By JASON GROVES
Iran is developing nuclear missiles capable of hitting London, David Cameron warned yesterday. In a chilling echo of the build-up to the war against Iraq, the Prime Minister suggested that the country’s drive to develop the bomb was potentially a direct threat to the UK.
His comments appeared to move Britain a step closer to war against the hardline Islamic regime. He told MPs the Tehran government was trying to develop ‘intercontinental missiles’. And he repeatedly stressed that ‘military action’ against Iran was not ‘off the table’.
‘I don’t believe that an Iranian nuclear weapon is just a threat to Israel,’ he said. ‘It is also clearly very dangerous for the region because it would trigger a nuclear arms race but also it’s a danger more broadly, not least because there are signs that the Iranians want to have some sort of intercontinental missile capability. So we have to be clear this is potentially a threat much more widely.’
The Prime Minister’s warning came just hours after the Cabinet was given a secret briefing by MI6 chief Sir John Sawers and the Government’s national security adviser Sir Kim Darroch on the threat posed by Iran. Tehran had previously been thought to have access only to medium-range missiles with a reach of about 1,500 miles.
Intercontinental missiles typically have a range of 3,500 miles or more – easily enough to cover the 2,740 miles from Tehran to London. Mr Cameron’s warning is the first time a British minister has suggested Iran might be able to launch a direct attack on the UK mainland.
He gave no indication of how close British intelligence believes Tehran is to developing the technology. The warning had echoes of the build-up to the war in Iraq, when Tony Blair wrongly said Iraq had the ability to launch a chemical weapons attack on British bases in Cyprus within 45 minutes of an order from Saddam Hussein.
The claim led to allegations that the Government had ‘sexed up’ a dossier on the threat. The Prime Minister’s warning came during a briefing of senior MPs on the Commons liaison committee on the latest developments in Iran and Syria.
He said economic sanctions should be given more time but military action remained an option. ‘Nothing is off the table,’ he said. ‘It is difficult to say that because no one wants to see conflict in any way. But I think it’s very important that the world sends a message to Iran that a nuclear-armed future is not something that we want to see.