Iran’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction ‘risks nuclear Cold War’
Dealing with the Iranian nuclear programme is a “crisis coming down the tracks” which could lead to military conflict in the Middle East, the Foreign Secretary warns.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the Foreign Secretary says that Iran is threatening to spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East which could be more dangerous than the original East-West Cold War as there are not the same “safety mechanisms” in place.
“It is a crisis coming down the tracks,” he said. “Because they are clearly continuing their nuclear weapons programme … If they obtain nuclear weapons capability, then I think other nations across the Middle East will want to develop nuclear weapons.
“And so, the most serious round of nuclear proliferation since nuclear weapons were invented would have begun with all the destabilising effects in the Middle East. And the threat of a new cold war in the Middle East without necessarily all the safety mechanisms … That would be a disaster in world affairs.”
Mr Hague repeatedly stressed that “all options must remain on the table” when confronting the Iranian regime, despite Liberal Democrat concerns that the Government may be dragged into another military conflict.
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He added that we “have to be concerned” that Britain could be in range of Iranian nuclear weapons – or that nuclear materials could fall into the hands of terrorists.
The Foreign Secretary spoke out over the growing crisis amid speculation that Israel may be preparing to launch missile strikes against Iranian missile facilities in the run-up to the US presidential Election in the autumn. He will discuss the growing crisis in Parliament on Monday.
Western diplomats believe that the Israelis are calculating that they have to destroy the Iranian facilities this year, before they are hidden too deep underground and while the election puts Barack Obama under added pressure to support the action.
American intelligence chiefs were this week forced to announce that “to the best of their knowledge” Israel was not poised to launch an attack. But Western officials believe an Israeli strike is likely over the summer.
Several Israeli diplomats have also been targeted by Iranian hit men around the world over the past few days.
In today’s interview, Mr Hague says that the British Government has urged Israel not to strike.
He said that Iran being “attacked militarily” would have “enormous downsides”.
“We are very clear to all concerned that we are not advocating military action,” he said. “We support a twin-track strategy of sanctions and pressure and negotiations on the other hand.”
He added: “We are not favouring the idea of anybody attacking Iran at the moment.”
Mr Hague also said that Britain was not taking part in any “secret war” against Iran following the killings of several Iranian nuclear scientists in Tehran.
He added: “It is not our way of dealing with this to have assassinations or to advocate military action. Although I do stress again, we are taking nothing off the table.”
In the interview, the Foreign Secretary also disclosed details about other areas in his growing in-tray. He said:
*Britain is not “escalating any argument or manoeuvre” over the Falkland Islands and will “carry on the same way” amid a growing war of words with Argentina.
“Falkland Islanders have settled there since 1765, [when] Argentina didn’t exist in its current form,” he said. “So this is not about territory, this is about political rights in the 21st century. Political freedoms in the 21st century.”
*Greece is paying the “price” of its ongoing membership of the euro.
The Foreign Secretary also disclosed that Britain is now fully-prepared for Greece leaving the single currency.
“Contingency planning is in full place for whatever may happen in the eurozone,” he said.
*It is in Britain’s interests to tackle Somalia as the country is the new breeding ground of terrorism which presents a direct threat to Britain.
“That directly affects the security of people in the UK,” Mr Hague said ahead of a major international conference in London next week on Somalia. “That’s why we are so heavily engaged in Somalia.”
The Foreign Secretary, regarded as the de facto deputy leader of the Conservative Party, also launched a strong defence of the Coalition’s domestic record. He insisted the Government was not creating an “anti-business culture” in the wake of rows over banker pay and bonuses.Telegraph