[home][about][contact] [getting involved] [Educational][Academic] [Media Watch][Views]
How Britain's top spy is beating the drums for war on Iran
SIR JOHN Sawers has reared his head in public for the second time since being appointed head of MI6 in 2009. Last time it was to claim that Britain has “nothing whatsoever” to do with torture.
We know this to be untrue following the revelations over MI6’s role in ‘renditioning’ Libyan dissidents to Tripoli to be tortured, as a favour to the intelligence services there. One might hope that, having learnt from his previous mistake, this latest speech would be rather more honest.
It was not to be.
In an article appearing in the The Daily Telegraph, the head of Britain’s overseas spy service is quoted at length from a speech recently given to senior civil servants.
In it, he discussed Iran and its nuclear programme, claiming that covert operations by MI6 had prevented Iran from developing nuclear weapons by 2008, but that the Islamic Republic is now likely to become (and we are assured it is their goal) a “nuclear weapons state” by 2014.
Coming shortly after a fresh round of sanctions, almost every line in the Telegraph article beats the drum for war. The screws are being tightened on Tehran and propaganda for an attack is in full swing.
In keeping with Sawers’ previous public appearance as head of MI6, he boasts of the agency’s relevance and effectiveness in the field, perhaps still smarting from the humiliating episode in Libya where SAS and MI6 officers were captured by rebels.
The grim reality of covert operations in Iran is acknowledged by the Telegraph, however, in what they refer to as the ‘apparent assassinations’ of multiple Iranian scientists. A reality check is in order here.
Five nuclear scientists have been murdered in as many years in a campaign of state terror directed against Iran. One, Darioush Rezaeinejad, was shot dead outside his daughter’s nursery. Israel is the most likely suspect, possibly with the support of Britain or America. Certainly neither country has condemned the killings. Imagine for a moment the outrage if Iran had, in broad daylight, executed the director of a nuclear plant in the UK.
John Sawers is a liar. We know he lied about MI6’s complicity in torture and we should be skeptical, to say the least, about his denial of complicity in the murder of Iranian civilians, particularly given the nod just made to the existence of covert action by MI6 in Iran.
Whatever the details of the covert operations Sawers has run in Iran, his claim that they prevented the development of a “nuclear weapons state” there by 2008 is a revelation to say the least.
If Iran was on the brink of possessing nuclear weapons in 2008, then I hope someone told the Americans. Because in 2007, a report by the CIA — surely the world’s largest and most well-connected spy network (no offense, Sir John) — stated “with high confidence” that “in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program” and that “Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007”.
There is no convincing evidence it has since been restarted.
The IAEA has confirmed in all of its reports that nuclear material has not been diverted from use in energy and medical research, where inspectors keep a close watch.
Nonetheless, Sawers’ claims that Iran will be a “nuclear weapons state” in just two years time. Based on what? We are expected to take his word for it.
Sawers’ phrase of choice, “nuclear weapons state” is perhaps of interest given America’s recent re-definition of its ‘red line’ with regard to Iran. The red line is the situation that America is categorically unwilling to tolerate, that is, they will go to war to prevent it. Until May this year this line was, as one might imagine, an Iran with nuclear weapons. Since then the House of Representatives passed a bill to shift it to the point where Iran obtains “nuclear weapons capability”.
So, this red line has now moved to include even the potential to develop nuclear weapons, this is what the US means by “capability”. Having the potential to develop nuclear weapons is something shared by any country with a functioning nuclear energy infrastructure. Again, there is no evidence that Iran is intent on producing a nuclear weapon.
The Iranian government has the right under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) to develop civilian nuclear energy, and this includes the enrichment of uranium. It even includes the right to develop nuclear powered submarines! Meanwhile other regional powers, India, Pakistan and Israel, all already have nuclear weapons. None are signatories to the NPT.
But with the shifting red line, the US will no longer tolerate even a peaceful nuclear energy programme in Iran.
So we are forced to wonder, does Sawers really mean that in two years time Iran will have a nuclear weapon? Or will they simply have a more developed nuclear energy programme, as is their right under international law?
Sawers follows in the footsteps of William Hague, who claimed that an Iran with nuclear weapons would spark a new more terrifying Cold War, lacking the “safety mechanisms” of the past. The racist implication here is that Iranians are just too ‘unstable’, mentally or otherwise, to be trusted with a nuclear weapon. A country that has not attacked another in over two centuries would apparently be certain to take us all straight to Armageddon.
The ‘two years’ threat may not be as startling as Tony Blair's infamous claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that could be ‘activated within 45 minutes’. But its purpose is the same. It is to justify an ongoing campaign of state-terror and crippling sanctions. Sawers is building the case for an attack against a supposed unstoppable menace. The parallels with Iraq are truly staggering, but don’t be fooled.