Thursday, May 18, 2006

Keep Iran military option, says Rifkind

Anton La Guardia, Telegraph:
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Conservative foreign secretary, said yesterday that western countries should be ready to consider military action against Iran if diplomacy and sanctions fail to curb Teheran's uranium enrichment programme. Sir Malcolm, who also served as defence secretary, is the first senior British politician to take such a robust stance against Teheran. READ MORE

He told The Daily Telegraph that the "disaster" of Iraq should not stop the West from confronting the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Sir Malcolm said western "carrots" to persuade Iran to co-operate with the United Nations would not be taken seriously by Iranian hardliners unless accompanied by a credible "stick". "Iran is a serious potential threat that does have to be prevented," he said.

The world's leading powers are trying to draw up a package of "incentives and disincentives" to persuade Iran to halt the most dangerous parts of its nuclear programme. But Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has rejected all such ideas.

Previewing a speech he will give today, Sir Malcolm said that in return for a "permanent and verifiable renunciation of nuclear weapons, and ceasing work on uranium enrichment", Washington should offer to restore diplomatic relations with Iran and guarantee "that its frontiers would be safe from military attack". At the same time, European countries must adopt a more robust attitude if such an American offer were rebuffed. Even if Russia and China blocked UN economic sanctions, European countries should join the US in a financial boycott of Iran, he said.

"If such measures still did not have the desired impact, military intervention might have to be considered," said Sir Malcolm.

Action would depend on assessments of whether bombing could seriously set back Iran's nuclear programme. Sir Malcolm said only the US had the aircraft in the region needed to mount a campaign, but it should have the political backing of Europe.