The UK and U.S. are drawing up plans to attack Iran amid growing tensions in the Middle East, it was claimed last night.
Barack Obama and David Cameron are preparing for war after reports that Iran now has enough enriched uranium for four nuclear weapons.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hardline regime in Tehran has been linked to three assassination plots on foreign soil, according to senior officials in Whitehall.
Iran has come sharply back into focus following the end of the Libya conflict.
And the unrest has been inflamed by sabre-rattling from top politicians in Israel.
Yesterday it was revealed that Tel Aviv had successfully test-fired a rocket capable of carrying a nuclear warhead which could strike Iran.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak are reportedly agitating for a pre-emptive attack against the Islamic state.
The UK would be likely to agree to any U.S. decision to invade, even though the Ministry of Defence are stretched to breaking point by swingeing budget cuts and wars in Afghanistan and Libya.
An MoD spokesman said: ‘The British government believes that a dual track strategy of pressure and engagement is the best approach to address the threat from Iran’s nuclear programme and avoid regional conflict.
‘We want a negotiated solution – but all options should be kept on the table.’
A special unit at the MoD has been instructed to work out the UK’s strategy if the Army should invade Iran.
War planners will look at potential deployments of Royal Navy ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles and RAF fighter jets armed with precision-guided Paveway IV and Brimstone bombs and missiles, surveillance planes and air-to-air refuelling.
Senior Whitehall figures have expressed alarm that Iran appeared ‘newly aggressive – and we are not quite sure why’.
Western intelligence has also suggested that Iran is hiding the material for a covert nuclear weapons programme in fortified bunkers which cannot be reached by conventional missiles.
Barack Obama is understood to have no wish to attack Iran in the run-up to the White House elections next year. But Washington may be pressured by Israel if Iran’s nuclear programme is not curtailed.
Mr Netanyahu is apparently also lobbying Cabinet members for a military strike, despite the likelihood it would draw a retaliation from Iran.
An Israeli defence official said the rocket launched by the military had merely been a long-planned test for a ‘propulsion system’.
Further information about the rocket was censored by the military, but foreign reports said it was a long-range Jericho missile – capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and striking Iran.
Israel considers Iran its most dangerous threat. It cites Tehran’s nuclear programme, ballistic missile development, repeated references by the Iranian leader to Israel’s destruction and the government’s support for anti-Israel militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
Mr Ahmadinejad denies his country is trying to produce a bomb, claiming its nuclear programme is only intended to produce energy for the oil-rich country.
But the work could only be for the design and development of a nuclear warhead, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report.
Israel have repeatedly insisted that economic sanctions could persuade Iran to halt its nuclear ambitions.
Diplomats have been lobbying the international community for tougher sanctions – but have now stepped up their interventions.
It comes as Mr Netanyahu defended his decision to expand settlements in east Jerusalem.
He said it was Israel’s ‘right’ and ‘duty’ to build in all parts of its capital.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 war, along with the West Bank. Palestinians claim that section of the city as their future capital.
Yesterday, Mr Netanyahu’s office said 2,000 new apartments would be built in Jewish areas of east Jerusalem.
Officials said the move was a response to recent unilateral steps by the Palestinians, particularly its acceptance into the UN cultural agency UNESCO.
He has blamed Israel for disruptions to the nuclear programme, including the mysterious assassinations of a string of Iranian nuclear scientists and a computer virus that wiped out some nuclear centrifuges.
But a report by the UN’s nuclear watchdog due to be published next week will provide fresh evidence of Iran’s activity, bringing the Middle East a step closer to another devastating conflict.
It is the latest of a series of quarterly bulletins on Iran’s arms programme, but will contain an unprecedented level of detail on research and experiments carried out in recent years.
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