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UK Government in secret talks about strike against Iran

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  • MEW Editor
    Sunday Telegraph Government in secret talks about strike against Iran By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent (Filed: 02/04/2006)
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 3, 2006
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      Sunday Telegraph
      Government in secret talks about strike against Iran
      By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
      (Filed: 02/04/2006)

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/04/02/wiran02.xml

      The Government is to hold secret talks with defence
      chiefs tomorrow to discuss possible military strikes
      against Iran.

      A high-level meeting will take place in the Ministry
      of Defence at which senior defence chiefs and
      government officials will consider the consequences of
      an attack on Iran.

      It is believed that an American-led attack, designed
      to destroy Iran's ability to develop a nuclear bomb,
      is "inevitable" if Teheran's leaders fail to comply
      with United Nations demands to freeze their uranium
      enrichment programme.

      Tomorrow's meeting will be attended by Gen Sir Michael
      Walker, the chief of the defence staff, Lt Gen Andrew
      Ridgway, the chief of defence intelligence and Maj Gen
      Bill Rollo, the assistant chief of the general staff,
      together with officials from the Foreign Office and
      Downing Street.

      The International Atomic Energy Authority, the nuclear
      watchdog, believes that much of Iran's programme is
      now devoted to uranium enrichment and plutonium
      separation, technologies that could provide material
      for nuclear bombs to be developed in the next three
      years.

      The United States government is hopeful that the
      military operation will be a multinational mission,
      but defence chiefs believe that the Bush
      administration is prepared to launch the attack on its
      own or with the assistance of Israel, if there is
      little international support. British military chiefs
      believe an attack would be limited to a series of air
      strikes against nuclear plants - a land assault is not
      being considered at the moment.

      But confirmation that Britain has started contingency
      planning will undermine the claim last month by Jack
      Straw, the Foreign Secretary, that a military attack
      against Iran was "inconceivable".

      Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, insisted,
      during a visit to Blackburn yesterday, that all
      negotiating options - including the use of force -
      remained open in an attempt to resolve the crisis.

      Tactical Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from US navy
      ships and submarines in the Gulf would, it is
      believed, target Iran's air defence systems at the
      nuclear installations.

      That would enable attacks by B2 stealth bombers
      equipped with eight 4,500lb enhanced BLU-28
      satellite-guided bunker-busting bombs, flying from
      Diego Garcia, the isolated US Navy base in the Indian
      Ocean, RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire and Whiteman
      USAF base in Missouri.

      It is understood that any direct British involvement
      in an attack would be limited but may extend to the
      use of the RAF's highly secret airborne early warning
      aircraft.

      At the centre of the crisis is Washington's fear that
      an Iranian nuclear weapon could be used against Israel
      or US forces in the region, such as the American air
      base at Incirlik in Turkey.

      The UN also believes that the production of a bomb
      could also lead to further destabilisation in the
      Middle East, which would result in Egypt, Syria and
      Saudi Arabia all developing nuclear weapons
      programmes.

      A senior Foreign Office source said: "Monday's meeting
      will set out to address the consequences for Britain
      in the event of an attack against Iran. The CDS
      [chiefs of defence staff] will want to know what the
      impact will be on British interests in Iraq and
      Afghanistan which both border Iran. The CDS will then
      brief the Prime Minister and the Cabinet on their
      conclusions in the next few days.

      "If Iran makes another strategic mistake, such as
      ignoring demands by the UN or future resolutions, then
      the thinking among the chiefs is that military action
      could be taken to bring an end to the crisis. The
      belief in some areas of Whitehall is that an attack is
      now all but inevitable.

      There will be no invasion of Iran but the nuclear
      sites will be destroyed. This is not something that
      will happen imminently, maybe this year, maybe next
      year. Jack Straw is making exactly the same noises
      that the Government did in March 2003 when it spoke
      about the likelihood of a war in Iraq.

      "Then the Government said the war was neither
      inevitable or imminent and then attacked."

      The source said that the Israeli attack against Iraq's
      Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 proved that a limited
      operation was the best military option.

      The Israeli air force launched raids against the
      plant, which intelligence suggested was being used to
      develop a nuclear bomb for use against Israel.

      Military chiefs also plan tomorrow to discuss fears
      that an attack within Iran will "unhinge" southern
      Iraq - where British troops are based - an area mainly
      populated by Shia Muslims who have strong political
      and religious links to Iran.

      They are concerned that this could delay any
      withdrawal of troops this year or next. There could
      also be consequences for British and US troops in
      Afghanistan, which borders Iran.

      The MoD meeting will address the economic issues that
      could arise if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian
      president - who became the subject of international
      condemnation last year when he called for Israel to be
      "wiped off the map" - cuts off oil supplies to the
      West in reprisal.

      There are thought to be at least eight known sites
      within Iran involved in the production of nuclear
      materials, although it is generally accepted that
      there are many more secret installations.

      Iran has successfully tested a Fajr-3 missile that can
      reach Israel, avoiding radar and hitting several
      targets using multiple warheads, its military has
      confirmed.

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