Change Your Mind: Is Iran A Nuclear Threat To The West?

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The head of MI6, Sir John Sawers, says Iran could have nuclear weapons within "two years". But is he guilty of exaggerating the nuclear threat from the Islamic Republic? Or should we be worried about an Iranian bomb?

Below, a member of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (Bicom) debates a well-known Labour backbencher.

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Iran Is A Nuclear Threat To The West

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Toby Greene Director of Research for BICOM

The reported comments by MI6 chief Sir John Sawyers that Iran would likely achieve nuclear weapons by 2014 only confirm what was indisputable to anyone who has looked at the evidence. Iran wants nuclear weapons and is fast developing the capacity to construct them. This is not based on shady intelligence or dodgy dossiers. The evidence of Iran's nuclear weapons programme was scrutinised for years by the IAEA - a cautious multilateral body not given to alarmism - before they declared it 'credible' in a detailed report published in November 2011.

This was nearly ten years after Iran's secret and illegal uranium enrichment facility at Netanz, and heavy water reactor at Arak were first uncovered in 2002. These facilities were not necessary for its legitimate civilian nuclear programme, but were important for developing the fuel for nuclear weapons. It was this discovery that set the IAEA inspectors on the trail of Iran's true intentions. Iran's failure to disclose the Natanz and Arak facilities were only the most blatant of many Non-Proliferation Treaty breaches, leading the IAEA to declare Iran 'non-compliant' with its commitments in 2005.

Tehran has since ignored a string of binding UN Security Council resolutions demanding Iran cease its illegal activities, and only increased the scale of its programme, and enriched at levels every closer to weapons grade uranium. Iran was caught lying again in 2009, when another secret enrichment facility - not big enough to make civilian fuel, but just big enough for weapons fuel - was discovered at Fordow.

In the last few months Iran rejected new demands from the IAEA to inspect the Parchin facility where they believe Iran has been testing explosives for a nuclear trigger, and the Iranians have been covering up what it was doing there. If all that were not enough, David Cameron warned a Commons committee in March that Iran is developing missiles that would potentially provide a delivery system for nuclear warheads to reach as far as London.

Should Iran succeed to develop these weapons, it would shift the regional balance of power in its favour. Iran has a violent anti-Western regional agenda which includes support for extremists throughout the region, including those fighting British forces in Afghanistan, armed Palestinian radicals opposed to peace, and the Assad regime in Syria. Iran also has a strategic goal to attain hegemony over the Gulf, which is the source of a significant percentage of the world's oil, threatening global oil markets and the UK economy. Acquisition of nuclear weapons will enhance Iran's capacity to promote its dangerous agenda, enabling it to threaten its smaller, pro-Western Arab neighbours and, with its long range missiles, Europe directly. This would likely lead to a Middle East arms race, as Arab states would seek to obtain weapons to deter Tehran.

How to stop Iran getting the bomb, including whether or not to use force, provides sharp policy dilemmas, but no one should be in any doubt about the cost of failing to do so.

This piece was co-authored by Jules Robinson

Paul Flynn Member of Parliament, Newport West

Those who brought us Britain's role in Iraq plan a fresh war of illusion.

The drumbeats are sounding and excitement is mounting as the boys anticipated playing again with the toys.

Even Tony Blair is back, eager to repeat his 2003 'triumph'. He could not have stopped the Iraq War but he could have done a Harold Wilson and kept British soldiers safe at home. Blair bullied, bribed and bamboozled 80 reluctant Labour MPs to abstain or vote for war.

The Commons majority for war was 179 - exactly the same number of British soldiers who were killed in pursuit of non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. 422 soldiers died in Afghanistan protecting the UK from a non-existent Taliban terrorist threat to Britain. How many will be in deadly peril to defend us from non-existent long-range Iranian missiles carrying non-existent Iranian nuclear weapons?

The Daily Telegraph is scaremongering by repeating the US/Israel nuclear scare.

It has replaced the Russian war threat that kept Western fear levels simmering and the arms trade prospering for half a century. The Iran lie was the pretext for locating US missiles in the Czech Republic. Putin was rightly outraged with a transparent lie. The war was on the brink of rebuilding a new cold war.

Beyond the world of propaganda the facts demand a hearing. Tehran does not have a bomb, has not decided to build one, and is probably years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead. Mossad and the CIA agree

The November 2011 report of the IAEA did not claim that Iran has a nuclear weapons programme. Iran is not in breach of any obligations under the NPT : Israel is. Iran's nuclear facilities are open to IAEA inspection: Israel's are not Israel, which has many of 400 nuclear bombs and the ability to deliver them to any capital in the Middle East.

As the UK plan unaffordable new nuclear power stations. Iran is being denied the uranium enrichment that is their "inalienable right" under the NPT.

The Daily Telegraph cannot manage a blush of embarrassment at the double standards that could propel us towards war.

The US, Israel and others, who are threatening military action against Iran, are in breach of Article 2.4 of the UN Charter It requires that all UN member states "shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state".

The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, has said that the possession of nuclear weapons is a "grave sin" and Iran has never invaded another country. Are we doomed to repeat the madness of the Iraq War and the Helmand incursion? In both lands vast sacrifices of blood and treasure will result in one rotten government being replaced by another rotten government. The consequences of an attack on Iran are incalculable.

The weakest link in the belligerent posture is the absences of an answer to the question, in what circumstances would it serve Iran's interests to attack with a nuclear. To all nations and to the planet, mutual assured annihilation is not a plausible choice.

Why do they claim it is?

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