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 414.

    Declare Strait of Hormuz as international waters thru UN.

  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    Countries that regularly murder their own haven't a second thought for you or I
    Agreed...problem is we jump into bed with them whenever it suits and if they stop doing what we want them to do they suddenly become "rogue" states.
    That any country with religious nutters in charge poses a danger...let's hope Rick Santorum isn't voted in by the Fox lobby...

  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    WAR!! HUH!!! YEAH!!! WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?!?.......this song so reminds me of the scene in Rush Hour with Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 411.

    this is absoloutely rediculous. whilst the proliferation of nuclear weaponry is obviously a bad thing i dont see our country dismantling it's nuclear arsenal! we have no right to pick and choose who gets nuclear technology. its technological imperialism!

  • Comment number 410.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.


    'freedom and democracy...creates instablity and insecurity'.

    Of course! Does this mean youd prefer a dictator? i dont understand these leftys, so muddleheaded and contradictory, I cant believe this is an editors pick!!

    'Look at the UK, EU and the US. Superior culture?'

    Compared to Iran and China's governments, I'd say our democracies, such as they are, are more than a little 'superior'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 408.

    Power determines, and is bestowed on, those who has them. Iran's use of nukes is as likely as Israel's if cold war is to go by, they worked as a deterrent along with MAD. Iran + Nukes = power shift in Middle East, away from USA, Israel, west + Arab allies...towards Iran.The powerful want to keep power so Iran cannot have nukes. Personally I think no one should have them, but they are inevitable..

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    323.monkeypuzzletree It's nothing to do with culture. It's the fear that a theocratic dictatorship seems to be hell bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. As regards culture, the Iranian population is rather well cultured, it's the leadership that's the problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.

    Just say it Hague - Another war. Another country broken. Another world recession.

    I'm getting fed-up with the Westminster pantomime; it's the same old same old.

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    IThe score sheet for the oil and gas geopolitical war of the 21st century: Iraq.(we have the oil fileds and stopped Euros for oil....civil war....what civil war?) Afghanistan....is that pipe line built yet? Sirya.....not sure yet.....Libya......ouch, got rid of the gold Dinar....not sure how that`s gone yet....Iran.......we`ll get them some how, with Israel`s help....then we have their oil again!

  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    Cold war-remember his threat to Israel-Make it a hot one instead, act now. Take out his ability and to dream to aquire Nuclear status, job done and over.

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    This is a pathetic excuse for journalism. You think that repeating the words of the British and American governments often enough will give justification for any decisions to attack Iran when they decide to do so. You people ought to be ashamed of yourself as human beings and please don't call your self journalists, you're merely minions of the government. Lower than low.

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    Not sure what is more scary. The stories of nukes in Iran, or the anti-American, anti-West sentiment that seems to be fashion disguised as an intelligent view point. Get real people and look at history. Would pure diplomacy have ever worked with the Nazis, Japan, USSR. Countries that regularly murder their own haven't a second thought for you or I and I for one don't want to see them able to

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    Mr Hague is a idiot. You can only start a cold war if you say there is a cold war(hence the cold bit). So thanks, we now have a cold war with Iran. Why do we have blithering idiots in goverment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    The article talks about nuclear weapon in the Middle East and failed to mention Israel, a country in the Middle East has a nuclear weapon? Or is the BBC scared of saying it for fear of rebuttal from Israel and it other gangs?

    We got to understand that countries need to strong militarily/nuclear capabilities to be a deterrent to Western countries invasion (see Iraq/Libya).

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    we pretty much already are...

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    Iran is not a nation of terror, Their nuclear program is peaceful.. In old Persian history we know what they can do it the U.S attack them..

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    Its a bit wrong to say that Iran having nukes could make everybody else in the region want them, when Israel has them already.

  • Comment number 396.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    The thing that must be remembered is Iran is just a little bit bigger than the boys have bullied before.

    They may get worse than a bloody nose this time.

    This will be one of the last hurrahs by the west anyway.

    The wheel has turned again and China is back on top.

    Expect a 'Great White fleet' moment from them soon.


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