Should the west be prepared to consider military intervention in Iran?

 

           We learn that the Foreign Office and doubtless the State Department are most concerned that Iran is fast approaching the ability to produce nuclear weapons. Let us suppose that on this occasion the intelligence is correct. We know that intelligence about weapons of mass destruction  was false in the case of Iraq.

             We learn that the authorities argue that once Iran has these weapons there will be  a rapid arms race to have them elsewhere in the Middle East amongst the neighbours of Iran. This leads some to argue that the west has to seek to stop Iran from arming, by threats, sanctions and diplomatic pressure. If all else fails, they cannot “rule out” military force.

         It is true that diplomatic threats are more likely to succeed if the country on the wrong end of them thinks the west may invade. There is plenty of form to leave enough doubt in the minds of such a country for the threat of force to have some impact. Any dictator will have learned something from the end of the Iraqi and Libyan  dictators.

         The ideal outcome is that Iran backs down from making such weapons, faced as she may think she is by an ultimatum.  The worst outcome is if the west threatens too far, Iran does goes ahead, and the west is left with the dangerous choice. Invasion may bring a war too far. Failure to act undermines  future use of threats as a means of coercing better behaviour.

          History is no simple guide to what might happen. Kennedy’s threat of force if the USSR kept pouring missiles into Cuba was believed and the Soviet ships belatedly turned back, ending a very dangerous crisis. The Soviet suppression of democratic rebellions in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland  was ignored by the west. The USSR had correctly worked out there would be no western military support for the rebels. The west took no action to take various states from gaining access to nuclear weapons. The west allowed Pakistan to remain as an ally, despite harbouring anti western terrorists and holding nuclear weapons. In Iraq and Libya the dictators took a gamble about western action, and lost.

          The problems for the west are several if the west continues to take a strongly interventionist approach.  Intervention does involve killing a lot of people. It means backing one side in a civil war which may include a number of groups that are no more desirable by western standards of civil liberties and democracy than the groups they are fighting. There is no guarantee for the west that once the task of evicting the old government is accomplished, there will be a smooth passage to a new government which meets with the approval of the west and has sufficient consent at home to be credible and successful.

           I understand that the world is an even more unstable place if Iran has nuclear weapons. Using military force to stop that might not make it a more stable place.  Maybe the best we can hope for is enough uncertainty of our intentions for diplomacy and pressure to have a chance of success. Pulling the trigger on another military intervention in this dangerous part of the world is not something I would want to do myself. Isn’t it time that the threat of force was made by countries nearer to the problem, with more money than we have to spend on such things? All of this is best carried out by the UN, with the forces supplied by countries most closely involved with Iran. The UK has shed all too much blood and treasure in recent Middle Eastern wars. There is no need for the UK to seek to lead world reactions to Iran.

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122 Comments

  1. Adam5x5
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    As I said yesterday, we should only be intervening if our territories or interests are directly threatened, or one of our allies asks for help defending themselves.

    The best course of action at the minute would be to pressure diplomatically and possibly use ‘black ops’ or intelligence services to hinder the development – the Stuxnet attack was particularly successful, using magnetic mines against scientists a bit less so (and something of an ethical grey area).

    At present, our finances do not really permit us the luxury of a war of choice, nor are our interests directly threatened.
    Perhaps our political leaders should learn to follow the advice of the white rabbit in this as well as other matters:
    “Don’t just do something, stand there!!!”

    • Posted February 21, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

      Adam and John,

      Are you in favour of our pursuing sanctions – bearing in mind how our sanctions killed untold thousands of people in Iraq?

      and

      Are you really endorsing our support for the murders of the scientists who are helping to construct the test reactor which will manufacture medical isotopes to increase the quality of healthcare in Iran and other countries it is contributing knowledge to?

      • Posted February 27, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

        The claimed sanction death tolls are rather far-fetched, so I don’t think they merit further consideration. No doubt Saddam used them as an excuse for further oppression and international propaganda, but that shouldn’t be a factor.

        Medical isotopes? The only “medical” function of their highly enriched uranium which can’t be met by the fuel-grade uranium they were offered is to supply mass casualties – and yes, I for one am quite content morally with the death of those contributing to an illegal weapons programme in a regime committed to exterminating democracy in the region.

  2. asdf
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    No

    • Single Acts
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 9:01 am | Permalink

      Agreed.

      No.

  3. Robert K
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    No, we should not intervene militarily if Iran gets nuclear weapons.
    What threat does Iran pose to us? None that I can see. Is it likely to point its weapons at us, even if it had a delivery system that enabled it to do so? No. Why would it? Is it likely to nuke Isreal? Hardly seems realistic – they know the US would destroy them if they did.
    Is Iran more of a threat to UK security than other states with nuclear weapons, such as Pakistan? I don’t think so.
    What did invading Iraq achieve? Nothing – the whole thing was based on dodgy intelligence and the net result was to create a new base for radical Islamism. Afghanistan? We’re stuck in a decade-long stalemate.
    Also, why do we think we can stand on the moral high ground here? We have nuclear weapons, we feel we can send our troops in to states that we perceive to be hostile to our interests at the drop of a hat. Why wouldn’t Iran feel justified in having its own nuclear deterrant? I’m no apologist for the loathsome regime there, but surely we have learned by now that attacking regimes because they are loathsome creates many more problems than it solves.

    • uanime5
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      As long as Israel is destroyed I doubt Iran will care about a US retaliation. Death isn’t a deterrent for those seeking martyrdom.

    • Posted February 27, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      “Is Iran more of a threat to UK security than other states with nuclear weapons, such as Pakistan? I don’t think so.”

      I do – Pakistan’s weapons falling into hostile hands is a potential issue, Iran’s weapons doing the same seems much more likely given their support for Islamic terrorist groups in recent years. Not at all hard to imagine a warhead being shipped off for Hezbollah, then ending up diverted or traded into Al Qaeda hands (etc -ed).

  4. Steve Cox
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Iran keeps on threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz in the event of an attack, or even for lesser reasons, so I wonder if anyone has evaluated the possibility of us doing the opposite, say by broadening the current sanctions to include Iranian oil exports? Two US battle groups in the Straits of Hormuz and Persian Gulf should be enough with additional Arabian air support to control any Iranian threats while effectively shutting down all maritime Iranian oil exports from its coastal terminals. Hit them in the pockets where it hurts the most. Of course, China and India would be mightily peeved as they import a lot of Iranian oil, but presumably they don;t feel that the Iranian nuclear threat is aimed at them. The West and its middle eastern “allies” must look after their own interest first. Oil prices would, of course, spike, harming the economy, but perhaps much less than a war with Iran would. It may be worth thinking about, anyway.

  5. Old Albion
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    The answer to your question is……………..NO

    • Disaffected
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      No+1. About time the socialist coalition did something at home to improve things and stop meddling in other countries affairs. Each country has the right to self determination whether”we” like the style or not.

