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 394.

    We're playing right into the hands of the arms industry lobbyists. It is the goal of the military-industrial complex to keep us in a state of constant war. America uses taxpayer money on private armies (Blackwater etc.) and demands they're above the law where-ever they are.

    We act on Iran but sent an arms trade delegation to Saudi Arabia which, to me, is a far worse regime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    Europe must absolutely stop supporting the zionist policy in the Middle East.

    Iran has not been waging an aggression war for 250 years.

    The negative war record of the US and their master Israel is instead well-known

    The EU embargo against Iran is simply idiotic and pathetic. It won't affect anyone else but Europe. The Iranian offer will simply be detoured to India and China... suicide for us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    William Hague is a blithering idiot. He is an embarrassment to our nation. His silly comments and opinions have never reflected reality. If William Hague is the one trying to raise the alarm then I know it's perfectly OK to ignore it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    Never mind the blather. What is the best path to an outcome in which no nuclear weapon is ever used by anyone

    Easy answer.
    Give EVERYBODY nuclear weapons

    Not good for the West though.
    Nukes make regime change by force impossible

    No mullah ever straps a bomb on his back and blows himself up
    Adolf never used chemical or biological weapons

    All leaders are cowards, there are zero exceptions

  • Comment number 390.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    To understand why nuclear Iran is a danger not only for the middle east, but Europe and the UK imagine this scenario:

    There will be a islamic revolution in Russia and suddenly mad fundamentalist mullahs gain power and have access to all the ballistic nukes.

    Because Iran develops ballistic missiles, is governed by mad mullahs and is as far as Russia is to Europe.

    I hope that makes it clear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    Ever keeping an eye on 21st December....

  • Comment number 387.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    Bless little Willie`s cotton socks, he`s reminising from the good old days of empire, maybe to the time when that other nasty little man, the democratically elected PM, Mossedeqe, nationalized Iranian Anglo Oil (now BP) in order to stop Irainians getting ripped off. Does he think he think he`s Chruchill? Who is Kermitt Roosevelt, the CIA man.....or are all the Tories Kermit, i.e muppets?

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    #236: Datacabman

    An excellent posting "Datacabman"!


  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

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


    In the cold war, both sides knew that a nuclear war would bring total and terminal destruction to their lands.
    So this restrained their course of actions to proxy wars and political posterings.

    Imagine a land ruled by people who do not care if their country goes up in flames and has nuclear weapons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    How many times has Iran to say that it is unfair to be singled out for trying to develop nucler energy? Iran signed the non-proliferation treaty, many other countries criticising Iran did not.
    Is is so difficult to understand?

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    The difference (& what people are frightened to say in our PC trendy times) is that countries currently owning nukes are fairly stable & not keen on becoming martyrs - but Iran is very different as they show us over & over again. Iran with a nuke is quite likely to use it in a first strike if huffed about some issue! - thats the big difference, it's nothing to do with East or West.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    How come Hague gets to be interviewed and no one at the BBC asks him if Britain has nuclear weapons? Why can some countries have them and not others? How about offering to abandon the, if Iran does?

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    357. rileyjunior
    I really object to the Beeb removing posts because they break the 'house rules'. This is a westrern style democracy we live in, Beeb.
    There are clear rules. If I see a post I deem offensive, I complain. Sometimes it gets removed, sometimes it doesn't. Same happens to me. That's democracy. Are you a subversive anarchist?

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    They used to tell us that nuclear weapons maintained the peace. Why should Israel be the only nuclear power in the region? As it is, I'd wager it's only a matter of time before they go in, with American support, and bomb the sites. Hiague worries about a new cold war? What's wrong with worrying about the current 'hot' war USUK started in Iraq?

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    Whats going on? who let the lap dogs out? Are we being prepared for something?

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    leave them alone no matter what others think or want they will do thier own thing,
    history has a habit of repeating ,
    the middle easth has been at logger heads alway and nothing will change them
    they could tell anyone else to sling teir hook and keep out,
    but of coarse its the oil that others want and will do anything to get it,

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    I wonder if it feels nicer being vapourised by a tactical nuclear weapon fired by a capitalist democracy, or a bigoted theocracy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    So what if they did have the weapons? It’s not as if they are going to use them. Iran would be invaded and destroyed in the advent of such an attack thus the only thing Iran wants is the same ‘bulling’ political power as Israel, who have broken any number of nuclear openness laws and regulations themselves. Are we not meant to stick up for the kid being bullied, even if he is a bit backward?


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