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British colonel supports Israeli counter attack on Iran

Former commander of British forces in Afghanistan Colonel Richard Kemp speaking at a rally calling for the release of Israeli hostages taken in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, at St Johns Wood United Synagogue in London, April 7, 2024. (Photo: PA images via Reuters

As the British Parliament held a special session Monday afternoon to discuss Iran’s attack on Israel and to urge restraint, a British colonel is advocating a firm response.

Colonel (ret.) Richard Kemp CBE, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, was in Jerusalem on Saturday night when Iran launched its first direct attack on Israel, using deadly drones and missiles.

“A very significant retaliation attack against Iran - I think it is what Israel should do and I expect it is what Israel will do,” the British military veteran told Sky News Australia, immediately after the overnight Iranian assault on the religious capital of the world. 

Kemp explained that the Iranian regime may have calculated that Israel would continue to be under American pressure, as in Gaza, to minimize its retaliation, and this could have been one reason for such an unprecedented attack.

“I witnessed many of the air defense intercepts over Jerusalem last night,” Kemp told Israel National News
(Arutz 7 ) the following day. 

“The explosions they caused were far greater than any rockets I have seen intercepted from Gaza or Lebanon. There is no doubt that every projectile that hit its target would have caused immense destruction and potentially significant loss of human life.”

Just two days before the deadly Iranian attack, Kemp wrote the following in the Daily Telegraph, under the heading: ‘We must attack Iran if it strikes Israel.’

“The conflict in the Middle East is Iran’s war. Its proxies in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and the West Bank have all been targeting Israel since October 7. Tehran has only been able to bring that about as a result of US and British weakness.”

Israel’s assertion that any Iranian strike would be followed by a strong response “is of course absolutely vital,” Kemp said, offering his voice of experience.

“Timidity and restraint may feel more comfortable in the short term but failure to meet violence with even greater violence always encourages the aggressor, as we have seen repeatedly from Iran’s actions in the Middle East and beyond over many years.”

During the latter part of his 30-year service in the British army, Kemp chaired the Cobra Intelligence Group, responsible for coordinating the work of the UK national intelligence agencies, including MI5 and MI6, during the July 2005 London bombings. 

With experience in securing the most threatened terrorist targets in London, Kemp, who won his CBE for vital leadership in the terror threat arena, even warned three years ago that a passive approach to Iran was simply “asking for trouble.”

In 2021, Kemp told Israel Hayom that in the 2000s, he was involved in deciding the British response to a few cases of British soldiers being murdered in Iraq, by proxy forces deployed and armed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). 

“I recommended a military response against them, inside Iran,” Kemp said. “Instead, fingers were pointed at Iranian diplomats, and the killing continued.”

Kemp arrived in Israel on Oct. 9, 2023, and told Paul Calvert of Bethlehem Voice Radio that he planned to stay, in solidarity, until the aims of the war in Gaza had been fulfilled.

“I came for two reasons, really,” he explained. “One was to be in a position to understand the conflict better by being on the ground... And the second reason was just to come here to support and be with the people of Israel while this terrible thing is happening.”

Referring to his predecessor, British Maj.-Gen. Orde Wingate, who helped to train the fledgling pre-state, Jewish forces – as well as to more recent collaboration in terms of military training – Kemp explained: “Israel is an army and a country of great morality. Their soldiers are trained in the same way as British soldiers, and American soldiers. They’re trained to honor the laws of war, to follow the laws of war, to not kill innocent civilians if it can possibly be avoided, and to treat their enemy with humanity, for example, once they capture them or if they’re wounded.” 

In response to Calvert’s question regarding urban warfare versus conventional battles, the former commander, who dealt with terrorism in both Afghanistan and Northern Ireland, replied: “I think it is harder because, for one thing, terrorists blend into the local population. One minute they could be a farmer, the next minute, it could be someone who’s trying to blow you up with a bomb or shoot you… And it’s the famous experience that the British Army had in Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, etc."

“And the other point to know about Hamas in particular, and the same did apply to the Taliban and others, is that they want Israel to kill their own people… They don’t care about their population. The only thing they care about their population is how they can exploit them to damage Israel and get world condemnation against Israel, as we saw in this attack on [Al-Ahli] hospital [which led to false accusations]."

In reply to Calvert in October, as to whether the Hamas invasion and subsequent battles in Gaza could become a wider regional war, Kemp replied:

“I think we have to bear in mind what this conflict is all about. It is about Iran. It’s Iran that initiated this war. And I don't agree with those people who say there's no intelligence to suggest Iran was linked to this or, or anything else. I think that’s misguided."

“I believe that Iran had their hand on this, and I think we have to make the assumption that it’s part of a bigger plan by Iran to do maximum damage to Israel.”

Kemp’s April 11 article continued: “The endless hand-wringing and unjustified harsh rebukes against Jerusalem, in recent weeks and days, from both Washington and London, serve only to embolden and even provoke Iran and Israel’s other enemies…”

“It leaves the Arab countries that also fear Iran feeling exposed and vulnerable, ready to look elsewhere for protection. That means to Russia and China, both of which are watching how we respond in the Middle East with an eye on their territorial ambitions elsewhere. As well as our own culpability here, that is why, if Iran does attack Israel, both US and British forces should do whatever is needed to help them fight back.”

Click below to listen to Calvert's full interview with Col. Kemp.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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