      How about the budget- stop spending and borrowing.
      Get our of the EU and all the huge contributions the UK makes to spend at home.
      Get rid of HRA and other stupid regulation and EU laws to help our country flourish socially and financially.
      Cut welfare so it pays to work under £35,000.
      Stop immigration.
      Sort out education and pass all responsibility to the Education Secretary, leave Mr Cable out of the loop, better still sack him to get business going.
      There is plenty to think about in the UK. Two years on and no substantive progress on any major policy issue. Call an election or get rid of Mr Cameron to force one.

      • uanime5
        Posted February 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

        The current annual cost of the EU to the UK is £3 billion. The annual deficit of the UK is £163 billion. Leaving the EU will save the UK very little money compared to the Government’s overspending.

        HRA and EU law make the UK better as they give employees more rights. Employees with few rights have much less motivation.

        The best way to cut welfare costs is to make the minimum wage a living wage. That way employees won’t need so much Government support.

        • Disaffected
          Posted February 22, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

          Irrational socialist rubbish. For a start the ONS and government cannot agree what the Uk contribution is. The Uk contribution is about £17 billion before any rebate. You might also recall the huge increase this year, also Cameron’ dropping is objection to the cost of Strasbourg. The trade deficit is something like £240 billion in the EU favour. The rules and regulations damage our industry at an unquantifiable sum, there is simply no benefit to the UK.

  6. MickC
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    There is no evidence Iran is building or intends to build nuclear weapons.

    The answer is therefore no. Even if it was, Iran is no threat to the UK or UK interests.

    • ian wragg
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Why would a country with all those oil reserves want nuclear power?????

      • sjb
        Posted February 22, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

        Because the more Iran can satisfy its domestic energy needs with ‘cheap’ nuclear power the more gas & oil it will have to sell to China, India et al.

    • nicol sinclair
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      “Iran is no threat to the UK or UK interests”

      Yet… And, of course may never be. However, if she were to become a threat, then what?

      • Gary
        Posted February 21, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        That is the kind of defence where you lock up people in case they commit a crime., or you go down the end of your street and beat up the guy in the house on the corner in case he causes trouble for you.

        This policy is morally bankrupt, especially when, unlike Iran, the aggressors themselves posses nuclear weapons, one has actually used these weapons against people before, and they have history of belligerent aggression.

        That we are even considering this war is completely depressing.

        • uanime5
          Posted February 21, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

          Your argument is bases on the reductio ad absurdum fallacy and has nothing to do with nicol sinclair’s question.

          If Iran becomes a threat to the UK or is likely to become a threat then action must be taken to protect the UK.

          • Gary
            Posted February 22, 2012 at 9:42 am | Permalink

            So, why are we threatening action now ?

    • Tom William
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

      How do you know?

      • Tom William
        Posted February 21, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

        “How do you know?” is addressed to Mick C. Just because of incorrect intelligence in Iraq does not mean all intelligence has to be wrong.

  7. Posted February 21, 2012 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    World War III – The First Private War in History

    Those who won all battles shall lose the war.

    Bilderberg Group and the crimes against humanity.

  8. Pericles
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    I have never believed President Bush would have invaded Iraq without British support and all along held that the blame for the Iraqi disaster – and it remains a disaster even now – lay partly at the feet of Mr. Blair but mainly at those of Mr. Duncan Smith.  I can understand that ignorant Labour M.P.s would not know why that invasion was wrong but the Conservative Privy Counsellors, almost to a man, had had the benefit of the best education Britain could provide and ought to have known.

    That stricture extends, in my view, to Afghanistan, another disaster for Britain and for the second time within a century-and-a-half.

    In Libya we’ve been lucky — so far.  Let us hope our luck holds ;  in the meantime let us leave the Near- and Middle-East to the peoples of those regions.

    ΠΞ

    • ian wragg
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      The best education was indeed available but these chancers didn’t partake of it.

    • forthurst
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      IDS was not very well educated; he attended a naval training establishment, not a proper school and did not go to university. His Shadow Chancellor was very well educated.

      According to the ‘Spartacus’ blog (February 14 2003) Michael Howard attended a discussion, “Old Europe vs the USA: A Polite Debate” in his role as UK Chairman of the Atlantic Partnership, whose contribution was summarised as:

      “Michael Howard, among others, emphasized that France and Germany do not speak for Europe on Iraq policy and that eighteen European states had publicly expressed their support for US policy.   He also unreservedly praised Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair for his principled (and politically costly) stand in support of the US position on Iraq, while noting that it not in his own political interests to do so.”

      (Other attendees Dieter Dettke, Executive Director, Friedrich Ebert Foundation; Richard Perle, Chairman, Defense Policy Board, Department of Defense, Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute)

      http://spartacus.blogs.com/spartacus/2003/02/old_europe_vs_t.html

      • rose
        Posted February 21, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

        And remember what Rumsfeld meant by “the old Europe” – it was the old Europe as opposed to the new, i.e. not as opposed to the USA. It was the Franco-German dominated Western Europe before the Berlin wall came down; before the Eastern Europeans brought their very different attitudes and experiences to NATO and the EU. This new Europe is what Michael Howard is referring to.

    • rose
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      I agree Bush would not have invaded without Blair. Blair already had form, with Clinton, in Kosovo, and Sierra Leone. He had got the taste for slick media management through Campbell. But he and New Labour forgot that the media on both sides of the Atlantic wouldn’t co-operate in the same way with a Republican president as with a Democrat. On the contrary, they would use the war to bring a Republican president down – and if that meant making a socialist prime minister unpopular too, well so be it.

    • nicol sinclair
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      “In Libya we’ve been lucky — so far.”

      I am not so certain. It seems to me that the Transitional lot are not living up to their expectations and, if not, then we have been most unlucky (or stupid)…

      • Pericles
        Posted February 24, 2012 at 8:34 am | Permalink

        I suspect nicol sinclair means they’re not living up to international (or NATO) expectations but, when I think how badly it could have turned out, especially had Col. Gaddafi survived, I still believe our luck has held — but, as I said, so far.

        On a related subject – Syria – I find my sympathy with the people of Syria draining away rapidly, when I hear its ‘spokesmen’ implying that the Assad government’s treatment of it is appropriate to animals.

        ΠΞ

  9. Posted February 21, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Every war we have become involved with in the last 15 years has been a dismal expensive failure. It has cost the taxpayer millions and we have lost too many of our peoples’ lives.

    Why is it that we Britons always have to intervene? Why aren’t the Arab countries involved in this? We are hardly in a position to declare war on anyone. The Conservative Party have ensured we can’t even defend ourselves should the need arise.

    Lastly, we have nuclear weapons, why should you feel it necessary to ban other countries from having them? Isn’t that hypocritical?

    • uanime5
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      In the last 15 years the UK has been involved in wars against the following countries:

      Yugoslavia / Kosovo (1998-1999)
      Sierra Leone (2000)
      Afghanistan (2001-present)
      Iraq (2003-2011)
      Libya (2011)

      Unsure whether they should be considered successes or failures as the side the UK was on defeated the side that didn’t have the support of the UK but there were some problems after the war.

