Wallace: West must stand up to Iranian bullies

Ben Wallace
Mr Wallace called on allies to come together against Iran 'to defeat their drones and missiles' - AP Photo/Olivier Matthys

Iran is acting like a “bully” and must be “hit back twice as hard”, Ben Wallace has said, as Israel prepares to retaliate after missile attacks from Tehran.

It comes as Rishi Sunak is set to tell Benjamin Netanyahu to “show restraint” in his first phone call with the Israeli leader since the attacks.

No 10 and the White House are concerned that an Israeli response could trigger a wider conflict. But on Monday evening, Mr Sunak and Joe Biden were under mounting pressure to stand up to Iran.

Mr Wallace warns that the Government has done “almost nothing in response” to Iran’s malign activity in the Middle East and he calls for the West to come “together to defeat their drones and missiles”.

Writing in The Telegraph, the former defence secretary adds: “I have learnt, working against Britain’s adversaries, that the only way to deal with a bully is to retaliate.”

“The only option when Iran and Russia hit, I have concluded, is to hit back twice as hard and not stop until they get the message.”

He compared the threat of Iran to Russia’s war in Ukraine, arguing that both countries “view Britain as an enemy”, and called for Israel to support Ukraine in its war against Russia, after Western countries came to its aid on Saturday.

Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, said on Monday that Kyiv “could have received the same level of protection [as Israel] long ago if Ukraine had received similar full support from its partners in intercepting drones and missiles”.

Mr Sunak will speak to Mr Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, on Tuesday for the first time since Iran launched more than 350 drones, missiles and rockets in an attempt to overwhelm Israel’s air defences on Saturday.

He said he would urge “restraint” from both sides, after Israel said it had drawn up plans to retaliate with a strike on Iran.

“Our aim is to support stability and security because it is right for the region and because although the Middle East is thousands of miles away, it has a direct effect on our security and prosperity at home,” he told MPs.

“We’re working urgently with our allies to de-escalate the situation and prevent further bloodshed. We want to see calmer heads prevail and we’re directing all our diplomatic efforts to that end.”

Both Downing Street and the White House have called for de-escalation, with Mr Biden telling Mr Netanyahu that the US would not join or support a retaliation.

Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, said on Monday that US officials “don’t seek escalation” but would “continue to support the defence of Israel and to protect our personnel in the region”.

However, both the US and UK are under pressure to confront Iran, which has supported attacks on Israel from proxies in Lebanon and Gaza and which armed a group that killed three American troops in Jordan in January.

Conservative MPs including Suella Braverman and Sir Iain Duncan Smith, and the Labour Party have called for Mr Sunak to proscribe Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), while Republicans have demanded that Mr Biden enforce financial sanctions on Tehran’s international energy trade.

Mr Biden is facing pressure to withdraw a $10 billion sanction waiver to cut funding streams to Tehran.

Mr Wallace calls on Western leaders to stop treating Iran “like a child having a tantrum in a restaurant” and to address the regime directly.

Iranians gather in Tehran on Monday to show their support for the attacks on Israel
Iranians gather in Tehran on Monday to show their support for the attacks on Israel - Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu via Getty Images)

“Terror must be defeated completely and everywhere, not more in some places and less in others,” he said.

Israel is thought to have drawn up plans for a “painful” retaliatory attack on Iran, but will not launch a strike that would jeopardise the support of the US.

On Monday night, NBC News reported that Israel’s response was likely to be “imminent” after Mr Netanyahu’s war cabinet signed off plans on Sunday.

The Israeli prime minister reportedly told ministers his country “will respond to Iran, but we need to do it wisely and not from the gut”.

“They need to be under stress like they made us under stress,” he said, according to Kann, the Israeli public broadcaster.

Mr Netanyahu has not commented publicly on the plans, but options are thought to include a precision strike on a facility in Tehran, or a cyber attack.

Benjamin Netanyahu
Mr Netanyahu is reported to have said Israel must respond 'wisely' to the Iranian attack - Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP

G7 members, the European Union and the United Nations have called for Israel to restrain itself from a major attack on Iran that would plunge the region into a full-scale war.

Mr Biden advised Mr Netanyahu on Saturday that he should “take the win” after successfully intercepting almost all of Iran’s warheads.

Israel, the United States and their allies shot down more than 100 drones and dozens of cruise and ballistic missiles in an unprecedented show of force.

“Together with our partners, we defeated that attack,” Mr Biden said on Monday, adding that the US was “committed” to Israel’s defence.

US officials believe that at least nine ballistic missiles hit Israeli air bases, evading air defence, although the damage appeared to be minimal.

The missiles hit the Nevatim air base in the Negev desert in the south of Israel, damaging a C-130 cargo plane, an out-of-use runway and empty storage facilities, an unnamed US official told ABC News.

Four other missiles appear to have hit another airbase in the Negev, causing significant damage.

Meanwhile, Iran has said that a retaliation by Israel would be met with a counter-strike, and claims its drone and missile attack was “legitimate self-defence” after its consulate compound in Damascus was bombed on April 1.

The regime has also charged several journalists and newspapers after they criticised the strikes.

They include Abbas Abdi, a reporter for the pro-reform newspaper Etemad, who wrote that the consulate bombing was “fundamentally a reaction and did not necessitate a response from Iran”.

The IRGC has said that critics of Iran’s strikes will “face swift and resolute consequences.”

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The West must stand up to Iranian bullies

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