Spat between US and UK over threat from Iran is 'unprecedented'

The UK and America's disagreement over the threat posed by Iran is unprecedented, a former British diplomat to Iraq and Syria has said.

Charles Hollis spoke out after Major General Chris Ghika, deputy commander of anti-ISIS forces, said he had seen no increased threat from Iranian militias in Iraq and Syria - only to be slapped down a short time later by US Central Command.

Mr Hollis said he 'cannot remember a precedent' for such a stark disagreement between two close allies, and 'certainly not one that is so public.'

The apparent lack of unity between Operation Inherent Resolve, headed by general Ghika, and US Central Command will raise questions over whether intelligence is effectively being shared between the two.

Charles Hollis

Lord Dannatt

Charles Hollis, former British diplomat to Iraq and Syria, said the disagreement between the UK and US is 'unprecedented' while Lord Dannatt, former head of the army, called it 'unusual'

While both operate within the same region, Inherent Resolve has a narrower mission statement than Central Command and draws on a narrower pool of intelligence.

The Ministry of Defence has sought to dampen the row by clarifying that General Ghika was talking specifically about the threat from Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq and Syria, rather than the wider threat to the Middle East.

Tory MP Bob Blackman said the comments ‘sound complacent’ and the UK should be ‘in step’ with the US.

‘The US is absolutely right to be taking the action it is taking, both in terms of sanctions and sending warships to the Gulf,’ he told MailOnline.

Spat came after Major General Chris Ghika said he was not aware of an increased Iranian threat, and was slapped down by the US

Spat came after Major General Chris Ghika said he was not aware of an increased Iranian threat, and was slapped down by the US 

General Lord Dannatt, former head of the British Army, echoed Mr Hollis's surprise at the disconnect, saying it was 'pretty unusual'.

'The UK was accused by the US from time to time of slightly going our [own] way in southern Iraq and southern Afghanistan,' he told The Times.

'But that was respected as operational divergences of opinion, which is something different from straight contradiction.'

Another Western diplomat backed General Ghika, saying he had seen 'nothing more specific' than the US designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terror organisation.

The row began Wednesday as General Ghika briefed journalists on the threat from ISIS in Syria and Iraq, when he was questioned about growing US tensions with Iran.

Asked specifically whether he had seen an increased threat from Iranian forces, he replied 'no' though he later clarified, saying they posed a persistent threat. 

Ghika denied that his remarks were out of step with Washington, though US Central Command later issued a rare rebuke to an allied military officer.

The general's remarks 'run counter to the identified credible threats', a spokesman said, adding: 'As a result, (the coalition) is now at a high level of alert as we continue to closely monitor credible and possibly imminent threats to U.S. forces in Iraq.'

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Norwegian oil tanker Andrea Victory

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Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said attacks on the pipeline (file picture) from the oil-rich Eastern Province to the Red Sea took place early this morning and called it 'an act of terrorism' that targeted global oil supplies

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Britain's Ministry of Defence later backed their

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