      The Arab countries won’t get involved because Iran isn’t threatening them, Iran is only threatening the West and Israel.

      Any country not mature enough to have nuclear weapons should be prevented from having them.

  10. alan jutson
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    What right do we have as a nuclear power to lecture other Countries.

    Yes nuclear weapons are mass destruction weapons, which have an immediate threat (if they have a medium/long range capability).

    But given the lies told to us about about Iraq, would the majority of the population believe politicians wanting to go to war again.

    Both Parkistan and India have nuclear weapons, and have had for years, to date no war has been forthcoming. Parkistan has also been named as a breeding/feeding/training ground for terrorist threat.

    Russia and the USA had a stand off for Decades before commonsense took over, the threat of mutual total destruction seemingly enough of a threat to curtail further expansion.

    Israel also has nuclear weapons when many of its neighbours do not.

    I am certainly not a supporter of Iran, its leadership or the way it appears to do things, and perhaps the thought of going to paradise with all of its promises puts a slightly different spin on assured self destruction, should nuclear weapons ever be used.

    The best policy for us is surely diplomacy, and the strengthening or our own defences whilst maintaining a retaliation capability.

    The UN should have a role to play here, certainly with regard to Irans neighbours, but its track record of any meaningful success, with full support of its membership is patchy to say the least.

  11. Alan Wheatley
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I sugest the following should be taken into account.

    1. The theocratic government in Iran should not be trusted and is liable to act irrationally as seen in western terms but fully justified in their own.

    2. What is and is not known about Iran’s nuclear weapons capability, timescale and intent is probably not fully revealed by what is in the public domain.

    3. There is an extremely good worked example of what can be achieved politically if you have a nuclear weapons capability and your opponent does not.

    4. If the strategy is not to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability what does that same strategy say should be done after Iran has shown that it does have a nuclear weapons capability?

    5. In the event that Iran does achieve a demonstrable nuclear weapons capability the option for others in the region to develop a similar capability may not be available to them – for instance, in the event that Iran wants to be the sole possessor of such a capability and will use the treat of using that capability to deters others from trying to match it.

    6. The India/Pakistan nuclear weapons development is no precedent for strategy in the Middle East; India/Pakistan quickly established a sort of mini-MAD stand off.

    7. If the objective is limited to preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability, and I am not aware of any other, then that can be achieved without invasion.

    8. Those threatened by an Iranian nuclear weapons capability would likely see it makes far more sense to prevent that capability being achieved rather than countering it once achieved.

    9. In the event of action being taken against Iran it would be best if that was done in such a way as to support a democratic push within Iran rather than uniting different factions.

    Reply: One of the issues is Can the west stop Iran by bombing them? Dispersion allied to strong protection of sites makes this difficult if not impossible I am told. Such methods in the past have delayed but not prevented the development of dangerous weapons. The very vigorous Allied bombing attacks on German V1 and V2 installations delayed but did not prevent these weapons.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted February 22, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      Re reply, thank you. Seems you have been giving it plenty of thought, and no bad thing!

      An enormous difference between the “V” weapons and now is the vastly better surveillance. Then it was very difficult to find the launch sites and reach the production facilities. During the cold war we were told that the USA surveillance was good enough to detect a Soviet ICMB launch, and the USA developed anti-missle missiles that responded quick enough to intercepted ICBMs on their way out of Soviet territory rather than on their way in to USA territory.

      As to Iran and now, given that war (or more precisely in this context, armed intervention) is but politics but by another name, it depends on policy. As I understand it policy is to prevent Iran obtaining a nuclear weapons capability. If it gets to the point where peaceful means have clearly failed, then it seems the only choice is to let Iran continue and achieve that nuclear weapons capability or to resort to military action.

      In the event of do nothing, then there are many consequences for many countries, leaving aside what Iran might actually do with its acquired weapon.

      If it is decided to take military action, then all that needs to be done is to do enough damage to prevent the the acquisition of the capability. This could be very limited action. For instance, you do not have to destroy all of the weapon to make it inoperable, destruction of a critical part would do. Agreed this would be temporary, but if Iran persisted then so could we (I mean the USA, of course, who have the real capability). I take it as read, and I dead to think of the consequences if I am wrong, that what ever Iran tries the USA can counter. Putting things in mountains does not necessarily work, as the Germans found out when one of Barns Wallace’s Tall Boys was dropped on the top.

      In parallel to military action should be support for reformists in Iran, as the real long term solution is a more reasonable leadership in that country. To allow the Iranian theocratic leadership to be seen to face down the “evil westerners” is to strengthen their hand and undermine the hopes and efforts of the reformists. You also have to realise that Iran’s neighbours might have to reassess where they think their best future interests lie.

      We have the experience of the thirties to know the consequences of appeasement. Chamberlain’s “peace in our time” farce was a disaster on two counts. First it gave Hitler more time to build up his forces at a faster rate than could France and Britain, so that instead of Allied victory in 1938 there was defeat in 1940. Secondly, the German resistance (at the top of the Army) was planning to grab Hitler, neuter the Nazi party and take power, selling the take-over to the germans on the back of Hitler’s disastrous invasion over Czechoslovakia (as they reasonably expected would have been the consequences for Germany if Britain and France had acted instead of appeased). But Chamberlain’s misguided intervention pulled the rug from under their plans and Hitler’s Czechoslovakian success boosted his standing.

      As an aside, I like to think of Reagan’s success was because he realised he could not beat the Russians at chess, but he could beat them at poker – I’ll see your ICMBs and raise you a SDI.

      Reply: There are many differences between Iran today and Germany in 1938.

      • Alan Wheatley
        Posted February 23, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

        Re reply; who raised the V weapons as an example?

        Iran today and Germany in 1938 do have similarities: dictatorial leaders; opposition from a population suppressed by force; defiance in the face of international opinion; appeasement, though in the case of Iran the issue is still ongoing.

        Obviously they are not exactly the same, but there are lessons to be learnt from history.

  12. Andy Man
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Not under any circumstances should we attack Iran. It has complied with every condition set by the non proliferation treaty (which is more than can be said about Israel, Britain and America), there is no evidence that they are planning to build a bomb other than that supplied by western intelligence agencies and “sexed up” by rabid politicians. In addition Iran has not invaded another country for 650 years and whilst it’s leaders may well be even worse then ours they realise they would be radioactive cinders if they attacked any other country.
    In fact Iran has been the victim of constant harassment and subversion by the west since it got rid of the Shah. America encouraged Iraq to attack Iran, provided money and weapons as well. It has applied sanctions that if directed at us would be regarded as an act of war. It is murdering Iranian scientists on a regular basis. In short the west is setting up another war using lies, deceit and covert ops.
    One other little point – if Iran wanted the bomb so badly why doesn’t it just buy some from North Korea or some other nuclear power that doesn’t like America? It’s a big enough list.

    • uanime5
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      Iran hasn’t complied with the requirements involving weapons inspectors checking their facilities, mainly because they hide these facilities and claimed they didn’t exists.

