which killed Qassem Soleimani. Picture: PA

A larger question Tom put to Rory Stewart was whether international intervention in the Middle East has ever been morally justifiable, citing Britain's attempts to intervene and rebuild Iraq in 2003.

Mr Stewart said ultimately "rebuilding somebody else's society is beyond us."

"The British-American governments had taken responsibility for everything from holding elections, to building police forces, to getting the education and health system going. And we simply didn't have the skills, the knowledge, the credibility to do that properly."

He said that as attacks started happening in Iraq and later in Afghanistan, Western people working on the ground were unable to leave the guarded compounds, meaning they had less contact with local people, which ultimately meant it was harder to have as much impact.

Of this attack on Soleimani he said, it is "clearly a US attack not a UK attack so I imagine most people will be seeing threat coming. We have to be cautious but I think at the moment the way the Iranians are reacting it is implying this is something directed towards the US."

However he said that we must be aware of the advancement in technology and how this could pose a threat to us; "we've used drones against other people but of course it's perfectly possible for terrorists to begin to try to turn drones back against us."

Tom asked if he was concerned about a drone attack in London.

He said if he becomes London Mayor he will focus on putting contingency plans in place for any possible terrorist risk we could face.