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 434.

    the best way to stop iran developing nuclear technology is to dismantle our own nuclear arsenal. We need to lead by example as otherwise iran and other potential nuclear countries will not see why they shouldn't develop their own nuclear weapons

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    You would think as humanity evolves at least one of us would have the answer to the question that leads the world to live in peace.
    Perhaps he/she, or their gene pool, was killed in a conflict somewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    If Iran builds a few nuclear weapons what does it mean? That they will commit genocide against Israel and commit national suicide or that it we cannot attack them without a huge risk to ourselves? Is Iran more likely to attack other countries more than the USA and ourselves? Let's face it the US has over 40 bases surrounding Iran so who is threatended? Follow the money - its all about oil.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    It's time for the Arab Spring to continue its natural course in Iran. Once the West attacks, the opposition groups will come out of the woodwork and do the rest of the work for us. The next regime can't be any worse than the present one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    'A New Cold War', eh. Well, what is wrong with that? It didn't do Europe any harm when the original one was at it's height. Well, not much, anyway.

    No, a Cold War between Iran and A.N.Other would be a good thing in my opinion. It would keep them focused, use up all their currency and keep them out of our hair for the duration.

    The problem would surely only be if they had a proper war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    If you remove oil from the equation, the middle east becomes an irrelevant side show. The straits of hormuz become just another patch of water and the gulf states a big patch of sand. Solution? Concentrate on developing renewable energy sources and take ourselves away from the polluting petrochemical dependency.

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    The recent evnets by the oil and gas hungry western world and developing nations sickens me the core....and I served in the UK military for 19 years, it`s so transparent to me...`war on terror` is the new common enemy post Cold War and 9/11 is highly questionable too. When oil is finsihed as the prime energy source and facilitor of consumer capitilalism, it will be a good thing in my view!

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    So what if they did have the weapons? Which they don't. It’s not as if they would use them. What would that achieve? Iran would clearly be invaded after such an attack, thus the only thing Iran wants is the same ‘bulling’ political power as Israel. Are we not meant to stick up for the kid being bullied, even if he is a bit backward?

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    Israel is a terrorist state that continues to ignore the UN when dealing with the Palestinians,they bomb people in the street unchecked but run to the US when they feel threaten, how long do we have to support this atrocious regime, the war is inevitable this is just the build up of lies to get us in the mood. Iran are co operating fully with the nuclear regulatory authority,let them do there job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    Cristobal Hempers
    1 Hour ago

    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.


    Your life must be miserable. Mine is'nt. So you dont speak for me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    The West has never had political success in the Middle East period Blinkered support for Israel (with nuclear weapons aimed at cities all over the world) we need to ask why they created them? The IDF and Mossad kill anyone they see as a threat to Israel. Iran et al should be able to defend themselves

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    That's right, Bill Vague - speak to them at your own level. Like idiots.

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    For God's sake Iran is no where near to being where the USSR was during the Cold War, unnecessary fear mongering, Iran only wants the West to stay out of ME affairs and given our track record I would say that's not an unreasonable request

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    Why don't all those nations with nuclear weapons capabilities just beat Iran to the end and nuke them!! The possession of nuclear weapons is merely bravado - each nation wants others to show respect that they are equipped with WofMD! One day it will all kick off and we will have nuclear meltdown - the end of humanity/humankind! Long live the cockroaches!!

  • Comment number 420.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    I have been to Israel and the conditions endured by Palestinians there are intolerable- but Iran imposes worse conditions on it own population. Imagine being gay in a country that will kill you for that. Iran will certainly use such weapons to destroy Israel and so its nuclear facility must be eradicated by any means possible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    Western arrogance in the Middle East never fails to astound me. Who the hell are we to be telling other nations how to behave, it's not as if the UK/US are great role models. Instead of coming the heavy with Israel's enemies shouldn't we be promoting talks & co-operation. It will all end in war, with the weapons supplied by the US, as usual.

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    I've never understood why the west have always been so concerned about Iran getting nuclear weapons, but turned a blind eye to countries like Israel obtaining them. I truky fear for the people in Gaza, that one day Israel will have had enough of the rocket attacks and will lay the entire strip into a radioactive pile of rubble

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    Apply sanctions, ruin the country financially then bomb the hell out of it before invading on the grounds of WMD which proves to be inaccurate. Bit of de ja vous? We really are stupid if we fall for that line again. Our rulers must be laughing at how gullible we are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    It is worth noting that he is a parliamentary friend of Israel but that besides I agree with you.


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