      Your claim that Iran hasn’t invaded another country in 650 years is false. Shāh Ismāil I and Shah Abbas did conquered neighbouring lands from the Uzbek tribes during the 16th century. Mohammad Khan Qajar invaded Georgia in 1795m as did Fat′h-Ali Shah Qajar in 1804 as part of his war with Russia.

      Iran could avoid war by abandoning it’s nuclear program and using another method of generating power, such as solar or gas. Try to guess why it doesn’t.

      • sjb
        Posted February 22, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

        Iran has had a nuclear program since 1959, albeit just a research reactor. The Shah planned to build 20+ nuclear stations.

        Solar is (currently) an expensive source of energy; a point often made on this blog.

        Iran consumes almost as much natural gas as it produces so if they could meet some of that demand by using nuclear energy then the gas saved could be exported earning lots of foreign currency.

  13. Adam5x5
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    There is no need for the UK to lead the world reaction to Iran, however the political leaders would like to think so as it massages their egos and they seem to have a problem with letting go of history.

    Britain is no longer the dominant power it once was, nor do we need to be. We need the ability to defend ourselves and our interests, not take over the world.

  14. Mazz
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Q. “Should the west be prepared to consider military intervention in Iran?”

    A. Definitely not! Military intervention shoud only be used in exceptional circumstances and then only if diplomatic talks and sanctions don’t work. The UN is best placed to deal with unstable Countries in the Middle East.

    Iraq was a huge mistake on our part and Blair (and Alistair Cambell) should have been on trial for their deception to the people, of there being WMD and the 45 minutes activation of them.

  15. Alan Wheatley
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    In relation to Iran’s nuclear programme and the assassination of their scientists, the usual way this is reported is to assume that it was done by Israel or the USA or their collaborator. I have heard only one commentator suggest that it is equally possible that the Iranian government may be responsible, at least in some cases.

    This is plausible in the sense that if a government wants to coerce its scientists to work on a programme that they would not willing entertain, then a demonstration of what happens to those who are non-compliant can be very effect at changing minds. I am sure there are many examples from history that are a precedent.

    • Posted February 21, 2012 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

      Could you give us a link to this commentary Alan?

      • Alan Wheatley
        Posted February 23, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

        The comment was made by an interviewee on Radio 4, possible the PM programme, but can’t be sure, and as for a date, about a couple of weeks ago. Probably just after the last scientist was assassinated. Sorry I can not be more precise.

        I remember thinking at the time that if indeed it was the Iranians themselves this scientist was in the goldilocks zone: sufficiently senior to make the point but not so senior as to waste an irreplaceable asset.

  16. Yudansha
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Let’s have a look at the countries the Americans won’t invade:

    North Korea, China, Pakistan …

    • uanime5
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      Pakistan: friendly towards the US.

      China: currently friendly towards the US.

      North Korea: the US didn’t attack it after the Korean war even when it didn’t have a nuclear weapon. Mainly because it would upset their relationship with China.

  17. Robert Eve
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    We must rely on Israel to sort this problem. The Israelis certainly have my support.

    • Christopher Ekstrom
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      This one is for Isreal. It is necessary to remove nuclear weapons from a radical regime in the tinderbox Mid-East. It is healthy that Isreal demonstrate the will & capacity for self defense. A dangerous “peace” faction will also be further legitimated by toleration of a mortal enemy acquiring WMD’s. Of course the USA should provide logistical cover & the UK help with intelligence assets. All in all a jolly good time to let the Mullahs know who’s the Gov!

    • Single Acts
      Posted February 22, 2012 at 5:59 am | Permalink

      To do what? Assassinate people they believe are working on the program? Is one state allowed to kill another’s citizens? Isn’t this just straight terrorism? Do you support terrorism?

      What about air strikes and collateral damage, how many innocents can they kill before losing your “support”

  18. Paul Rivers
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Surely most hope that Israel will do the dirty work by airstrikes and be condemned while everyone actually sighs in relief. Some say that Israeli intervention timed before the US elections would stifle US criticism and be just in time. Perhaps this is why Iran has started making conciliatory noises again.

    • Single Acts
      Posted February 22, 2012 at 5:56 am | Permalink

      Air strikes alone won’t do it. Learning from Iraq in 1983, the Iranians have split their work over about 83 sites and much of it is deep, deep underground so forget the bunker buster nonsense.

      If the “solution” was this simple, the Israelis would have done it by now.

  19. oldtimer
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    It should consider it (and probably already has) but it should decide against military intervention. Costs (human and monetary), uncertainties and the law of unintended consequences all argue against overt military intervention.

  20. zorro
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Israel has over 300 nuclear warheads. Is there any clamour for Israel as the only Middle East power with nuclear weapons to disarm. There is no evidence yet that the Iranians intend to build a nuclear weapon. Rest assured the Israelis will be first to tell the world….The answer is no by the way.

    Zorro

  21. javelin
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Cat’s paw … Israel

  22. De Recardo
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    war fatigue , caused by Iraq, Afghanistan and more recently Libya , should not cloud our rational thoughts

    protecting our national interests can also mean helping other countries

    quite what Iran will do is anyone’s guess

    it is beyond question that Iran has since 1979 used it’s oil wealth to arm and fight proxy wars against whoever they thought they needed to

    Israel posed no existential threat to Iran from 1979 onwards, but it got involved just as soon as it could in pounding Israel

    they used Hezbollah and Hamas to do their dirty work against the sovereign state of Israel

    it is against this background that we must judge the theocratic rulers

    they do not play by any game other than hardline Muslim ideology

    the *real* question is: do you believe the Iranians when they say it’s all peaceful, really believe that?

    if you do , then we are where we are

    if Tehran does suddenly produce a nuclear war head, then what?

    won’t you look like a man in stiff collars, just back from Munich?

    • Gary
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      “quite what Iran will do is anyone’s guess”

      Since biblical times, in over 2,00 years, Persia/Iran has invaded ZERO countries. They have been invaded before by Britain (and Russia) in WWII and more recently by Iraq.

      That should help you make your guess.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran

  23. waramess
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Absolutely no. Far too many foreign incursions into places inherently unfriendly no matter who is in power. Stay at home and sort out this mess before any thought is given to foreign adventures, which always have unintended consequences.

  24. Iain Gill
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Well there are a few aspects to this.
    1. We are a small country with limited resources we really need to let others take more of the strain of international policing, Germany, France, Japan, China, and others should all be pulling their weight long before little old UK gets involved.
    2. A “Team America” (watch the DVD it’s funny) approach to international police action is doomed to long term failure
    3. Nuclear bombs and other terrorist weapons are sadly going to be easier to make and transport, and especially when you have folk prepared to commit suicide to deploy them, they are going to be a bigger problem over time. This surely needs a bigger international effort than simply little old UK?
    4. Iran isn’t the only nasty place with nasty weapons.
    5. Having said all of that a few cruise missiles into their nuclear enrichment facilities would seem the easiest option?

