MI6 chief briefs Cabinet on Iranian nuclear threatby Robert Winnett, telegraph.co.uk
March 6th 2012
Sir John Sawers spoke to more than 20 ministers about the latest top-secret intelligence on the Iranian threat and the growing expectation that Israel is poised to launch a pre-emptive strike against the regime.
The highly unusual briefing is thought to have raised questions about Israel’s military capacity to destroy Iranian nuclear sites, which are buried deep underground. The MI6 chief is also understood to have warned about the potential threat to Britain from a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
The secrecy around the briefing, which contained so-called “strap” intelligence shared only with top officials, was so high that ministers were ordered to leave their mobile phones outside the Cabinet room.
There are claims that basic mobile phones, without specialist anti-eavesdropping security, can be converted into “listening devices” by foreign intelligence agencies.
The briefing underlines the growing concern among western governments over the growing threat posed by Iran. The Conservatives are concerned that the Liberal Democrats would not support any military action against the regime.
President Barack Obama said yesterday that the US government would “not countenance” the Iranians obtaining nuclear weapons, but warned against “beating drums of war”. He said the threat did not need to be addressed this year as the Israelis are thought to believe.
Appearing before MPs yesterday, David Cameron said that “nothing is off the table” when confronting the Iranian regime.
“I don’t believe that an Iranian nuclear weapon is just a threat to Israel,” he said. “It is also clearly very dangerous for the region because it would trigger a nuclear arms race but also it’s a danger more broadly, not least because there are signs that the Iranians want to have some sort of intercontinental missile capability.
“So we have to be clear this is potentially a threat much more widely.”
The Prime Minister said it was a difficult decision not to rule out military action. “It is difficult to say that because no one wants to see conflict in any way,” he said. “But I think it’s very important that world sends a message to Iran that a nuclear-armed future is not something that we want to see.
“If the sanctions don’t work there will come a moment of a very difficult decision.
“Today, we think that military action against Iran by Israel would not be the right approach. We have said that both publicly and privately to the Israelis. We think this track of sanctions and pressure has further to run.”
“We haven’t made decisions about any military action but clearly we would want to consider not least how best to protect our own interests and our own people.”
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