UK Government in secret talks about strike against Iran
- Sunday Telegraph
Government in secret talks about strike against Iran
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
The Government is to hold secret talks with defence
chiefs tomorrow to discuss possible military strikes
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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