    • Single Acts
      Posted February 22, 2012 at 6:12 am | Permalink

      Cruise missiles have a very limited payload being designed as they were, to carry nukes. So a small amount of explosive on the surface won’t touch underground facilities, but probably would kill some janitors etc

      And let’s not forget Iran isn’t Afghanistan. They are a sophisticated technological country recently hacking a US classified stealth drone and capturing it. Evil? Yes, but not mugs.

      And say they decide to retaliate with some Ghadr-110’s. This is their missile with a 2,000km range. Brits on Cyprus really might find themselves “45 minutes from doom” Could we really then stand up and say “Us firing rockets at you is fine, but you firing them back is really naughty”

  25. Acorn
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    No to your question, now, can you answer mine. How much have we actually loosed on Northern Crock; and, should Sir Richard Branson take-over at the Treasury? The following from today’s PSF:-

    “The sale of Northern Rock plc to Virgin Money Holdings (UK) Ltd took place on 1 January 2012. The impact of this sale is to move Northern Rock plc outside of the public sector from this date. The £747 million that the government received in January for Northern Rock has reduced the central government net cash requirement by this amount and can be seen in Table PSF6 as a negative
    value in the “net acquisition of company security” line. Although cash has been received the impact on PSND ex is actually to increase it by £653 million. This is due to the different ways permanent and temporary effects of financial interventions are treated in PSND ex. A capital transfer of £1.4 billion made from government to Northern Rock in 2009 was treated prior to the sale of Northern
    Rock as a temporary effect of the financial interventions and so excluded from PSND ex. Following the sale the permanent effect on the public sector finances has become known and this permanent effect on public sector net debt is recorded as the difference between the sale value and the original capital transfer. It should be noted that the terms of the sale include some deferred payment elements and when these are received the proceeds will reduce the amount of this permanent effect
    on net debt.”

    Reply: We still do not know how much in total taxpayers will lose on NR

  26. Caterpillar
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Whilst the MAD strategy in the cold war proved to be effective, I am unsure whether the west is currently playing MAD (pre-comitted and will act), an intentional mixed strategy or some other. [How many games of MAD can a country be playing?]

    Signalling of course can be believed, and not necessarily by just the target of the signals. Saddam Hussein might well have been sending WMD signals to Iran, but these could have convinced the west; it is not always clear with whom you are playing. If the west signals action to Iran who else might be convinced and how would they act?

    Clear thought that is based on intelligence and what-ifs (including the what-if intelligence is wrong) is needed. In the meantime: How “should the west be prepared” – missile defence, fertilser, energy etc. might be good downside things to consider.

    [+ Same considerations as yesterday on motivation and organizational change}

  27. Julian
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Yes.
    There seems to be an assumption that taking out the nuclear weapons involves a war with Iran. Why? It would take an attack on on the nuclear weapons capability but there is no reason to bomb Tehran or attack anything else in Iran. There will be no significant war involving the US and Iran because the US would win with overwhelming firepower and the Iranians know that.
    War is terrible but in this case fanatical extremists with nuclear weapons is worse.

    • Posted February 21, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

      Sounds like a description of Israel Julian.

      It’s not easy to take out a nuclear construction site in the middle of a mountain. Why do you think they’re building it there?

  28. APL
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    JR: “Should the west be prepared to consider military intervention in Iran?”

    No, but maybe we should ‘invest’ in our navy and ballistic nuclear deterrent.

    Cold war being over and all, looks like there is still use for the old MAD doctrine.

    • rose
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      And remember, too, the true meaning of MAD – it stands for “mutually assured defence”, not, as commonly held, “mutually assured destruction.”

  29. Posted February 21, 2012 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    So long as our politicians and the state broadcasting corporation aren’t willing to honestly give the reasons for attacking other countries or report on what is actually happening there can be no justification for “iontervening”.

    There are justifications for some wars but wars which can only be justified by lies and censorship are, by definition, unjustified.

  30. Chris
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    No, we very definitely should not.

  31. javelin
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Sorry for being off topic here.

    A great piece in FT Alphaville today. I think they completely miss the elephant in the room. They basically say that the problems in the Eurozone is due to trade imbalances and that the way around these trade imbalances is for the PIIGS to start to export more outside Europe. HELLOOOO ….

    What they are saying is that the only way the European Union can overt endless crises is to stop becoming a Economic Trading Block with each other.

    Its a MASSIVE FAILURE

    http://ftalphaville.ft.com/blog/2012/02/21/888021/germany-doesnt-want-more-of-your-eurozone-goods/

    • uanime5
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      All this article says is that Germany is importing more from outside the EU and Spain reduce its exports to the EU from 69.4% in 2007 to 65.3% in 2010. It doesn’t call for the EU to stop being a Economic Trading Block.

      Also unless the PIIGS can make products non-EU countries want to buy this strategy won’t work.

  32. A Different Simon
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    The enemy within is always far more dangerous than foreign bogey men .

    How’s the latest injection of QE doing ?

    Have the banks passed any of it on at all or was it just to cover bonus season ?

    The witholding of credit to small and medium sized companies is making them vulnerable to multi-national predators with bigger balance sheets .

    It’s become patently obvious that this is by design , not accident .

    • rose
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      Not just printing money and spending far too much, but also the breakdown in law and order, as lawyers come up with more and more perverse judgements and the police post PACE refuse to act. We can no longer see the wood for the trees, so complicated and divorced from common sense has our law become.

  33. sm
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Its the potential dual purpose use of nuclear power technology that seems to be causing the problem. Other bordering countries use nuclear power is there not some arrangement by which the civil use of this technology can be organized regionally. Could we not persuade the region to use non-proliferating technology going forwards. (Thorium reactors). We could offer to support a guaranteed supply power via neighbouring countries in return for them not pursuing the technology further. Perhaps a floating nuclear reactor could linked into the Iranian grid to feed power via agreed 3rd parties.

    Its a shame the EU cant persuade them to proceed with non-proliferating wind power, solar power, tidal barrage technologies. Although apparently more expensive than nuclear, its probably much cheaper than the real costs of nuclear with added other regional risks and costs. This would allow Iran to show leadership in clean technology in the region which needs power to desalinate water to other technologies are suited.

    We would be well to address defence cuts and
    our internal security issues closer to HOME concerning the ECHR, national security, asylum & immigration etc. These internal issues are much more likely to provide the risks to the UK in any asymmetric conflict.

    We however do need to maintain our guard and only consider intervention in extreme circumstances in defence or elsewise via the UN.

    Could this have more to do with the waning of the US dollar as a reserve currency,
    and Islamic attitudes to fractional reserve banking and a desire for an alternative to the dollar?

    Also why should we trust our government and the purported intelligence? Our governments do not exactly enable things the public supports e.g. deportation of security threats, primacy of national law and security over the ECHR rulings. They don’t even bother with the border farce if possible.

    Reply: I understand western negotiators have offered a full package of support for Iran’s civil nuclear programme. There are international agreements about nuclear weapons and wider nuclear technology, but Iran does n ot co=operate fully with the Inpsectors.

