Whitehall figures say Iran is ‘newly aggressive – and we are not sure why’
Iran ‘has enriched uranium for four nuclear weapons’
By Ian Drury
Last updated at 11:47 PM on 2nd November 2011
Britain is developing contingency plans for military action against Iran amid rising tensions in the Middle East, it was claimed last night.
The Ministry of Defence is considering how it could contribute to armed operations if the U.S. launched an attack against the hardline regime in Tehran.
Attention in Whitehall has sharply refocused on Iran following the end of the Libyan conflict.
Senior officials are concerned about President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s aggressive stance as Iran presses closer to developing a nuclear bomb, and Tehran’s links to three assassination plots on foreign soil.
At the same time the situation in the Middle East has been inflamed by sabre-rattling from top politicians in Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak are reportedly agitating for a pre-emptive attack against the Islamic state. Mr Netanyahu is seeking Cabinet support for an attack.
Yesterday it was revealed that Tel Aviv had successfully test-fired a rocket capable of carrying a nuclear warhead which could strike Iran.
The UK would be likely to agree to any U.S. request for help with military action even though the Armed Forces are stretched by deep budget cuts and wars in Afghanistan and Libya.
A specific unit at the MoD has been tasked to consider options in the event of an attack on Iran.
War planners will study potential deployments to the region of Royal Navy ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles and RAF fighter jets armed with precision-guided Paveway IV and Brimstone bombs and missiles, surveillance planes and air-to-air refuelling.
An MoD spokesman said: ‘The British government believes that a dual track strategy of pressure and engagement is the best approach to address the threat from Iran’s nuclear programme and avoid regional conflict.
‘We want a negotiated solution –but all options should be kept on the table.’
Iran is increasingly becoming the focus of diplomatic concern after the revolution in Libya.
Senior Whitehall figures have expressed alarm that Iran appeared ‘newly aggressive – and we are not quite sure why’.
Western intelligence has also suggested that Iran is taking steps to hide the material it needs to continue a covert nuclear weapons programme inside fortified bunkers which cannot be reached by conventional missiles.
U.S. President Barack Obama is understood to have no wish to launch an attack against Iran in the run-up to the 2012 White House elections. But Washington may be pressured by Israel if Iran’s nuclear programme is not curtailed.
Iran is thought to have enough enriched uranium for up to four nuclear weapons – in defiance of a raft of United Nations sanctions.
Mr Ahmadinejad denies his country is trying to produce a bomb, claiming the nuclear programme is only for energy. The International Atomic Energy Association is due to publish its latest report on the rogue state this month.