Hundreds of people protested outside Downing Street in central London on Saturday against the threat of a major war with Iran.
The demonstration organised by the Stop the War Coalition came as some 3,500 US soldiers were deployed to the Middle East following the assassination of a top Iranian general.
A US airstrike killed general Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad airport in Iraq early on Friday morning. The killing of Soleimani—a hugely important figure in the Middle East—could trigger a round of violence that could spiral into war across the region.
Speaking at the demonstration on Saturday afternoon Stop the War convenor Lindsey German said, “This was an act of war and it will lead to more wars.
“The retaliation that will come will not just be in Iraq—it can be across the Middle East. We don’t know what will happen. But we do know there is a very, very serious threat of war.”
The murder of Soleimani is a major escalation of Trump’s offensive against Iran in the Middle East. Trump wants to use violence and threats of war to push back Iran’s growing influence, which is a threat to the US’s control of the region.
The US claims its murder of Soleimani was supported by ordinary people in Iraq, Iran and across the Middle East.
Trump’s secretary of state Mike Pompeo claimed Iraqi people were “dancing in the street for freedom” after the killing.
Yet huge numbers of people followed Soleimani’s coffin through the streets of Baghdad, angry at the killing.
And members of Iraq’s recent anti-government protest movement, which has targeted Iranian influence and corruption in Iraq, opposed the airstrike.
One protester in Baghdad said, “America and Iran should solve their problems outside Iraq. We do not want them to solve it inside Iraq because this will not serve our cause. We do not celebrate the killing of Soleimani or anyone else because this will not serve us.”
And a protest organiser said, “This American attack came with the worst timing. Iran and its militias were already calling us American agent to justify their attacks on us, and we fear they will use the assassination as a pretext to destroy our protest.
Yet though other governments in the West also oppose Iran, they’re frightened of being dragged into a major war. Britain’s Tory foreign secretary Dominic Raab said, “further conflict is in none of our interests.”
But he also said he “recognised the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds force,” which Soleimani led. Britain is also part of the US-led maritime military taskforce in the Gulf, which menaces Iran, and there are 400 British troops in Iraq.
Some in the Labour Party want to tail the Tories’ response. Yet Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the demonstration, “It’s not enough for the government to call for de-escalation. It has to come out with an outright condemnation of this act of violence.”
He added that Labour would “do all that we can in parliament but also on the streets and on demonstrations” to oppose the drive to war.
One protester in London, Mo, told Socialist Worker, “I’m here because I’m a big supporter of peace.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a supporter of Iran. Soleimani did a lot of bad things. We’re here to stop these evil men doing these things to innocent people.”
He added, “It’s all a power play. Trump just wants to keep America powerful. I don’t think he wants war, but who knows what will happen? Let’s hope it won’t cost any more innocent lives.”