Hague fears Iran could start 'new Cold War'


Shashank Joshi, Royal United Services Institute: "They've considered that this an extremely useful insurance policy"

Iran's nuclear ambitions could plunge the Middle East into "a new Cold War", the UK foreign secretary has warned.

William Hague told the Daily Telegraph other nations in the region would want to develop nuclear weapons if Iran did.

Without "the safety mechanisms" of the US-USSR rivalry, Mr Hague said it would be "a disaster in world affairs".

But ex-UK diplomat Sir Richard Dalton said Iran was not "rushing towards a nuclear weapon". Tehran insists its programme is for energy purposes.

The West suspects Iran wants to develop nuclear weapons.

Mr Hague told the newspaper there was a "crisis coming down the tracks".

"If [the Iranians] 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."

'Enormous downsides'

Mr Hague's comments come amid heightened tensions in the Middle East, with Israel accusing Iran of masterminding attacks on its embassies in India, Thailand and Georgia. Iran denies the allegations.

It blames Israel and the US for the assassination of several Iranian nuclear scientists in recent years, allegations they deny.


In his Daily Telegraph interview, William Hague has spelled out what Iran-watchers have long feared. Namely, that there could be a Middle East arms race if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey would certainly be among those most concerned by Iran getting a bomb.

It's clear from Mr Hague's comments that Britain wants to continue to pursue a twin-track approach towards Iran - maintaining the economic pressure, through sanctions, while also keeping open the door to negotiations.

All options remain on the table, including military action, but Britain, for one, appears set on working for a diplomatic solution.

However, diplomatic engagement was complicated by the expulsion of Iranian diplomats from the UK last December, and the withdrawal of Britain's embassy staff from Tehran. Rebuilding the trust will take time.

Hence, the cautious welcome from the EU to Iran's apparent willingness to restart negotiations.

Speaking earlier this month, US President Barack Obama emphasised that Israel and the US were working in "unison" to counter Iran.

However, some commentators have suggested that behind the scenes Washington is deeply alarmed by reports that Israel may strike Iran as early as April. US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta reportedly said there was a strong likelihood of such an offensive.

Mr Hague told the Telegraph that Britain has urged Israel not to strike: "We support a twin-track strategy of sanctions and pressure and negotiations on the other hand.

"All options must remain on the table" but a military attack would have "enormous downsides", he said.

Shashank Joshi, of defence think tank the Royal United Services Institute, told the BBC the West's fears could be unfounded.

"If we could live with nuclear weapons in the hands of totalitarian, genocidal states like Stalin's Russia or Mao's China, Iran in contrast - whatever its repulsive internal policies and adventurism abroad - is far more rational," he said.

Mr Joshi said Iran may not be actively pursuing the creation of nuclear weapons but leaving the option open.

"If they feel their regime is under existential threat, if they feel they face a Libya-like situation, they would have the option of building a bomb."

Answer questions

Sir Richard, a former UK ambassador to Iran, said: "There are many signs, as reported by the International Atomic Energy Agency, that some research and development relevant to the development of nuclear weapons may still be going on.

"But it is wrong to say that Iran is rushing towards having a nuclear weapon.

"Indeed, the analysis published to the United States Congress by the top intelligence assessors there indicates that Iran has not taken a decision to have a nuclear weapon.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (second from left) on a tour of Tehran's nuclear facilities on 15 Feb 2010 Iran unveiled developments in its nuclear programme earlier this week

"But it is right that the IAEA should press Iran on behalf of the international community to answer fully questions about what it has been up to in the past and what it may still be doing in the present."

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said: "Instead of raising the rhetoric, the government should be focused on redoubling their efforts to increase the diplomatic pressure on Iran and find a peaceful solution to the issue."

Meanwhile, Iranian warships have entered the Mediterranean Sea for only the second time since the 1979 revolution.

The destroyer Shahid Qandi and its supply vessel Kharg have passed through the Suez Canal but their destination remains unclear.

On Friday, the US and European Union expressed optimism at the possibility of a resumption of talks with Iran.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said a letter from Iran to the US and its allies was "one we have been waiting for".

However, our correspondent said that while Iran had often offered to talk, Western diplomats complained it would steer discussions away from its nuclear programme to leave "parallel monologues" rather than negotiations.

Talks between Iran and six world powers - the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China - on Tehran's nuclear programme collapsed a year ago.

In recent months, Western countries have stepped up pressure on Iran over the nuclear issue, with the EU and US both introducing wide-ranging sanctions on the country.

On Wednesday, Iran staged an elaborate ceremony to unveil new developments in its nuclear programme, It said it had used domestically-made nuclear fuel in a reactor for the first time.

There are a number of sites at the centre of concerns over Iran's nuclear programme.

Map of Iranian nuclear sites Map of Iranian nuclear sites

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  • rate this

    Comment number 294.