  34. norman
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Maybe if Iranian leaders allowed in nuclear inspectors and they reported back they found no traces of weapons (as indeed there may not be) the Iranians could all sleep safer in their beds at night.

    Or not.

    Iran should do it’s own thing, why shouldn’t it? Don’t we? I seem to remember a commitment to renewing Trident but I may be wrong. Lucky for us we’re the good guys and never inlvolved in any questionable activities or these countries would be right to think poorly of us. After all we’d never launch unjustified wars of aggression, anyone just need glance at a history book to see that.

    As for the war on terror, why not continue it? It can join the wars on drugs and poverty and I have no doubt will be just as successful and as costly. Moral crusades are one of the few things we think we still do well in the West. That and civil liberties. Heard today Scotland is a world leader in number of CCTV cameras, just as an aside. And possibly self-delusion.

    • Single Acts
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

      UN inspectors are in country (Iran) at present.

  35. Damien
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    The sentiments expressed in your last paragraph are the same as the Chinese Foreign Ministry who are concerned that ratcheting up the rethoric will only increase instability and cast a shadow over the fragile world economy. For over the past year oil prices have been persistently high and this latest spat has caused a further spike.

    China understandably is also wary that the interventionist policies of the UK and the west which are at odds with its own policy of diplomacy. China remains focussed on growing its economy through trade with the rest of the world. The Chinese VP Xi Jinping is reported today as saying that China’s total foreign investment is likely to reach $500 billion in 2015. He Said “this will bring opportunities for countries from all over the world, including Ireland”.
    Following on from the Chinese VP’s visit the Chinese press are today reporting that planning permission was granted for the European China Trading Hub (ECTH) in Athlone. China Daily report Chinese investors are backing the €1.4 billion ECTH on the 337 acre site . The hub will display Chinese goods for the EU and international buyers saving them time and money travelling to China. Buyers at the hub will have the added security when paying in advance for their orders. This will open up opportunities for UK businesses to trade with the 400 Chinese businesses that will be located on site.

  36. NickW
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    The problem for the UK population is that we do not know whether or not “Iran’s nuclear weapons” fall into the same category as “Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction”.

    The fraudulent lies perpetrated by Blair over Iraq mean that the British will not and cannot support a strike on Iran.

    We were in the wrong on Iraq, we were the bad guys, and we don’t want to be tricked again.

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

      What difference does it make what the British population believe ? Few of us believed the ’45 minute launch’ rhetoric but that didn’t stop us invading Iraq.

      So long as house prices are kept up and there is Premier League football …

  37. Paul H
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    I suspect this is largely academic, as Israel will do whatever it thinks – rightly or wrongly – it has to do to pre-empt a nuclear Iran. Faced with what it perceives as an existential threat, it will see little to lose by doing so.

    • Gary
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      The only thing it has to lose is to precipitate WWIII. But I suppose they really don’t care ?

      • Julian
        Posted February 21, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

        What world war? If Iran’s nuclear weapon capability is destroyed are you telling me China and or Russia is suddenly going to attack America? Or defend Iran? They’re not going to do that.
        It’s depressing how many people on here are sanguine about a medieval regime getting nuclear weapons.
        There seems to be a big misunderstanding about the capability of the US and NATO – only Russia or China could even contemplate an open battle against the US because the technology is now so advanced that a US navy battle group could destroy Irans navy and air force on its own.

  38. Posted February 21, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    No, simply because with our defence cuts, we are just not in a position to make any form of military intervention, and Iran knows it. The more so because we should be deploying more military to the Falklands.
    If there is a need to do anything, it should be through covert action, regardless of the cries from the Human Rights crowd. There are opposition forces in Iran, we should find ways of encouraging them. When you look at the millions of pounds that the simplest missiles cost, similar sums paid for the assassination of specific individuals would be good value for money. But as we are too nice to think of such things, we’ll have to leave it to Mossad or possibly the CIA.

  39. Brian A
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    I watched the latter parts of the Iran debate on the Parliament channel yesterday and, somewhat to my surprise, I was impressed by the quality of the debate with incisive contributions from both sides of the House. The arguments including: a) a nuclear armed Iran would lead to an arms race in the region, b) embolden Iran’s terrorist proxies across the Middle East, c) allow, in the short term at least, Iranian hegemony in its neighbourhood and increase its hostility to the Gulf States based on existing land claims, struck me as persuasive. Given that the Iranian leadership appears to favour provocation and such postures can easily lead to conflicts escalating, I was convinced by the argument that Britain must not rule out the option of military action, while recognising that it would be very much a last resort, and only with the backing of a UN sponsored broad coalition, i.e. well beyond the US and Israel, and as you say including some of Iran’s near neighbours.

  40. rose
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Look what happened when, as we are told, the Russians offered to knock out China in a pre-emptive nuclear strike. The US managed to dissuade the USSR from taking that terrifying precaution, and who is frightened of China’s nuclear might now? It is her other forms of supremacy we all fear and have to accommodate ourselves to. We cannot stop other countries developing, as we did ourselves in our heyday.

    The Israelis might decide otherwise, and that is for them. The French too might take a pragmatic view of covert pre-emptive action and allow the Israelis to take the credit as at Osirak in 1981.

    But the UK in her present state should take a back seat. One thing, however, is certain: we shall be damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

    Another consideration is that we may have goaded Saddam Hussein into pretending to be more drastically armed than he was. Dictators are prone to paranoia and do bravado well. It is not unknown for them to have their equivalent of the false burglar alarm box on the outside of the house.

  41. forthurst
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    There is a form of vicarious patriotism practised in the West which, when our English soldiers are arriving home without limbs or in boxes, is deeply abhorent. Meanwhile, patriotic and clear sighted Englishmen like JR feel contrained to tiptoe round the topic so as not to give those who are, in reality, professing treason, reason to take offence.

  42. AJAX
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    ‘No need for England to lead world reaction to the Mullahs’ desire for nukes’

    HMG’s only Foreign Policy is to follow orders coming off of Capitol Hill

  43. David Langley
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    In my experience the UN would suffer an unmitigated defeat both in the short term and the longer term by trying to intervene militarily with Iran. The objective of killing a new enemy the Iran defence forces and the present government and civil service, would rely on flanking countries to invade and defeat them and be responsible under a military UN leadership to conduct the peace with a defeated or supine nation. The cost would break most involved countries financially and I suspect the current condition of foreign forces used would predictably lead to command and control problems similar to Vietnam. The UN is basically a cocktail party organisation, having little experience of a strategic and tactical land battle of the scope required to defeat a well armed and motivated army and Navy and maintain control over a sovereign country. Their would of course also be a Naval requirement of a blockade having dismantled the Iranian Naval forces first. That would be necessary considering the attempted closure of the Hormuz Straits by Iranian mines etc. The precursor of a shock and awe opening would be detected and rebuffed. This would not be an operation like the mock battles of Iraq, Libya etc against poorly trained and motivated forces, but would probably need a pre emptive strike with tactical nuclear weapons of limited yield but enabling subsequent ground occupation.
    The aftermath of such a war would of course be horrific. Therefore I believe Israel will probably take this matter into its own hands when it thinks the time is right and it gets the nod from the USA. A couple of well aimed nuclear munitions and it will be a new day.

