October 2, 2021
A new report has linked a UK Royal Air Force base with high-profile US drone strikes, including the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in January last year.
The report’s release has put pressure on ministers to explain whether Yorkshire’s Menwith Hill base has been directly involved in the carrying out of US drone strikes.
Research has said it is “probable” that Soleimani, the former chief of Iran’s Quds Force, was targeted using data sourced from the site, which “acted as a foreign outpost of the US National Security Agency.”
The report was presented at a special meeting of the Menwith Hill Accountability Campaign, and requests that “any US military activity or US security agency activity carried out at Menwith Hill be carried out in such a way as to make those responsible fully accountable to the UK.”
Investigative journalist Barnaby Pace said in the report that both US and UK personnel stationed at the site operated “beyond public scrutiny and accountability.”
Although Menwith Hill is formally classified as an RAF base, it also operates as the largest overseas site of the NSA and has 600 US personnel.
Documents compiled by high-profile whistleblower Edward Snowden implicated the base in the NSA’s global eavesdropping network, which has the capacity to intercept and pinpoint phone and internet traffic in countries around the world.
Pace alleged in the report that key information captured by the network was subsequently used in the execution of drone strikes.
He said: “Intelligence programmes at Menwith Hill have reportedly played a key role in operations to ‘eliminate’ people in Yemen, as part of a deadly drone bombing campaign that has resulted in dozens of civilian deaths in a country that neither the UK nor US has declared war with.”
Pace added it was likely that Menwith Hill played a role in the killing of Soleimani. UK ministers have refused to comment.
“The UK government’s failure to assure the public that the base was not involved raises deep questions about the accountability for actions at the base,” Pace added.
A UK Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “RAF Menwith Hill is part of a worldwide US defense communications network, with the base supporting a variety of communications activity.”