    YET ANOTHER, who listens to a man speak in a foreign language, then reads the words at the bottom of the screen, THAT WESTERN MEDIA PUTS THERE!! and believes that's the word's he's speaking.

    As I said, we're too far gone, even the most obvious of occurrences is too difficult for our feeble mind's to comprehend. Same @291, you don't speak Iranian, You've no idea what they say.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    This whole issue is about Israel throwing her toys out of the pram, putting pressure on the US in the run up to the election and everyone being too scared to stand up to her. It's a potential vote loser for Obama if he does. We should not be getting involved in propping up an apartheid state. Leave Iran alone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    >It is utter hypocrisy for Britain, US, France, Israel etc. to tell Iran that >the can't have nuclear weapons.

    It's for many reasons, firstly Iran is not a democracy although it's our fault they aren't (Iran Iraq war).

    Any country that likes to kill protesters and doesn't engage with the world in a fair manner should not be allowed such power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    The problem with Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is the sentiment of it's leadership towards Israel. It's supreme leader and president both openly make statements about the destruction of Israel and that in itself is reason enough to be very alarmed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    1. Given it appears that "civil" nuclear technology can be used for military purposes, should we not embargo on the export of nuclear materials and technologies? Maybe then we should also begin dismantling our own?

    2. Can we really trust UK and US intelligence, given how unreliable it was given the Iraqi programme for weapons of mass destruction?

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    So once again the Americans snapped their fingers and their British poodle got barking. Hope you will find enough rope to hang yourselves this time gentlemen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.


    Iran has no intention of starting a war with the west because they know they would be blown off the map. Even if Iran develops nuclear weapons, they dont have long range missles that can hit America or the UK. The reason Iran dislikes America and the UK is because our aliance with Israel (which the middle east hates). This isnt rocket science.

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    The naivety of many of the posts on here is truly staggering, for far more reasons than space to spell out here.

    Iran having the bomb triggers a new arms race in the most volatile region on the planet. Sound good? Imagine the cold war then add in extreme religious beliefs. 98. susan talks of logic, whats logical about the ideology behind suicide vests susan?

  • Comment number 286.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    We have nuclear weapons, so why can't Iran have them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    @81. David Wallis

    I agree that all nukes should be banned but it's a fact of life that it will never happen. The question you have to ask is who would you rather had them. Democratically elected governments or theocracies with a medieval attitude to crime and punishment. The western world must do all it can to prevent such people gaining access to these weapons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    Just a point.
    Only one country has used the nuclear bomb the USA.
    Question?Would they if Japan had had a nuclear device.
    I suspect not.
    So if Iran suspect they might be attacked is not the best defence attack or be able to attack?
    Remember Afghanistan and Iraq - what did war achieve. A cold war is better than a real war - remember USA and Russia

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    Some posters say that we should "un-ally" with Israel and no bombs will come our way. Belgium thought that at the start of WW2. Also that they have no delivery system that will reach the U.K. Except of course if they hand one to one of their deniable terrorist groups and an innocent looking container docks at Felixstowe, for onward transport to London.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    Time for another (war)? Not again please, let others do the dirty work it's expensive in lives and in financial terms. It's supposed to be austerity time but I'll bet that Osborne could find the loot for his Etonian buddy to wage a Thatcher style vote catching war. Keep your eye on the Falklands/Malvinas for more Blair emulation. Politicians! Who invented them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    Just try telling Israel to dump its nuclear arsenal and Iran to stop seeking nuclear weapon simultaneously…it’s an easy guess Iran will be happy to drop their nuclear plans. But do you think Israel will ever listen to or act upon your advice? NEVER! Iran’s nuclear plan is just a natural reaction to that of Israel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    220 - Sorry to derail a little, but the British learnt all they knew about bombing cities from the Germans. Remember Guernica? Warsaw? Rotterdam? Malta?

    As for "Why Iran shouldn't have nuclear weapons?" - because they signed and ratified the Non Proliferation Treaty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    i see the HYS mods are pandering to the "if you don't agree with my ideals i will get your comment removed " liberal left-wing squad
    its about time this nation got extremely right wing and stopped pussy footing around
    when it all hits the fan the left will be the first crying and screaming for protection.the left are all hot air and no action,
    the time to act is now before we all live to regret it

  • Comment number 277.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    Sorry, who are the aggressors? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 'Israel should be wiped off the face of the map'
    Hashemi Rafsanjani called for a Muslim state to annihilate Israel with a nuclear strike. mm both Iranian. Yup a peace loving state. Is it me or are most of the problems in this world cause by Islamic nutters?

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    264. duckmachine.

    It NEEDS to be global. This rubbish is every day of our wretched lives now.

    Complete human omnicide is now the only answer to saving our world.

    I see comments on here from people like Amroth and realise, there is no hope. We're too far gone.


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