Alex Hern reports on Hans Blix’s response to the IAEA’s report on Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, and asks why there’s been such silence from the UK government.
Veteran weapons inspector Hans Blix has warned that, despite strong new evidence Iran is working towards a nuclear weapon, there should be no immediate change in our attitude towards them.
Blix told Radio Five this morning:
“[Iran] have clearly been working towards a nuclear weapon for a very long while. You are convinced about that when you see the report. For the first time [the IAEA] are coming out with a wealth of the evidence that they have themselves and that they have received from others.”
Talking about what affect this report should have on dealings with Iran, he argued:
“In general we think that it would be undesirable if they had a weapon, we know that the slow march towards a weapon has increased tensions, that could be a break out and attacks, so what is the response? I think the first answer is that attacking by weapons would be utterly unwise.
“Firstly, because they don’t know whether they will get all of them, secondly it is clear that the Iranians will not sit and twiddle their thumbs. If they get attacked they have friends and it will throw the region into chaos.
“Even threatening attack in my view is unwise, because most states that acquire nuclear weapons do so for perceived security reasons, and if they are threatened well then they will think “we’d better rush on and get them”. So if anything they need assurance that “no, you don’t need the weapon because you will not be attacked, but you will be squeezed, you will be treated harshly economically.”
“The question is “can you scare a country into staying away from the weapon” and I think that’s unlikely. They did not do it with Iraq, the Israelis destroyed the oserak reactor in 1981, but Saddam just moved on. In my view the better way is to try and reassure states that they don’t need nuclear weapons, because they will not be attacked from the outside. That goes for North Korea as well.
“But we haven’t had much success with that line.”
Blix of course is best remembered for his opposition to the invasion of Iraq. When asked whether the situation now is different, he agreed it was:
I think it’s very different. I mean, in the case of Iraq we had carried out over 700 inspections in a very professional manner and we didn’t find anything and we went to places which the Allies, the US and UK and other said “we suspect that there is something here”, some three dozen places, and there wasn’t anything there, there were some conventional weapons and documents, but no weapons of mass destruction.
All the indications were that there wasn’t anything. We didn’t go that far because you cannot – it’s very hard to prove that there is nothing, but there was nothing suggesting that they had anything left.
While Blix may be right that this new evidence needn’t result in a change in tactics, it is still noteworthy for being the firmest proof yet that Iran is attempting to breach its obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. So why is there a deafening silence from the government and opposition on the matter? Where was Cameron’s statement on Iran at PMQs today, or in Jim Murphy speech?
Sweeping Iran under the carpet won’t make it go away.
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• Where does Bahrain go from here? – Shashank Joshi, March 18th 2011
• Why is Fox “bigging up” the threat posed by Iran? – Frank Spring, March 1st 2011
• Iran: The West plays hard over nukes but is less vocal on human rights abuses – Toby Thomas, September 7th 2010
• David Cameron sees reds under the bed – Will Straw, April 16th 2010
• Trident “not a great deal of use” against Iran – Marcus Roberts, September 23rd 2009