MI6 agents have foiled Iran’s attempts to obtain nuclear weapons but the Middle Eastern state will succeed in arming itself within the next two years, the head of the Secret Intelligence Service has warned. Sir John Sawers said that covert operations by British spies had prevented the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons as early as 2008.
However, the MI6 chief said it was now likely they would achieve their goal by 2014, making a military strike from the U.S. and Israel increasingly likely.
Sir John gave a secret briefing to the Cabinet in March about Iran’s growing military threat but this is the first time his views on the issue have been made public.
It is extremely rare for the head of MI6 to disclose details of operations by the intelligence service.
Sir John made the remarks at a meeting of around 100 senior civil servants in London last week in only his second public speech since he was appointed to the post in 2009.
Speaking at the Civil Service Live event in Olympia he said that Iran was now “two years away” from becoming a “nuclear weapons state”.
He said that “when that moment came” Israel or the United States would have to decide whether to launch a military strike.
“The Iranians are determinedly going down a path to master all aspects of nuclear weapons; all the technologies they need,” he said. “It’s equally clear that Israel and the United States would face huge dangers if Iran were to become a nuclear weapon state.”
Sir John said that without MI6’s work dealing with the threat, “you’d have Iran as a nuclear weapons state in 2008 rather than still being two years away in 2012.”
Sir John said it was up to MI6 to “delay that awful moment when the politicians may have to take a decision between accepting a nuclear-armed Iran or launching a military strike against Iran.”
When that moment came, he said: “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.”
Iran has previously accused Israel and the US of trying to disrupt its nuclear programme through covert operations by Mossad, MI6 and the CIA.
Several Iranian nuclear scientists have been apparently assassinated in recent years while a powerful computer virus known as Stuxnet attacked the computer systems of their nuclear facilities.
Britain and America denied the allegations but Israel has remained silent on the issue.
Sir John disclosed that MI6 has “run a series of operations to ensure that the sanctions introduced internationally are implemented, and that we do everything we can within the Middle East to slow down these remaining problems.
“I take great pride in the fact that, in the last ten years, over a number of jobs, 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.”
The session – which was open to visitors to the event – was titled “Unclassified chat: Sir John Sawers CMG” and was reported in Civil Service World, a publication which is dedicated to senior Whitehall officials.
Disclosure of his remarks came as the US stepped up their sanctions against front companies suspected of supplying apparent nuclear materials to Iran after an international oil embargo started earlier this month.
His warning of a nuclear Iran in 2014 could throw the Coalition into turmoil just before the next general election.
The Liberal Democrats have ruled out supporting any military action against the regime but David Cameron has repeatedly said that “all options” are on the table.
Senior Conservatives believe that the issue could finally cause the Coalition to split as Britain would be forced to support any American action.
In March, Sir John spoke to more than 20 ministers about the latest intelligence on the growing fear that Israel is poised to launch a pre-emptive strike against Tehran.
The secrecy around the briefing was so high that ministers were ordered to leave their mobile phones outside the Cabinet room.
There are claims that basic mobile phones, without specialist anti-eavesdropping security, can be converted into “listening devices” by foreign intelligence agencies.
The highly unusual briefing was thought to have raised questions about Israel’s military capacity to destroy Iranian nuclear sites, which are buried deep underground.
The MI6 chief was also understood to have warned about the potential threat to Britain from a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
That came after Foreign secretary William Hague warned that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons threatened to trigger a “new Cold War” that posed an even greater threat of nuclear conflict than the stand-off between the USSR and the West.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Hague said that Iran was threatening to spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East which could be more dangerous than the original East-West Cold War as there are not the same “safety mechanisms” in place.
“It is a crisis coming down the tracks,” he said. “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 destabilizing 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.”

Mossad, CIA and Blackwater operate in Syria - report

Published: 07 March, 2012, 13:28
Members of the Free Syrian Army patrol an area in Qusayr, 15 kms (nine miles) from Homs. (AFP Photo / STR / Ahmed Jadallah)
Members of the Free Syrian Army patrol an area in Qusayr, 15 kms (nine miles) from Homs. (AFP Photo / STR / Ahmed Jadallah)

A security operation in Homs reveals Mossad, CIA and Blackwater are involved in the military violence in this part of Syria, as over 700 Arab and Western gunmen and Israeli, American and European-made weapons were detained in Baba Amr district.
­Syrian security forces got yet further proof of Western powers’ military involvement in Syria’s internal conflict, reports Al-Manar, a news agency, affiliated with Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based militant group and political party.
Around 700 gunmen were recently arrested in the former rebel stronghold of Babar Amr.
“The captured gunmen held Arab nationalities, including Gulf, Iraqi, and Lebanese. Among them were also Qatari intelligence agents and non-Arab fighters from Afghanistan, Turkey, and some European countries like France,” the agency quotes Syrian expert in strategic affairs Salim Harba as saying.
Harba also confirmed to the agency that “a coordination office was established in Qatar under American-Gulf sponsorship. The office includes American, French, and Gulf – specifically from Qatar and Saudi Arabia – intelligence agents, as well as CIA, Mossad, and Blackwater agents and members of the Syrian Transitional Council.”
The Syrian expert also added the security forces have also seized Israeli-, European- and American-made weapons.
“The Syrian army also uncovered tunnels and equipments there,” he told to the agency, “advanced Israeli, European, and American arms that have not yet been tested in the countries of manufacture, in addition to Israeli grenades, night binoculars, and communication systems were confiscated by the security forces.”
Salim Harba however said the Syrian authorities are not planning to reveal all the obtained information now, but assured all the evidence is of high value.
“The Syrian security forces have documents and confessions that could harm everyone who conspired against Syria, and could make a security and political change, not just on the internal Syrian level, but also on the regional level,” he said.
The recent Stratfor leak and hacked email of the company’s director of analysis also suggest undercover NATO troops are already on the ground in Syria.
There have been previous allegations of a Western presence on the side of the rebels as 13 French officers were reportedly captured by the loyalist forces earlier in March.
President Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly claimed his regime is fighting not with peaceful protesters as claimed by the West, but with the military gangs supported by the West.
Western powers however have categorically denied any military involvement in Syrian internal conflict.