  44. MajorFrustration
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Agree NO – why not get India and Pakistan to take the lead. Might take their minds of the bickering between them. Idle hands and all that.
    We have done our bit in Spades

  45. Barbara Stevens
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    We should refrain from intervening in other countries, just because we don’t like what they do. What we should do with Iran is seek economic sanctions while they refuse to let in the nuclear scientists to verify what they are doing. The UN should be the leader in this, and sanctions should be severely upheld. Iran and its position, it’s leaders of religious fanatical beliefs, are dangerous to the world. However, within Iran it’s self all is not perfect. May be its this we should look at, undermineing the regime that is so hateful of others. Economic sanctions can we a good tool if used to effect. May be China and Russia would come in with the rest of the UN if this had been proposed in the first place. It’s not our place to dicate to another country, it’s not our place to comtemplate renoving a leader of a state, even when we hate what they stand for. It is our place to protect our own country, and that is lacking in the present economic situation. This is where we should concentrate, rebuilding our own defences, and not be found wanting as we were in 1939. This is why I hate foreign aid being aloud to be given, while we are in dire need here. MPs should realise where their aligences lies.

  46. Mike Stallard
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    OK. But a nuclear bomb on, say, tel Aviv would be simply unthinkable.
    do we honestly simply stand by and let it happen?

    And let us not forget that the USA is flat broke and heavily in debt. We in UK have simply given up. Nobody else can give a damn.

    Appeasement rules. and that isthe most dangerous gameplay of all.

    • Single Acts
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

      Appeasement came from the partial occupation of Czechoslovakia. What country has Iran invaded?

      Ah, they send AK’s to Hezbollah right, good job we don’t send F-15’s to Israel….. No wait

    • Daisy
      Posted February 22, 2012 at 1:01 am | Permalink

      The security of Tel Aviv is not the responsibility of the UK, and refusing to be emotionally blackmailed into a wholly unnecessary war is not appeasement.

  47. RDM
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Military Intervention has to be part of the calculation, or the West could end up Tooth less! A military threat (used or not) of some kind is part of the Means to a negotiated End (Aka a carrot and stick approach). If not Negotiated, then the End would need to be passive behavior.

    Also; we need to be careful accepting a Western only collative. Like Libya, there needs to be active engagement by the other Arab states. i.e Saudi Arabia!

    If the coalition ends up looking weak and ineffective, then there will come a point in which Israel will take action itself! Israel will take what ever opportunity afforded it. Especially if no one stops Iran escalating it program!

    And so it should! But hopefully limited to the Five known sites, and their Utilities.

    Weren’t 14 Bunker Buster bombs delivered in 2009? Just after the last Gaza scrap.
    Weren’t sorties flown over Syria just around then also? Testing the flight paths.
    One thinks Israel has been preparing for sometime?
    SF/Mossad will be talking with the Mash Arabs, again. Assessing the targets.

  48. Mactheknife
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Having lived and worked in the Middle East and visted most of the countries in that region, I believe that the whole Iranian threat is being over played. The Iranian people are warm, friendly and generous and its unfortunate that they find themseleves in the grip of a dictator. Most of them I have spoken with are pro-western and would not want any sort of confrontation. The other MEA countries are deeply suspicious of each other, despite their outward appearance of togetherness. Certainly IF Iran had weapons then some of the richer MEA nations would want them too, not to attack Israel as some would assume, but to protect against Iran. However if you read some of the statements coming from Israel and their supporters in the US congress, you can see where all this agitation is coming from. We in the UK must not be the leader in any force aimed at Iran.

  49. Normandee
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Most of the trouble in the Middle East is sponsored by either Iran and Pakistan, Israel is fighting Iran in Lebanon and within it’s own boundaries, Iran was and is still causing trouble in Iraq, and we and the other allies are fighting a proxy war with Pakistan in Afghanistan, and with Pakistan trained terrorists elswhere. So maybe it is time to take the war directly to them. Destroy both their Nuclear capability, and there desire to spread destruction and death, and it might quieten down that part of the world.

  50. BobE
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    If Iran used a single nuke it would be wiped off the face of the Earth. Israel may decide to take a first strike action, and then what?
    We should keep out of what we have no control over.
    We should use the MAD tactic as our defence.

  51. Phil Richmond
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    John – Our military has been stripped to the bone. The one dept that needed a massive increase in spending (as well as a complete overhaul) was defense.
    The Vichy-Conservatives who have taken control of the party feel it is more important to give our money to saving the Euro and building wind-farms rather than Type-45 Royal Navy Destroyers.
    Cameron must go.

  52. uanime5
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    The countries nearest to Iran are Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and the United Arab Emirates. Given the current problems in Afghanistan and Iraq; and the small size of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Oman, and United Arab Emirates this leaves 7 countries. Unsure whether any of these countries consider Iran a problem as Iran is currently threatening the West and Israel, not other Muslim countries or Russia.

    Any action against Iran will need to be taken by those most threatened, not those nearest to Iran.

  53. backofanenvelope
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    There were 20 years between the two world wars; but it has been 70 years since the second one. Why was that I wonder? Could it be that post-1945 the rulers of the great powers realised that they would be top of the list to be incinerated? No peacefully dying in their beds for them.

    If the Iranians build a nuclear weapon the only good it will do them is to prevent someone using such a weapon against them. If they were to use it they would get at least one back.

    I am quite happy myself to just continue with economic sanctions. The Americans are tying them in knots with their financial sanctions. But no war.

  54. forthurst
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    We are facing a ‘threat’ in the Falklands; is this real or is it being orchestrated at a distance by those who want our ‘loyalty’ for their own nefarious purposes?

    Reply: I do not expect an invasion, but I do expect lots of diplomatic pressure and unofficial sanctions

  55. Tom William
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Discussing whether”the West” should intervene militarily is just debating. More to the point would be what should the West do if/when Israel does attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Can you blame Israel for wondering, with their history,whether threats to wipe them from the face of the earth might not actually be more than posturing?

    • sjb
      Posted February 22, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

      ‘This regime that is occupying Qods [Jerusalem] must be eliminated from the pages of history.’
      http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/1510.htm

      It is just regime change they want. I bit like the US wanting rid of Saddam, Gaddafi, and now the Syrian govt.

    • sjb
      Posted February 23, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

      Tom, can you provide an authoritative source to support the claim that Iran has ever threatened genocide against Israeli citizens?

      The Iranian President’s speech in 2005 [1] has often been cited but even MEMRI – a pro-Israeli media organisation founded by two former Israeli military intelligence personnel [2] – reported that the relevant text was seeking regime change.

