William Hague has gazed into his Middle Eastern crystal ball and doesn’t like what he
sees. In an interview in today’s Telegraph, he says of Iran:
‘It is a crisis coming down the tracks, because they are clearly continuing their nuclear weapons programme… If they obtain nuclear weapons capability, then I think other nations
across the Middle East will want to develop nuclear weapons.
And so, the most serious round of nuclear proliferation since nuclear weapons were invented would have begun with all the destabilising effects in the Middle East. And the threat of a new
cold war in the Middle East without necessarily all the safety mechanisms… That would be a disaster in world affairs.’
It’s by no means a new prediction, but that it should be made by the Foreign Secretary is certainly noteworthy. But for how long would such a war stay Cold?
Hague says — as he, Cameron, Clegg and Obama all have said in recent weeks — that ‘all options must remain on the table’. But he also believes that attacking Iran would have
‘enormous downsides’, and says:
‘We are very clear to all concerned that we are not advocating military action. We support a twin-track strategy of sanctions and pressure and negotiations on the other hand… We
are not favouring the idea of anybody attacking Iran at the moment.’
Of course, other countries may not see it that way, and may opt for military action whether Britain advocates it or not. A couple of weeks ago, it was reported that US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta ‘believes Israel could strike Iran this
spring’. He has since denied this, but, as today’s Guardian reports, other US officials now foresee an Israeli attack in the autumn. Such concerns suggest that
Hague’s predictions of a Cold War may in fact put him on the optimistic end of the spectrum.