MI6 Chief: Iran 'Two Years Away' from Nuclear Weapons

The head of British Secret Service spoke publicly about covert action in Iran for the first time this week. Sir John Sawer, head of MI6, the British equivalent of the CIA, said joint operations by the British, Americans and Israelis had stalled but not stopped the Iranian regime's attempt to build a nuclear bomb.

Sawer gave a secret briefing about the state of Iran's nuclear program in March, but this week is the first time he has spoken in a public forum. The speech was part of an annual event called Civil Service Live. Sawer stated that intervention by Britain, America, and Israel prevented the Iranians developing a bomb in 2008.

Though he wasn't specific about the nature of the actions taken by MI6 and the CIA, Sawer is likely referring to the Stuxnet computer virus which is believed to have damaged centrifuges at Iranian nuclear facilities. More controversial has been the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists. At least four have been targeted; only one survived the attempt. The Iranians blamed Israel and the United States. Now it appears Sawer has confirmed as much.

Sawer told the crowd of around 100 attendees, "The Iranians are determinedly going down a path to master all aspects of nuclear weapons; all the technologies they need. It’s equally clear that Israel and the United States would face huge dangers if Iran were to become a nuclear weapon state." He also expressed personal pride at having stalled their progress "I take great pride in the fact that ... I’ve been involved in an issue of global concern, and I feel that I as an individual [have made] an impact in the outcome of events."

Sawer was somewhat less optimistic about the future. He suggested that if it weren't for intervention by MI6 (and the CIA), "you’d have Iran as a nuclear weapons state in 2008 rather than still being two years away in 2012." But that still meant a serious decision about confronting Iran was less than two years away. When it came to the possibility of a military strike, Sawer seemed to place that decision on American and Israeli shoulders: "I think it will be very tough for any prime minister of Israel or president of the United States to accept a nuclear-armed Iran."

In the UK, Liberal Democrats have ruled out any possibility of military action against Iran. The situation will likely be the same here in the U.S., as progressive Democrats spent the last year of the Bush administration wringing their hands about the "drumbeat" toward war with Iran. Admittedly, the anti-war movement has mostly gone quiet since Barack Obama took office. But if we have a Republican President in 2013, you can count on its sudden resurgence.


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