      [1] see url in my post of February 22, 2012 at 10:53 pm (awaiting moderation at time of writing) – but exercise caution when reading because a pro-Israel group provided the translation
      [2] http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Middle_East_Media_Research_Institute

  56. Posted February 21, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    No.

    We shouldn’t have got involved in Iraq. Iran is much bigger and more powerful then Iraq. We wouldn’t win. It would be a complete and horrific disaster.

    By they way Suez was a key reason we didn’t get involved in Hungary. Obviously it was not the only reason.

    • backofanenvelope
      Posted February 22, 2012 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      We shouldn’t have invaded Iraq. But we shouldn’t “big up” countries like Iran. Its armed forces are just like those of Iraq – badly led, badly trained and badly equipped. They would do as well those of Iraq if attacked by the West.

      • Posted February 22, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

        backofanenvelope please can you provide some evidence to back up your comment?

        It contradicts the information I see which places Iran very high on this list of international military might and Iraq low before 2003 and much lower now.

        Are you aware, for example, that Iran has a massive surface to air ballistics capability and could take out NATO in Afghanistan should it choose to ally itself with the Taliban?

        • backofanenvelope
          Posted February 23, 2012 at 7:38 am | Permalink

          But have they got any boots?

  57. Backwoodsman
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    It may well be that Iran poses no immediate larges-scale threat to the U.K.But would the same be true if they actually possessed nuclear weapons and were prepared to link fanaticism to blackmail…a very likely outcome.What are the longer term consequences likely to be of a regime like that one continuing to throw its weight around?At what point DOES it become a major threat to vital Western and UK interests?Isn’t this likely to be a rearmament- Rhineland-Austria-Sudetenland sort of scenario?
    And what are the likely consequences for the Anglosphere if the US goes ahead and is not supported,or worse still if it is humiliated and retreats into isolationism?Would the West then ever again summon up the will to act in any context?
    As to the UN,who could actually have any real faith in that corrupt and dysfunctional entity achieving anything in the Middle East?With its anti-Western and anti-democratic leanings it is more likely to do harm than good ,especially to the West.It could only be a cover for passivity at best.
    I am not by any means an advocate of reflexive intervention in Iran,and I think you have asked some very pertinent questions about its wisdom.What I do think ,though, is that you need to look again at the longer-term implications of non-intervention,so that the necessary debate is at least a balanced one.

    Reply: THere are plenty of advocates of intervention, and they made their case in the Commons this week.

    • Backwoodsman
      Posted February 23, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      I did not express myself very well perhaps,especially in the concluding sentence.What I was trying to say was this:as someone who is genuinely in two minds about the issue I felt that you presented the dangers of intervention cogently but that you failed to strike a convincing balance by understating the dangers of non-intervention. Iran is is a very special case.The imbalance was a disappointment to me,though I dare say not to much the public you were addressing,since I usually expect magisterial good sense in your opinion pieces.
      I agree with you that Britain should be cautious and not attempt to be in the forefront,and that dislike of a regime and its values should not in itself suffice to justify intervention by the West,including Britain,unless major strategic interests are at risk.I have my doubts about Libya,and would have even more about Syria,but Iran is a more complex equation .It really has the potential,and apparently the inclination, to destabilize the whole Middle East.

  58. PaulDirac
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    Iran is an oil rich country, yet it spent about 4-5 times it’s GDP during the last 12 years on the nuclear project, it refuses to stop in the face of sever sanctions and serious threat of intervention.
    The above doesn’t make any sense in any context except development of a nuclear weapons.
    Iran is developing long range delivery systems, for a relatively poor country with narrow technological infrastructure and no existential enemies (notwithstanding the nuclear issue) this looks like an unreasonable stand without the obvious assumption that it has decided to become a fully fledged nuclear power.
    In my book the first targets will be the oil rich countries next door, and nuclear Iran will be a more problematic military problem, perhaps an insurmountable one.

    Will we and the west be directly impacted?

    Oil will probably double in price and be rationed to Iran’s friends, we may yet see the start of an actual “Chalifat” started in the maghreb crescent, and Sharia law will spread, who knows how that one will play out.
    Russia and China will be very happy to assist such a plan and we will have to obey or build a lot of wind turbines in a hurry.

  59. Frances Matta
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    When President Ahmedinijad addressed the U.N. in re the “West’s” fear of this, he said
    “We all live under the same sky”.
    Yes, we do.
    But try explaining that to a jolly decent chap in Jordan who is terrified that “If Iran bomb Israel, we all die”.
    To date, what is the intelligence that Iran has a nuclear weapon?

  60. Posted February 21, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    I don’t understand why you are making lots of comparisons between Iran and countries with dictators John.

    • backofanenvelope
      Posted February 22, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      Iran has a “Supreme Leader”. Their words, not mine. He isn’t elected. Sounds like a dictator to me.

      • Posted February 22, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

        and we have a queen.

      • sjb
        Posted February 22, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

        He was elected by 80+ Islamic scholars, who also have the powers to supervise and even remove him.

  61. BobE
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    I know this will never be read but Greece has once again had the can kicked down the road.
    The idiot Cameron is getting involved in football. Whilst Rome Burns!

  62. Russ
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    “We know that intelligence about weapons of mass destruction was false in the case of Iraq.”

    No it wasn’t – but the people who saw it didn’t like the answer, so they made up a different answer and told that to Parliament.

    In some circles, this practice is referred to as ‘lying’.

    • backofanenvelope
      Posted February 22, 2012 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) cover three types of weapons. Biological, Chemical and Nuclear. We knew that Iraq had the second of these. Biological weapons development can easily be concealed in normal chemical facilities. The Iraqis had Soviet missiles that could have been used to deliver these weapons. The biggest question mark was over nuclear weapons.

      I spent 12 years as an intelligence officer and I cannot help remark on how easy it is to say these weapons didn’t exist in Iraq. It was a lot harder to decide at the time. Hindsight is wonderful.

      • Tom William
        Posted February 22, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

        Unpopular remark, but dead right.

        • Posted February 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

          The war was supposed to be based on robust evidence of their existence. It wasn’t. Instead there was very strong doubt as to their existence among government advisers.

  63. Posted February 22, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    I strongly recommend that anyone who is wishing to express a robust opinions on this issue and who is using the mainstream western media only rapidly start to question some of the beliefs held by that media and to triangulate their sources.

    The vast Israeli propaganda machine which has misrepresented Middle East affairs had a profound effect on convincing the West that the Iraq was was essential and it is at full force here too.

    For example it is widely believed that Ahmadinejad repeatedly calls for the destruction of Israel. In the UK we would assume that means he intends to invade Israel. However the forces which have created this perception believe that people who condemn Israeli invading and settling beyond its own borders are calling for the destruction of Israel. Honesty guys – you actually have to engage with these people to understand that this is the case:
    http://cyberrhetoricbyrebeccahanson.blogspot.com/2011/12/how-to-manage-agenda-of-form-if-you.html

    (etc- too many external blogs to check-ed)

  64. Posted February 23, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    The question should be: ‘Should the UK take military action in Iran’? And my view is no!

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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